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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Book Giveaway, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 674
26. I Wonder What Happened to Todd: A Bullies Tale

     October is Anti-Bullying Month, a campaign I did not know existed until I was asked to blog about it.  These days bullying has so many more outlets (thinking here of the many, many ways to cyberbully) that it appears to have reached epidemic proportions.

     When I was growing up, each school year brought a new teacher and a new set of classroom scourges, the Bully Boy and his female counterpart, Mean Girl. Although they were equal opportunity bad guys, picking on whoever struck their fancy, their favorite target was always the Class Goat (usually male.)  As a ten-year-old I wondered how those things were decided. Was there a committee who decided who was going to be the bully and who the bullied?

     If you have read my book Yankee Girl, you know my history of being the Class Goat, although at the time I didn't think of myself that way. As an adult I can see that Mean Girls are bullies the same as the boy in my second grade class who had a nasty habit of throwing bricks at recess. However, I wasn't the only Class Goat in fifth and sixth grades.  There was Todd (not his real name).

    On the days when people weren't putting chewed gum on my bus seat, calling me names (none of which can I mention here) or "accidentally" dropping their lunch trays on me, there was Todd to abuse.  What happened to me was subtle enough to be done in front of a teacher and passed off as an "oopsy" if caught. Todd was just plain tortured.  We waited for the teacher to leave the room to work over Todd.

   I say "we" because while I didn't actively participate, I did nothing to stop it either. Part of me knew that standing up for Todd wouldn't do any good.  If anyone had less status than Todd, it was me. The other part of me was secretly releived that I had the day off as The Goat.

    Even though Todd lived in my neighborhood, I never saw him outside. He was too terrified to show himself except for his morning sprint to the bus stop, where the name calling and book throwing began the minute he got on.  At the time there was a weird little pull toy that was advertised incessantly on TV, called Odd Ogg. The jungle went "Odd Ogg, Odd Ogg, half turtle and half frog." It wasn't too hard to turn that into "Odd Todd, Odd Todd, Half turtle and half frog."

   Todd was one of the smaller boys in the class.  When the teacher stepped out of the room for a "minute," leaving one of us in charge, (big mistake) that was the signal for our favorite game, "Hide the Todd." Our classrooms had an abundance of cabinets and closets and cubbyholes, just the right size to stash an undersized ten year old. Todd was curled, crumpled and crushed into the supply closet, the teacher's coat closet or under the sink in the back of the room.  In a classroom of forty students, Todd was rarely missed when the teacher came back. On the rare occasions that she noticed that his desk (last one, last row) was empty, she would call "Todd, stop wasting our time with your silly hiding games."  Sometimes Todd didn't reappear until it was time for him to get on the bus ...for more abuse.

     Some time during the summer between sixth and seventh grades, Todd disappeared. I never discovered what happened to him. I don't remember a "For Sale" sign in his yard. Maybe he changed to private school. Maybe he just stopped going to s tool. (Mississippi did not have a mandatory school attendance law at the time, so legally, no one could make you go to school.) I am sorry to say that no one missed Todd or wondered where he went, except for me. I wasn't a junior high humanitarian. My concern was real, but selfish.  With Todd gone, I was the new Fulltime Class Goat for seventh and eighth grades.  All I can say about that was I was too big to shove in a locker and junior high storage space was all under lock-and-key. Still, junior high bullies, particularly Mean Girls, are quite skilled at psychological warfare.

    I got rid of most of my Mean Girl demons by writing Yankee Girl. However, enough fear remained that I did not go ito any of my class reunions until this past year, for fear of running into the real life counterpart of my fictional character, Saranne.  She had continued to make me her favorite target until the day we graduated from high school.  I was relieved when I didn't see her at the reunion.  I later found out that she did come, pulled a few of her old Mean Girl tricks and within an hour learned that the MG act doesn't fly when you are old enough to be a grandmother.  I think I really am, at long last, rid of her ghost.

     I wonder if Todd ever rid himself of us?

   And now for the details of our current book giveaway to win Alexis O'Neill's new book, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations, check April's Friday post for details on entering through Rafflecopter.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

9 Comments on I Wonder What Happened to Todd: A Bullies Tale, last added: 10/1/2013
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27. A Book Giveaway, A Waterfall, an Author wearing a Crown and Poetry Friday!

Howdy Campers and happy Poetry Friday!

See the end of this post for a link to the Poetry Friday round-up at Amy LV's and for info on our Book Giveaway.

Today we're celebrating author Alexis O'Neill's newest book with Book Giveaway! Hark!  Here comes Alexis now:

Yes, that's Alexis wearing the crown--and she deserves it as the author of THE RECESS QUEEN (Scholastic), THE WORST BEST FRIEND (Scholastic), LOUD EMILY (Simon and Schuster), ESTELA'S SWAP (Lee & Low) and her newest offspring, THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS: Homan Walsh And The First Niagara Suspension Bridge (Calkins Creek). She's also written fiction and nonfiction for Cricket, Spider, Cobblestone, Calliope, Faces, and Odyssey

I've known Alexis since Janet Wong founded the Children's Authors Network (CAN!) during the classical era of the children's literature movement.
 This is where the Children's Authors Network
meetings were held in the early days

Alexis is an absolutely amazing teacher.  In one memorable workshop, she taught CAN! authors how to create and present teacher inservices.  It was an extraordinary presentation and it formed how I respond and present to teachers to this day.

Alexis has golden credentials in the field of education: she's a former elementary teacher with a Ph.D. in teacher education, she's an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program, a museum education consultant, a Regional Advisor for SCBWI in California, and a contributor to the SCBWI Bulletin, writing her column, “The Truth About School Visits.” Her blog, www.SchoolVisitExperts.com, offers practical advice to published authors and illustrators who are trying to navigate the world of public appearances.

This August, she was named SCBWI Member of the Year --and though it was a complete surprise to her (though to no one else), she sang a sea shanty as she accepted the award.

Because that's who Alexis is--generous, original and dramatic.  It's as if her goal is always to bring the classroom, the auditorium, fellow authors--whoever is around--together.  As if she is a shepherd and we are the community she's teaching and keeping safe.
 This is Alexis, keeping us safe.

Her new book, THE KITE THAT BRIDGED TWO NATIONS: HOMAN WALSH AND THE FIRST NIAGARA SUSPENSION BRIDGE (Calkins Creek, September 2013) tells the true, dramatic story of how an ordinary boy earned an extraordinary place in history, using his kite to lay the first line for the first suspension bridge at Niagara Falls in the winter of 1848.  Watch this 1:42 minute book trailer for a taste of the book:

So, Alexis, how did you become a TeachingAuthor?

I’ve been a TeachingAuthor all my life! As a kid, I convinced my dad to hang a blackboard in the garage and persuaded the neighborhood kids to sit in my “class.” After school, I wrote (and sold) a neighborhood newspaper which I composed on my mom’s portable typewriter. As a grown up, I’ve taught elementary school students, teacher education candidates, and, as a published author, writers.

What's a common problem/question that teachers or students have and how do you address it?

Students of all ages are so afraid of being “wrong.” My advice to them is to just play with words! Don’t worry about what other people think of your work. Can’t find a word? Make it up! Or make a mark to come back to that spot later. Just mess around, and in that mess, you might find the seed of an idea that can sprout into a full-blown piece of writing that you will want to share later on. To address this problem when we do writing exercises, I tell students up front that no one will collect their writing – and that they can decide when and what they will share with the group.

 Author Alexis O'Neill picking one lucky student ~

Was there a moment in your life when you knew you were a writer?

The moment I knew I was a writer was when my sixth grade teacher read my report on Ireland out loud to the class. Instead of a dry, factual presentation, I had “pretended,” in my narrative, to be a tour guide who was taking the whole class with her on a trip. First, I was surprised that he read it out loud, then I was really surprised when, at recess, my classmates came up to me and said how much they liked what I had written. That’s when a big light bulb went on over my head. “Wow! I can write for an audience, and not just for my teacher!” I thought.

From that moment on, I made all of my reports as creative as possible. For example, my report on the Alamo was told from the point of view of the only survivor (there were none in reality, but that didn’t stop me.) Now I know I was writing historical fiction. But I kept doing this, and teachers kept reading my work out loud in my classes. The birth of a writer – writing for an audience and not just for a grade from my teachers!

And finally, since it's Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere, do you have an original poem you'd like to share with our readers?

by Alexis O'Neill

I am thunder and roar
I am rain and river
Green and white magnificence.
You try to tame me
and you fail.
In barrel and boat
I spin you,
plunge you
crush you,
drown you.
A filmy fairy curtain?
Not I!
A lacy veil?
Not I!
I gnaw at rock
bite through cliffs
claw the very bed
across which I race
Out of my way!
I am the great Niagara

poem © 2013 Alexis O’Neill.  All rights reserved

Wow--what a powerful waterfall of words! Thank you for stopping by and thank you for offering our readers a chance to win a copy of your new book (details below), Alexis!

Author Alexis O'Neill making magic
Here's a peek at Alexis's touring schedule for A Kite that Bridged Two NationsBe sure to visit her at  AlexisONeill.com, follow her on Twitter, and friend her on FaceBook.                                                   
And now, for the Book Giveaway details:

We use Rafflecopter. 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
The Kite That Bridged Two Nations 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 for entering, we hope that everyone will WANT to subscribe to the TeachingAuthors blog. We give you several ways of doing so in the sidebar, for example, via email, Facebook Networked Blogs, Jacketflap, Bloglovin', etc.

If you're already a TeachingAuthors subscriber, you need only click on the first option below 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 giveaway link below 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 October 9, 2013.

If you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, happy Amy LV of the Poetry Farm, for hosting PF today.
Posted by April Halprin Wayland with help from the Link Fairy.

17 Comments on A Book Giveaway, A Waterfall, an Author wearing a Crown and Poetry Friday!, last added: 10/13/2013
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28. Trailer Reveal + Giveaway: Dead Girls Don't Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf


Welcome to the Official Trailer Blast Reveal for Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s DEAD GIRLS DON’T LIE


Rachel died at two a.m . . . Three hours after Skyler kissed me for the first time. Forty-five minutes after she sent me her last text. 
Jaycee and Rachel were best friends. But that was before. . .before that terrible night at the old house. Before Rachel shut Jaycee out. Before Jaycee chose Skyler over Rachel. Then Rachel is found dead. The police blame a growing gang problem in their small town, but Jaycee is sure it has to do with that night at the old house. Rachel’s text is the first clue—starting Jaycee on a search that leads to a shocking secret. Rachel’s death was no random crime, and Jaycee must figure out who to trust before she can expose the truth.
In the follow-up to her powerful debut, Jennifer Shaw Wolf keeps readers on their toes in another dark, romantic story of murder and secrets.

4750309Jennifer Shaw Wolf grew up on a farm in the tiny town of St. Anthony, Idaho. She spent cold Idaho mornings milking cows in the dark and attended a school where Hunter’s Education was part of the sixth grade curriculum. She’s always been a writer, whether it was sewing together books to read to her little brothers or starting an underground newspaper in sixth grade. She met the love of her life at Ricks College, (now BYU Idaho), after he dropped her on her head. She graduated from Ricks and then Brigham Young University, Provo with a degree in Broadcast Communications. Now she lives in beautiful, green, (rainy) Lacey, Washington with her husband and four kids. She loves to produce videos, ski, ride horses, and read, but really all she has time for is chasing kids and writing.
One winner will get a signed copy of DEAD GIRLS DON’T LIE
One winner will get a signed copy of BREAKING BEAUTIFUL
Shipping in US Only – Must be 13+ to Enter
a Rafflecopter giveaway

0 Comments on Trailer Reveal + Giveaway: Dead Girls Don't Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf as of 9/11/2013 5:27:00 AM
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29. Julia Asel Thomas, author of Loving the Missing Link, launches her blog tour!

& giveaway contest!

Loving the Missing Link is a fabulous tale about love, success, hope and music. During the 1970s, Young Cheryl Simpson feels trapped in her small Missouri town. As her mother tries to help her find a way up and out, Cheryl begins to feel that it is all an impossible dream. She sees herself living a boring and dismal life for the rest of her days. Just at the moment when she is about to give up on happiness, she gets the opportunity to join her high school band. The band promises a connection with the world outside her town, but Cheryl does not see any future for herself in music. It is just a tool to get where she wants to go. However, Cheryl’s mother arranges for Cheryl to take private lessons with an accomplished musician, who helps her realize the beauty and awesome power of music.

Still, Cheryl feels that small-town inferiority and finds it too hard to believe that she could ever be anyone special out in the “real” world. On the eve of a music contest that could help her earn a music scholarship, Cheryl begins to panic. Scared and feeling alone, Cheryl runs off with her high school sweetheart and gets married, leaving the band behind.

During the next years, Cheryl and her husband make a life for themselves. Cheryl meets friends along the way who help guide her to becoming the woman she wants to be. She becomes interested in the arts again. All the while, Cheryl and husband Jerry face the challenges of homelessness, miscarriage and an extra-marital affair before an unexpected disaster brings Cheryl’s life crashing to the ground. Cheryl survives, with the help of her extraordinary friends and her life-long love for music.

Paperback: 190 Pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing (August 6, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1480106240
Twitter hashtag: #LMLThomas

Loving the Missing Link is available as a print and e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Loving the Missing Link, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, September 13th at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Julia Asel Thomas writes stories with vivid descriptions, authentic dialogue and revealing narration. Her debut book, Loving the Missing Link, presents the engrossing and moving story of a young, small town girl who grows up, lives and loves while trying to find a balance between despair and hope.

Like the protagonist in her debut novel, Loving the Missing Link, Julia Asel Thomas knows small town life. However, Julia’s experiences were quite different than Cheryl’s. Julia is the middle child of seven children and the daughter of a church organist and a business manager. Growing up in the small town of Hamilton, Missouri, Julia’s family enjoyed a reputation as a bright and interesting family. Julia thrived on the quiet and carefree life she lived in that gentle place.

When Julia was in high school, she earned a scholarship for a trip to Cali, Colombia as a foreign exchange student. The experience, although it only lasted a few brief months, had a profound influence on the rest of her life. After her time abroad, Julia realized in a very real way that, although customs may differ from culture to culture, the substance of human emotions is constant. We all need love. We all need to feel secure. We all have happy moments and sad moments. Back from Colombia, Julia become ever more interested in capturing these human emotions through music and writing.

After high school, Julia took a break before going on to college. During this time, she married her husband, Will. Will joined the Air Force, and Julia accompanied him to bases around the country, taking college classes in each town where they resided. Their two children were born in Las Vegas, Nevada, while Will was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. Married in 1976, Julia and Will are thrilled to celebrate each new anniversary and look forward to staying together for life.

Julia began writing fiction at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher gave her the assignment to write about “My Worst Day.” Julia took the opportunity to concoct every possible disaster a young child could face during the course of a normal day. The teacher loved her work and asked her to read it to the class. From then on, Julia wanted nothing more than to be a writer.

In 2007, Julia began earning her living by writing articles, press releases and website content for a number of clients. As she settled into a routine of working every day on her writing, the old urge to write fiction resurfaced. In 2012, Julia started with a story she had written in 1985 and continued it to create the story in Loving the Missing Link.

After Julia’s husband, Will retired from the Air Force, they moved back to Missouri and now live in Kansas City, Missouri. Find out more about this author by visiting her online:

Author blog: http://lovingthemissinglink.com/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7171277.Julia_Asel_Thomas

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JuliaAselThomas

Twitter: http://twitter.com/juliasselthom

-----Interview by Crystal J. Otto

WOW: Julia, I loved the little book store Sid’s Shelves in Loving the Missing Link, is that mirrored after a particular shop and did you really work at a quaint little book store?

Julia: No, the store was just a conglomeration of images and experiences I’ve had in similar bookstores around the Kansas City area. A book store called “Rainy Day Books” comes to mind when I think of a relaxed place to buy high-quality books, but Sid’s Shelves is it own unique entity. As I was writing, I came to enjoy the parts that took place in that fictional store. It just felt like home. I have never worked in a bookstore, but I did work in a library for a short time years ago. I loved handling the books and choosing the ones I wanted to read as they came through the back room, which is an element I included in the story.

WOW: I can picture you really enjoying a bookstore like that; glad you made it part of the story. At the beginning of Loving the Missing Link, your depiction of bassoon lessons and the instrument itself is very detailed. Are you a bassoon player and can you tell us more about the importance of music in your writing career and life?

Julia: I did play bassoon when I was in school. Unfortunately, I didn’t own the instrument. My parents had planned to buy me a bassoon if I had chosen to major in music, but I decided on English instead. I did take lessons from an accomplished bassoon player, but unlike in the story, he didn’t have to convince me to love the bassoon—I already did. Music has always been a passion of mine. Of course, nearly everyone on the planet enjoys some kind of music at one time or another. For me, music has been a constant companion. However, I am not able to play music as I once did. I have developed a strong tremor in my hands—enough so that I can’t play the piano anymore. I sold mine to my son Damon last summer. In fact, Damon was my inspiration for having Cheryl learn the guitar. He often comes over to my house, carrying his guitar, and when he does, I know I am in for a treat. I don’t plan on writing another story that is so heavily dependent on music, but who knows? It is an important part of my life.

WOW: Music seems to as important in your life as in your story, I have a feeling there will be more musical stories in your future. That was one of the things I really enjoyed about Loving the Missing Link!

I struggled with the insecurities of young Cheryl; she seemed to lack self-confidence and direction; is that how you felt as a young girl? What can you credit for pushing you forward as the independent woman you are today?

Julia: I started out being very independent. I only began to have trouble around 1985, when I was a 20-something student at Wichita State University. I had suffered a major crisis of confidence and was feeling very lost and insecure. The professors and other students were wonderful and tried to encourage me. I felt they expected too much of me, and I felt inadequate to live up to expectations. Not coincidentally, this was the time when I wrote the first two chapters of Loving the Missing Link. When I went back to it to make it into a novel, I tried to recapture those feelings in order to maintain some semblance of consistency throughout the book.

After leaving WSU, I floundered for a long time, not feeling strong enough or good enough to do anything productive. Then, one day, my daughter offered to set me up with her copywriting client so I would have something to occupy my time. In less than a month, I had transitioned from doing nothing to writing 12 to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. The pay was abysmally low, but over the years it has increased tremendously. What is important is that the copywriting helped me develop a strong discipline for writing. It also made me realize that I could indeed do something worthwhile that could be valued by others. My life has never been the same. My independence, then, was a direct result of hard work and the increased self-confidence I gained while copywriting.

WOW: I’m glad you found the encouragement you need—no one wants to feel lost and insecure. It’s nice to have friends in your corner when it comes to self-publishing. Was there one person in particular who was really the driving force behind your publishing Loving the Missing Link?

Julia: I felt a strong sense of urgency to get this book in print. After all, I wrote the first two chapters in 1985, and my greatest dream for all these years since was to complete the novel and publish it. Now that it is done, I feel more patient. I am considering other avenues for publishing my current novel, a work in progress.

WOW: You certainly are patient. I'm glad you didn't wait any longer and that you kept pushing for your dream of publishing. More and more people are opting for self-publishing, so you are not alone in your decision. What is your favorite book? What is it about that book that you love so much?

Julia: My favorite book changes yearly. Right now, my favorite book is Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. It is actually a translation from the original German text, but the translation is so spot-on that it is a joy to read. Plus, Mann is such a master of description and characterization that it energizes me in my own writing.

WOW: Being energized and feeling supportive can make all the difference when taking on any challenge. Speaking of which, has your community been supportive with your writing goals?

Julia: I was invited to join the Kansas City Writers Group a few years ago. The problem was that I am not much of a driver and didn’t have any way to get there. Now that my husband is retired, he has offered to drive me any time I want to go. He is so sweet that way. So, I intend to get involved with them as soon as possible.

WOW: Sounds like your husband really is your number one fan; that’s so sweet!

When did you first consider yourself an author?

Julia: That is an interesting question, Crystal. In fact, one day in the last month, I looked at a friend of mine and said, “You know what? I’m a writer. I’m really a writer!” He smiled and said, “Of course you’re a writer. You’ve been making your living writing for years now.” I told him, “Yeah, I know I write. What I just realized is that it is what I am.” I suddenly shifted from the attitude that writing was something I did to the realization that a writer was who I was. It was a life-changing moment.

WOW: I’ve heard that same sort of story from artist and musician friends as well. Giving ourselves those titles seems to really change our outlook. You’re definitely an author now Julia; congratulations!

Cheryl’s relationship with her mother was interesting, is that any indication of how you and your mother interact? What role has your mother played in publishing your first book?

Julia: Actually, my relationship with my mother is so far from the one Cheryl has with her mother that they cannot even be compared adequately. My mother has always been a gentle presence in my life. I call her every Monday, and we sometimes talk for hours. Even when I was a teenager, I counted on my mom to help me put things into perspective. Cheryl’s relationship with her mom was really based on the relationship of a close family friend and her son. The mother saw the son as an extremely talented person, perhaps even a genius. The son is definitely bright, but he rebelled against his mother’s demands. He is living a peaceful life now, working in a restaurant and hoping to buy a boat so he can live on the water. He is a good friend. It is a shame that he didn’t accomplish more in the eyes of his mother, but he is very happy. And isn’t that the greatest accomplishment of all?

WOW: The happiness factor is definitely important and sometimes living up to our own expectations is more important than living up to the expectations of others. I glad your friend is happy and I hope is mother is happy as well in her own way.

Any sneak peeks for us about what is in your future? Is there a sequel to Loving the Missing Link? Another project?

Julia: I am so excited about my next project! I just resolved a structural problem that had me stumped for over a month. Now, the writing is flowing smoothly. The story is about these 5 people who are admitted into a psychiatric hospital. It is about how they interact with each other and how they respond to the help that is offered. Perhaps a more positive spin on “Cuckoo’s Nest.” I think it is an ambitious project; I hope to have the new book ready for edits in a few months.

WOW: I can’t imagine keeping it all straight and I can’t wait to read about the story—adding 5 different perspectives definitely is ambitious!

Anything you’d like to add that readers should know about you or Loving the Missing Link?

Julia: The main thing I hope readers will get from the story is a new perspective on what success is, and to understand the difference between hope and fantasy a little bit better. And I hope to inspire people to live the best lives they are capable of living.

----------Blog Tour Dates

Monday, September 9 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!

Wednesday September 11 @ CMash Reads
Get in on the giveaway for Loving the Missing Link and hear from Julia Asel Thomas with her guest post "Life Long Learning and Self-Education"

Thursday, September 12 @ My Fiction Nook
Giveaway and guest post by Julia Asel Thomas today! She shares her debut work with Loving The Missing Link and speaks candidly offering insight in her guest post “Establishing a Writing Routine”.

Friday, September 13 @ Steph the Bookworm
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of Loving the Missing Link and hear what Stephanie has to say after reading this first published work by Julia Asel Thomas.

Monday, September 16 @ All Things Audry
Get in on the giveaway of Loving the Missing Link and enjoy a guest post by author, Julia Asel Thomas with the fun topic of “Life Experiences in Fiction”

Wednesday, September 18 @ Selling Books
Don't miss today's author interview with Julia Asel Thomas and find out more about her debut book Loving the Missing Link!

Tuesday, September 17 @ Create Write Now
Julia Asel Thomas writes about "Therapeutic Journaling" in her blog stop at Create Write Now - also happening at this stop is a giveaway of Julia's first published works Loving the Missing Link. Don't miss this stop!

Thursday, September 19 @ Thoughts in Progress
Today is your day to hear what Julia Asel Thomas has to say in her guest post about "Journal Writing to Enhance Your Fiction" and an added bonus - get in on the giveaway of Julia's new book Loving the Missing Link (#LMLThomas)!

Friday, September 20 @ The Book Bag
The Spotlight at the Book Bag is none other than Julia Asel Thomas and her New Adult Novel, Loving the Missing Link (#LMLThomas); check out this great blog stop and get in on the givewaway!

Monday, September 23@ Bring on Lemons
Giveaway and guest blog stop for Julia Asel Thomas, author of Loving the Missing Link - Julia visits the lemons to lemonade blog and shares her wish for music education titled: "Channeling the Spirit of Professor Harold Hill". Don't miss this stop and giveaway opportunity!

Tuesday, September 24 @ Words from the Heart
Join author, Julia Asel Thomas as she discusses "The Pros and Cons of Teen Marriage" and offers a giveaway and some insight into Loving the Missing Link. Find out more about Julia and her first published book!

Wednesday, September 25 @ Words by Webb
Hear from Jodi Webb as she reviews Loving the Missing Link by Julia Asel Thomas - don't miss this great giveaway and insight!

Thursday, September 26 @ I’d So Rather Be Reading
Join Julia Asel Thomas, Author of Loving the Missing Link as she blogs about "Choosing Your Words Carefully: a guide to finding the best verbs for your purpose" and don't miss this giveaway of her newly published work!

Tuesday, October 1 @ Mom-E-Centric
Julia Asel Thomas, Author of Loving the Missing Link offers a giveaway opportunity and shares her insight on “Finding Realistic Hope” this is something we can all benefit from; don’t miss this tour stop!

To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com.

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of Loving the Missing Link Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget THIS Friday, September 13th.

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Good luck!

4 Comments on Julia Asel Thomas, author of Loving the Missing Link, launches her blog tour!, last added: 9/10/2013
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30. Off to Oz Giveaway: Choice of any retelling, time travel, or classic fairy tale book!

Welcome to my stop on the Off to Oz Giveaway Hop hosted by Angela's Anxious Life and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer!

This hop features books about time travel, classic fairy tales, and retellings!

Here are two books that I have recently read and LOVED that (I feel) fit with the theme of this hop:
Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.
On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.
Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.
In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.

Note: Across a Star-Swept Sea is the sequel/companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars, which was equally amazing. If you haven't read For Darkness yet, I would suggest you read it first.

13514612"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.
Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 
Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. 
All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

So what am I giving away? 
The two books above are just my suggestions, but I will allow the winner to choose any retelling, time travel, or classic fairy tale. (It must fit one of the three genres.)
The book you choose has to be under $20 and will ship from The Book Depository. It is okay if you choose a book that has not been released yet, and I will do a pre-order for you.
Open Internationally!
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1 Comments on Off to Oz Giveaway: Choice of any retelling, time travel, or classic fairy tale book!, last added: 9/11/2013
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31. Happy New Year! Guest Teaching Author Barbara Krasner offers a Wednesday Writing Workout (actually THREE workouts)!

Howdy, Campers!

It's not Saint Patrick's Day, but we're lucky, lucky, lucky to open our doors and welcome Guest TeachingAuthor Barbara Krasner, who offers us a dynamite Wednesday Writing Workout for the New Year.

As long as we're feeling lucky, enter our latest book giveaway!
Details at the end...
Here's a bit about Barbara:  In the fall of 2014, her picture book, Goldie Takes a Stand! A Tale of Young Golda Meir, will be published by Kar-Ben, the Jewish imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. In addition, she's written four nonfiction books (including Discovering Your Jewish Ancestors) and more than 200 articles for adults and children that have appeared in Highlights for Children, Cobblestone, Calliope, and Babaganewz.

She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, an MBA in Marketing from Rutgers University, and blogs at The Whole Megillah/The Writer’s Resource for Jewish-themed Children’s Books.  Barbara is currently on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Poetica, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Mused-BellaOnline Literary Review, Jewishfiction.net, in the Paterson Literary Review; she was a semi-finalist in the 2013 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry in the upcoming Nimrod International Journal (!!)

Barbara is definitely a TeachingAuthor, teaching creative writing in the English department of William Paterson University and a workshop, Writing Jewish-themed Children’s Books at the Highlights Foundation.

You see what I mean when I say we're lucky to have her come by today?  WOWZA!

And now, here's Barbara with the Writing Workout
she's cooked up for us!

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, comes early this year and I’m glad. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on the past year and think about the coming year even before the leaves fall. I’m giving you a Rosh Hashanah challenge in three parts.

Part One: Rosh Hashanah, literally translated as head of the year, is a perfect time to think about the beginning of your manuscript. How many times do we hear that if we can’t grab the agent/editor/reader within just a few seconds, he or she will just move on to something else?

Ask yourself the following questions:

•    Do you have a compelling title?
•    Does your first line grab the reader? (My all-time favorites are from M.T. Anderson, “The woods were silent except for the screaming,” and from Kate DiCamillo, “My name is Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”)
•    Have you presented the main character on the first page?
•    Have you presented the problem within the first page, the first chapter?

These questions apply to fiction and nonfiction alike.

What are your first lines?

Part Two: The Rosh Hashanah holiday includes a practice called Tashlich, casting off our sins. The practice is exemplified in April Halprin Wayland’s New Year at the Pier (Dial, 2009) and the mother-daughter team of Susan Schnur and Anna Schnur-Fishman’s Tashlich at Turtle Rock (Kar-Ben, 2010). My question to you: What writing sins will you cast off this year?
When I think about this for myself, I think about:
•    I will cast off my lack of organization – I will organize all those papers into folders with easy-to-read tabs and file the folders
•    I will cast off watching reality TV (TCM movies only) – I need more time to write
•    I will cast off working on a gazillion projects at once – I will focus on one genre at a time, and right now, that’s poetry, and okay, picture books
•    I will cast off reading several books at once – I commit to reading a book fully before moving on to another.

You get the idea. What will you cast off?

Part Three: Here’s a prompt you can write to: Recall a Rosh Hashanah (or New Year) scene from your childhood and write about it. Who was there? Where were you? What action and dialogue took place?

Thank you so much for your three-part Rosh Hashanah writing challenge, Barbara, and shana tovah!

But wait! Before you head off to write about a memorable New Year, be sure to enter for a chance to win a copy of Lisa Morlock's terrific rhyming picture book, Track that Scat! (Sleeping Bear Press). 

posted by April Halprin Wayland

3 Comments on Happy New Year! Guest Teaching Author Barbara Krasner offers a Wednesday Writing Workout (actually THREE workouts)!, last added: 9/13/2013
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32. Guest Teaching Author! Book Giveaway!

Happy Friday! As I promised on Wednesday, today I'm bringing you an author who turned a close encounter with nature into a joyful and educational picture book. That author is Lisa Morlock.

Lisa works as a writer and educator in Urbandale, Iowa....She has taught middle school through college language arts classes, worked as a secondary administrator, and written and edited for Perfection Learning Corporation and Meredith Corporation. She has led writing workshops with TAG students and teacher workshops on the nature-literacy connection, as well as guesting for whole-school visit author programs. In addition, Lisa currently serves as the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI-Iowa.

Lisa's picture book, her first, is Track that Scat! (Sleeping Bear Press, 2012). From the publisher:

When Finn and her dog Skeeter set out on a hike to cure their restless feet, they literally take a step into nature. A big gooey step...right into scat (also known as poop). And just like the animal it comes from, scat comes in all shapes and sizes. Scat, along with foot or paw tracks, can tell a lot about the creature who produced it.

As Finn's hike takes her further into the woods, she happens along some scat and tracks from a variety of woodland creatures.

Pairing punchy rhyme with science writing, Lisa Morlock has created the perfect nature guide, providing detailed descriptions of the prints, diets, and behaviors of the animals that Finn and Skeeter encounter along their hike. Watch your step!

School Library Journal said about the book:  "If the need arises to teach children how to identify wild animal scat, start with this picture book . . . The large spreads are inviting, and the dog, a basset hound, is cute, cute, cute, and the gross factor is likely to draw kids in." IndieBound.org included the book on their Spring 2012 Kids' Indie Next List.

Track that Scat! is like two books in one. Younger readers/listeners will giggle through the bouncy rhyming story, and older ones will enjoy the nonfiction info in Lisa's conversational sidebars. A winning combination! Speaking of winning, YOU can win a signed copy of the book! Details at the end of this post.

Lisa was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. (Added bonus:  art by the book's illustrator, Carrie Anne Bradshaw)

What made you want to write a nature story, and Track that Scat! in particular?

As a family we spend a lot of time outdoors. Children love exploring and getting dirty and being free – all the things that happen outside.

I wrote Track that Scat! after my son and his friend managed to find a big flock of geese sitting on a pond. Once the geese saw two boys running their way, they took flight. Geese poop up to a third of their body weight per day, so guess what was left behind....

The boys' shoes were covered in green goose scat. That's when I realized it:  kids love poop talk and aninals. There's so much to learn from tracks and scat.

Also, more and more research supports a nature-literacy-mental health connection, so I do like to see kids get outdoors. 

From the book:

          Finn lands upon a hollow log
          And yells, "Come on!" to that old dog.
          Five-toed tracks, like handprints–see?
          A messy pile beneath the tree.

          A den! Her hound plays show-and-smell–
          dry leaves, fish bones, a walnut shell.

          With one tromp-stomp
          Finn's foot goes splat.
          Oh no!
          Right into ... 

          ... raccoon scat!

What made you decide to write the story in rhyme?

I love rhyming stories. And good rhyming stories make great read-alouds! They're fun, kids anticipate words, and the repetition allows for participation.
As a past teacher, I look for stories that combine factual tidbits in a fun, fictional storyline. The characters pull kids in, but there's an added educational benefit that stays with them.

Where there any challenges between acceptance and publication?
After the story was accepted and edited, the publisher wanted to hear it in 3rd person rather than 1st person. At first, I didn't see how it could work, but changing the point of view made it much stronger. I'm so glad for the suggestion.
Another surprise was a character change. My son, Will, and his buddy, Jaden, were muses for the story. When the artwork came back, the main character was a girl. They were nine at the time and quiet disappointed with the pigtails.

What are you working on now?

I am working on another Finn and Skeeter story, a biography, a middle grade novel, and scads of other tales.


Something to look forward to! Thanks for the interview, Lisa, and THANKS, too, for donating a signed copy of Track that Scat!

Jill Esbaum

To win Track that Scat!, enter our contest below through Rafflecopter. If you aren't sure how it works, read this. And click here to learn the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. signing in with your e-mail address.

Choose one option for entering, or more (if you want to increase your odds of winning). The giveaway will run through Friday, September 6th. Good luck!

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14 Comments on Guest Teaching Author! Book Giveaway!, last added: 9/4/2013
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33. Listen Up and Share a (Real Life) Story!

I love how good ol’ Serendipity works.

There I was,                                                                                         
roaming my terrific City of Chicago on a gorgeous August Saturday,
wondering what I could write today to meaningfully follow my colleagues’ posts about Real Life sparking fiction,
when what do I come upon,
in the northeast corner of the Chicago Cultural Center,
but the StoryCorps Chicago StoryBooth!

StoryCorps is THE perfect vehicle to help us turn Real Life stories into well-told,
worth-listening-to-and-sharing NON-fiction,
and thus the PERFECT subject to punctuate our past weeks' discussion.
FYI: StoryCorps is the independent national nonprofit oral history organization whose mission is “to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of our lives.”
I love its tag line: “Every voice matters.”

Since it began in 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 45,000 interviews with nearly 90,000 participants.  Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share; the CD is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Millions listen to weekly broadcasts of these conversations on NPR’s Morning Edition, on Listening pages, in podcasts and via books and animation.

The StoryBooth is here to stay in Chicago for the next three years, if not longer.  The box-like structure is actually a compact recording studio hooked up with a soundboard, a small table with two chairs, two microphones and the requisite box of tissues.

Thanks to StoryCorps’ partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Chicago Public Media and Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ, anyone has the opportunity to record a 40-minute conversation with a loved one. 

For years, I’ve shared this little-known national storytelling organization with teachers, librarians, young writers and especially their families.

 StoryCorps’ National Day of Listening is celebrated the day after Thanksgiving.  This year, come November 29, everyone is invited to use a smart phone, tablet, computer or tape recorder to record an interview with a loved one.
Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guidelines are free and easy to follow.
As for what questions to ask – on the day after Thanksgiving or on any day you’re wanting to learn another person’s story, check out this printer-friendly version of Great Questions to Ask.

It’s StoryCorps’ Story Questions – and Question Generator - that first grabbed my writing teacher’s eye.
The Story Questions gift Family Literacy Night participants - or -   First-Day-of-School Classmate Interviewers - or - even New Student/New Teacher/New Principle Biographers - with easy-to-understand opportunities to enrich their storytelling.

Even better, they also gift any fictive writer wanting and needing to know his characters more fully.
Back Story is everything when it comes to knowing our characters – fictive or real.
IMHO: the StoryCorps questions also make for rich additions to Jeanne Marie’s WWW – “Where I’m From…” exercise.

do visit WBEZ’s StoryCorps Chicago StoryBooth  if you get the chance - or - simply stop by the StoryCorps website and spend time listening, learning, reading and questioning.

And, stay tuned!
Maybe one of these days I’ll invite my fellow Chicago Teaching Author Carmela Martino to meet me at the Chicago Cultural Center so we can record our TeachingAuthors.com story?  :)

Esther Hershenhorn

Don’t forget to enter our Book Giveaway to win a copy of Sonya Sones’ newest novel in verse To Be Perfectly Honest.

Click HERE for the Details.


3 Comments on Listen Up and Share a (Real Life) Story!, last added: 8/26/2013
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34. Unreliable Narrator: Verse Novelist Sonya Sones is Lying! Autographed Book Giveaway AND Poetry Friday!

Howdy, Campers! Betsy H. is hosting Poetry Friday today at I Think in Poems. Thank you, Betsy!

At the end of this post are:
1) the details of today's Book Giveaway of an autographed book by verse novelist Sonya Sones;
2) one of Sonya's deliciously enigmatic poems.

However, if you came here to meet Sonya and learn all about her newest YA novel, I'm sorry to say you'll be disappointed.  Sonya just called--she had a dental appointment and couldn't be here today.

 Exclusive photo of Sonya Sones and her dentist.

I lied.  Sonya doesn't need to see the dentist--her teeth are gleaming!  Say hello to my long-time friend, critique buddy, fab author and poet, Sonya Sones:
 photo by Ava Tramer
Her novels-in-verse include: Stop Pretending, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, (great title!), What My Mother Doesn’t Know (one of the top 100 most challenged books of the decade) and its companion, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know.

Sonya has graciously agreed to reveal the very first poem in her book that isn't even out yet and YOU, Campers, will be among the very first readers of this poem!  Her newest book, To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers), comes out on August 27 and is full of lies. 

Sonya is an original in the best sense of the word. She and I met in poet Myra Cohn Livingston's Master Class.  When Myra died, her students hosted classes at our homes, teaching each other the fine points of poetry.

When it was Sonya's turn to host, she surprised us by hiring a drummer who gave each of us a drum and taught us different rhythms for an hour!  An unforgettable way to instruct and inspire.

She continues to inspire me, always thinking of new ways of telling a story.  I'll never forget the day Sonya said she'd decided to write a novel in verse with an unreliable narrator.  I was lucky to witness the unfolding of what became To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story).

Here's a bit of what School Library Journal says about this book:
"Sones captures the ache of first love. Readers may find themselves laughing, crying, and wanting to believe the unreliable, well-developed narrator. Excerpts may make for a stepping stone to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Like Shakespeare’s play, this title lends itself to discussion about healthy relationships, setting limits, defining oneself, and evaluating what is real. Fast paced and great for reluctant readers.”

Sonya!  Welcome to TeachingAuthors' humble abode!  How did you officially become a TeachingAuthor?

I officially became a teaching author the day I volunteered to teach a poetry writing workshop to my son’s fourth grade class. I gave each student a donut and told them they couldn’t eat it until they gave me a simile to describe it. The rest is history.

Besides bringing donuts, what's one piece of advice you have for teachers?

Make poetry fun! Don’t only expose your students to classic poetry. I teach workshops to middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, and I find that they respond with more enthusiasm to current poetry. There’s a very funny poem by Billy Collins called “Introduction to Poetry,” about tying a poem to a chair and trying to beat a confession out of it, that might be a good place to start. There’s another one called “Pearl” by Dorianne Laux, which is a fabulous portrait of Janice Joplin. Try reading that poem to them and challenging them to write a poem about their own favorite musician. And there’s a great very short love poem by Eve Merriam called “New Love.”

Don’t force students to memorize and analyze. If you choose the right poems, your students will feel the words washing over them like a cool ocean breeze on a broiling hot day. Your goal should be to teach them how to love poetry, not how to “understand” it.

Whoops. Was that more than one piece of advice?

Sonya crossing her eyes with the Book Café Club
at La Salle Academy in Providence, RI

Who's counting?  Please tell us the Cinderella story of how you sold your first book.

I didn’t sell my first book. Or my second book. Or my third. That was when I decided to enroll in a poetry class at UCLA extension taught by the brilliant Myra Cohn Livingston. She set me on the path to writing Stop Pretending. I finished it just before the annual SCBWI conference in Century City and brought my manuscript with me. There, I attended a presentation by a very young  agent  (he was only 24 years old!) named Steven Malk who gave a speech about why you should have an agent if you wrote or illustrated for kids. Then halfway through the speech, he switched over to talking about why that agent should be him. He was so persuasive that after his talk 75 authors ran up to him to ask for his business card. But I hung back, not wanting to crowd him.

Later that day, however, I found myself in the lobby, and there he was, standing all by himself.  Even so, a friend had to convince me to go up and talk to him. But I finally did and I said, “I wrote a book about what happened when my big sister was sent to a mental hospital, it’s written in verse, it’s sort of edgy, and I was wondering if I could send it to you.” He said, “Okay.” And that was it. A twenty second conversation. I mailed it to him on Wednesday. He called me on Friday to tell me how much he liked it. And by the following Wednesday he had a bidding war going. That week remains one of the most astonishing and exhilarating times of my entire life.

I love that story.  And now I've learned that To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) is also available as an audiobook in CDs and MP3, narrated by Kate Rudd, who also narrated John Greene's The Fault in Our Stars.   

I want your life!

What's on the horizon for you?

A lot of traveling! Simon and Schuster is sending me on a book tour: Chicago, D.C., Miami, San Francisco, Menlo Park, Pasadena, Ontario, Raleigh and Phoenix. Then, in October, I’ll be going to Hong Kong where I’ve been invited by Hong Kong Baptist University to participate in an International Writer’s Workshop for a month. I’ve never been to that part of the world, and I’m very much looking forward to this grand adventure. And wherever I go, I will be scanning the horizon for stories…
Oh my gosh!  I'm exhausted just reading your itinerary!  I know you'll meet interesting folks on the way!
Sonya, meeting a fan.
photo by Ava Tramer

And finally, since it's Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere, please share a poem!

This is the first poem from To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story):

They Tell Me There Was an Accident
by Sonya Sones

Though I can’t
remember it happening.
Here’s what I do remember:

I remember climbing into a limo
with my little brother Will to visit our mom
on the set of her latest film.

It smelled
like someone had been
smoking pot in there.

Or maybe drinking champagne.
Or throwing up.
Or all three.

Sort of like
our living room
after one of Mom’s all-night parties.

I remember
rolling down the window
for some breathable air

while Will bounced around,
like he always does
when we’re in a limo,

telling me
one goofy knock-knock joke
after another.

I remember turning onto Sunset Boulevard,
and seeing a massive billboard
of a guy wearing nothing but jeans—

his fly unzipped
just low enough
to make me look twice.

Will saw it too.
He grinned at me and lisped through the gap
where his baby teeth used to be, “Thex thells!”

Sex sells?
How does a seven-year-old even know that?
I was just about to ask him—

but I never got the chance. 
poem © 2013 Sonya Sones. All rights reserved

Newsflash: Sonya's own three-book box set of trade paperbacks, The Sonya Sones Collection, will be released the same day To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) comes out. Sonya's comment: "Wow...a new boxed set...now Calvin Klein and I both have collections."

Visit her at SonyaSones.com, follow her on Twitter, and for goodness sake friend her on FaceBook!                                                           

Thank you for offering our readers a chance to win a copy of your new book (details below) and thanks for stopping by, Sonya!

And now, for the Book Giveaway details:

We use Rafflecopter. 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
To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) 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 August 29, 2013.

If you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.  

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merrily posted by April Halprin Wayland and her dog, Eli...who wish you a Happy New Year and shyly remind you about April's award-winning book, New Year at the Pier--a Rosh Hashanah Story

19 Comments on Unreliable Narrator: Verse Novelist Sonya Sones is Lying! Autographed Book Giveaway AND Poetry Friday!, last added: 9/3/2013
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35. Hasta La Vista

I've enjoyed reading my fellow Teaching Authors' current series of posts about turning "life into art."  Of course, as Mary Ann indicates, nearly all of us get our ideas from some event we've experienced in life, even though some of us (not I) might be more inclined to use them in the context of a dystopian novel set on Mars in the year 3013.   

I recently attended a writing conference where author Erica Bauermeister was the inspiring keynote speaker.  She told us that her first manuscript was a memoir.  It received positive feedback from editors but was not, ultimately, published because (to paraphrase) no one wants to read the non-dysfunctional real-life story of someone who's not famous.  However, an editor asked her to pitch something else, and she ultimately embarked on a project that became two books: 500 Great Books for Women and Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.  Reading hundreds of novels for those projects was a terrific education, Bauermeister says.  However, by the time she had completed this gargantuan task, she was nearly 50 when she wrote her first novel -- which was promptly published and became a bestseller.  She said that she is convinced that she was not ready to write fiction until she had done a certain amount of living -- in her case, raising children, moving to Italy -- and that bits of those stories were scattered throughout her fictional characters' lives.

I have done a ton of "living" in this last decade since marrying and having children.  It has also, not coincidentally been the least productive writing decade of my life.  Juggling three jobs and two kids is getting easier as they are now entering first and third grade (and I just sent them off a few mintues ago for day #1).  I remember when we were at Vermont College and JoAnn Early Macken's children were young.  The constant theme of her writing then was time (or the lack thereof).  Ah, how I can relate! 

And so I have determined that it's time to take back a little time for myself so that I can write about the experiences I've now had the privilege of seeing through my children's eyes.  Instead of writing ABOUT writing, I'm going to just write. 

This isn't exactly a "goodbye post" (for one thing, I have one more blog post to write), but more like a "see you soon."  It has been great getting to know all of you through Teaching Authors over these past four years. 

I wish everyone a wonderful school year and a happy, productive writing year, too!  --Jeanne Marie 

Also, don't forget--time is running out to enter our giveaway for a chance to win one of two copies of Esther's terrific new board book, Txtng Mama Txtng BabySee her blog post for details. 

1 Comments on Hasta La Vista, last added: 8/19/2013
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36. Real Life Fiction

     I am a thoroughly unimaginative writer. I had this pointed out to me by a second grader (!!), during the Q & A part of a school visit.

     "Where so you get your ideas" is always a favorite question.  This particular day I was explaining the origins of My Best Friend and First Grade Stinks (my daughter, Lily), Yankee Girl (my own childhood) and Jimmy's Stars, (my mother's family).  When I finished another little hand waved from the back of the pack,

    "So you just write about your own family?" said the student.

     I had to take a beat before I answered "yes."

     It had never occurred to me before,  All of my stories up to that point did have their origins in family stories,  I come from a family of storytellers, and I grew up always looking for stories of my own to add to the family collection.

     Since then, I have broadened my scope a little.  A Tree for Emmy is based on Lily's best and oldest friend.  The Roller Coaster Kid came from the father of my next-door-neighbor.  I am currently working on a short story based on two of Lily's friends,  But try as I may, my stories always seem to begin with a character or situation that I have encountered in my own life.

 However, starting off with something that happened in "real life" does not mean that I am merely narrating an actual occurrence.  Life is not so tidy as fiction. Life does not have opening scenes, exposition, a climax and a denouement.  Sometimes live does have those elements, but it also has a lot of extraneous stuff as well.  Fiction has filters.  Fiction has to be shaped.

    Yankee Girl is the book that hews closest to the events of my life.  The first draft was around 400 pages.  I included every detail and incident that happened when I moved to Mississippi as a fifth grader.  While I wrestled to get this sprawling mess into something that resembled a story, I learned a cardinal rule of fiction writing:  Just because something happened, doesn't mean it is important to the story.  For example, your Irish setter may have been in the room when you had a monumental fight with your best friend.  You may have been wearing a pink sweatshirt and matching high tops.  Unless your dog plays an active part in the scene (she jumps on your friend to break up the fight) or what you wear is essential to the character,  these are details that can be cut. They clutter your story.

     Or, as one of my mentors at Vermont College told me over and over, "Because it "really happened that way" is not a good enough reason to include it in your story.

     She usually followed this admonition with "How does (this detail, character, plot point) move the story along?"  The answer was usually "It doesn't."  And another page of perfectly good but pointless prose would disappear into the "Delete and Save" file.

   I have yet to write a story beginning with a character totally imaginary. I have edged a bit away from the side of the pool, venturing deeper into the wholly fictional end of writing. My current work-in-progress is based on an event that happened to someone my daughter knows.  She doesn't know him well, or any of the details of what "really" happened.  It doesn't matter.  My mind is creating characters, envisioning scenes and hearing conversations.  All of this from the offhand remark "Mom, there's this guy at school who..."

    To celebrate the arrival of Esther's new book, TXTNG MAMA, in the warehouse, we are extending our giveaway of the book through August 20, 2013. Click  here.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

4 Comments on Real Life Fiction, last added: 8/14/2013
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37. Babies and Toddlers and Txtng, O My!

              :)  TXTNG  :(

Did you know
that long ago
the Greeks gave us our vowels –
our A and E and I and O
and Y (that sometimes) howls?
Yay! :)

How :( I M
2 c what txtng’s wrought!
When now I tweet
words short n sweet
I X the vowels Greeks brought!

                   * * * * *
How nice 2 B 2day’s TeachingAuthors contributor  to Poetry Friday.
10 Q April Halprin Wayland and CarmelaMartino and Jill Esbaum, our group blog’s “usual” Poetry Friday posters, for allowing me to take this Friday slot and thus continue the celebration of Sleeping Bear Press’ release of my new baby board book soon to arrive in stores everywhere, TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY.

FYI: Our week-long celebration includes a Book Giveaway of TWO signed copies of this perfect baby gift of a book.  Click HERE for the details and be sure to enter by next Tuesday, August 13.

I wrote in Monday’s post how my grandson inspired TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY whilst he was in utero.  My Baby Antennae had been (understandably) working overtime.  All I saw – everywhere I looked – were Mamas thumbing their hand-held devices and nearby, babies finger-swiping the same.
     Texting Mamas…
     Texting Babies…
     What’s up with THAT? I wondered.

To answer the above question, and the millions that followed, I spent a whole lot of time (cer10ly longer than my grandson’s gestation!) researching Texting and Technology as well as their impact on Babies and Toddlers.

I needed to know:  just what is text?”
There were definitions aplenty but linguist David Crystal’s TXTNGThe Gr8 Db8 (Oxford University, 2009) allowed the writer in me to understand this language – and – its features, several of which I shared in my Wednesday Writing Workout.
And is texting really killing writing?
There were opinions aplenty.
Fortunately, I came upon Columbia University linguist Dr. John McWhorter’s TED Talk – “Txtng is killing language. JK!!”
McWhorter considers texting “a whole new way of writing,” fingered speech that allows us to write the way we speak, an expansion of a young person’s linguistic repertoire.
Noting texting’s loose structure, McWhorter remarks, “No one thinks about capital letters or punctuation when one texts, but then again, do you think about those things when you talk?”
Click HERE to listen to Dr. McWhorter's TED Talk. Enjoy and learn!

I needed to explore and experience 2day’s Babies’ and Toddlers’ Techy-Techy World, the Digital World in which these smallest of humans live and breath and laugh and learn, not to mention, swipe and tap and thumb.
Every day brought A New Something with A New Action, A New Opportunity, a New Possibility for digital natives, both parent and child.
Hanna Rosin’s comprehensive article “The Touch-Screen Generation” in the April 2013 issue of THE ATLANTIC magazine grounded, informed and enlightened me. 
Click HERE to check it out for yourself, making sure you leave time for the Readers Comments.

Finally, I needed to read and understand the research.

Dr. Marie Donovan and Dr. Roxanne Owen of DePaul University’s College of Education connected me to the Fred Rogers Center for early learning and media at St. Vincent College.
I explored the website, read the studies and findings
and understood instantly the requisite human touch Touch Technology demands when it comes to babies and toddlers and technology.
Click HERE to read their newest posting on imaginary play with technology.

I M still on the hunt for anything and everything that is remotely related to babies, toddlers, texting and technology.
I clip, I cut-and-paste, I purchase, I stockpile.
Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune brought news of smart watches.
Later that afternoon, I discovered the BabyBook Onesie at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Zen and Now Gift Shop.

Who knows WHAT might juice my Writer’s Muse next week, next month, next year?

4 now, I M Byond :) I was able 2 use this newest of languages 2 cr8 TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY and bring my grandson’s Digital World to the ultimate hand-held device: the baby board book.

10 Q for letting me share.

 And Happy Poetry Friday!

 Esther Hershenhorn

7 Comments on Babies and Toddlers and Txtng, O My!, last added: 8/10/2013
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38. A-txtng U Shall Go! - a Wednesday Writing Workout

Welcome 2 2day’s Wednesday Writing Workout, a Txtng Mini-lesson of sorts– and – our continuing TeachingAuthor celebration of my new baby board book soon to arrive in stores  everywhere, TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY.

Remember: our celebration includes a Book Giveaway of TWO signed copies of this perfect baby gift of a book, so click HERE for the details and be sure to enter by next Tuesday, August 13.
As I wrote in Monday’s post, it is a Techy-Techy World for 2day’s Babies.
But while researching Texting’s history and the gazillion pros and cons that surround this newest means of expression, I was surprised to learn from linguist David Crystal, author of TXTNG The gr8 db8  (Oxford University, 2009) that

(1) texting’s been around a mighty long time and
(2) most popular beliefs about texting are incorrect, or at least, debatable.
“Its graphic distinctiveness is not a totally new phenomenon,” Crystal writes.  “Nor is its use restricted to the young generation.  There is increasing evidence that it helps rather than hinders literacy.  And only a very tiny part of the language uses its distinctive orthography.”

According to Crystal, “Texting has added a new dimension to language use, indeed, but its long-term impact on the already existing varieties of language is likely to be negligible.  It is not a bad thing.”

Crystal identifies several distinctive features of texting, many of which suggest novelty but children’s literature proves otherwise.

For instance, logograms, which use “single letters, numerals and typographic symbols to represent words, parts of words, or even – as in the case of x and z – noises associated with actions.”
Think b, 2, @, x for kiss.
And William Steig’s C D B, first published by Simon & Schuster in 1968!

And Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s WUMBERS (Chronicle Books, 2012).
I especially Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld’s dedication:
“We dedic8 this book 2 William Steig, the cr8or of CDB! (cer10ly the inspiration for this book) and so many other cla6.”

In logograms, the pronunciation is what matters, not the visual shape.
Think  : )    (smile)
Think :  (    (frown)

An initialism is “the reduction of words to their initial letters.
Think NATO and BBC.  (They are often called acronyms.)
But also think BFF, OMG, GF.
And Lauren Myracle’s ttfn.

Other features include omitted letters (bunsn brnr, txtng, msg), nonstandard spellings (cuz, thanx, ya), shortenings (doc, gov, mob) and genuine novelties (IMHO/in my humble opinion).

What gr8 fn I had imagining Mama’s n Baby’s conversation, using a variety of text features 2 cr8 a book which seems to have some very nice (language) company.  The teacher in me also liked learning the names of Texting's features. 
I hope you did too!
Esther Hershenhorn


              A-txtng U shall go!

Choose any 2 characters – real, imagined, animal, human, and get them talking, or rather, TXTNG (!) on their smart phones and/or tablets.

What’s the situation?
What’s the problem?
What’s the setting?

What’s the time?

Are the 2 characters Happy? Sad? Confused? Angry? Hopeful?  Plotting? Nasty? Kind?
Are they young or old or middle-aged?

How does each come at his or her hand-held device?
Word choice, expressions, phrasing, rhythms - and this case, spellings - connote VOICE!

Think about your beginning – the inciting incident of sorts that gets the conversation rolling, your middle, your end. 

Remember what dialogue does for a story: i.e.
(1)   informs the reader
(2)  advances the story
(3)  reveals character

And don’t forget to use a variety of text features!

1 Comments on A-txtng U Shall Go! - a Wednesday Writing Workout, last added: 8/7/2013
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39. :) A New Baby Board Book - and Giveaway! :)

I M Byond :)
2day’s the day I shout to the World:
this week Sleeping Bear Press
releases my baby board book
Txtng Mama Txtng Baby!

You read that title right:
Txtng Mama Txtng Baby.

Thanks to their parents’ hand-held devices, tablets and computers, Babies everywhere are tapping or thumbing keyboards and finger-swiping screens, honing digital skills while living their Baby lives.
What fun I had bringing this newest of worlds to the sturdy pages of the ultimate hand-held device: the baby board book.
What fun it was adding that human touch to Touch Technology.

Be sure to read to the end of this post to learn how two TeachingAuthor readers can win a free copy of Txtng Mama Txtng Baby.

I love so many things about this 4” x 6 ½” book, starting with the cheery cover and the  key on the keyboard.

I love the story- a playful through-the-day conversation between Mama and Baby that invites interaction.
I love the telling – tunefully-ordered familiar text phrases, such as I C U and xxooo, that beg to be repeated.
I love the illustrations – baby-friendly emoticons that instantly bring smiles.
I love the smart-phone-look-alike design, so readers and listeners can turn (or swipe) the pages.

Most of all, I love the book’s dedication:  “2 n 4 Gabriel.”   

In truth, my grandson gifted me with this book before he was born.
Awaiting his arrival, my Baby Antennae rose far and wide. Everywhere I looked I saw Mamas thumbing their hand-held devices and nearby, Babies finger-swiping the same.
Texting Mamas, I said to myself.
Texting Babies.
What was up with THAT?

In time I read the handwriting on the wall and it was written in text!
Cartoon ©2013 Harry Bliss; Used with permission.
Fortunately by then, the four words texting Mamas texting Babies had become a refrain that book-ended a dialogue that eventually gave birth to a baby board book.
The vision and efforts of my Sleeping Bear Press publisher Heather Hughes, editor Amy Lennex and art director Jennifer Bacheller contributed immeasurably to the book’s singular look and telling, not to mention its caring delivery.

Of course, anyone who knows me, and not even well, knows I am The Least Likely Person to Have Created This Book.
(I texted my very first message January 18, 2013, at 2:13 pm, three years after entertaining the idea behind this book.)
Research uncovered my Techy ID - “digital immigrant.”
I have the heart of a Luddite. 
Technology and I don’t play well together.

Ironically, my very first foray into children’s book writing was another baby board book, inspired by my grandson’s Poppy, my then one-year-old son, in 1976: THE A TO Z OF ME.
I’d created a personalized ABC book, with plastic inserts for renewable photos, to capture a baby’s loves and life.
Publishers and toy companies embraced the abecedarian story but regrettably turned it down due to my telling’s exorbitant manufacturing costs.
“The technology simply isn’t available,” one company executive told me, “to produce this book and make a profit.”
Who knew what was coming down the pike?!
By the early part of this 21st century, the Internet offered any parent free software and POD opportunities to help create and publish a personalized ABC book for his or her child.

So here’s one more thing I love about Txtng Mama Txtng Baby: 2day’s Techy-Techy World is my story!
And my message remains the same: Mama  Baby.

Be sure to return Wednesday, for a Writing Workout that utilizes this newest of languages - text, then again on Friday when I share not only a text-written poem to honor Poetry Friday, but truths I gleaned from my research on Babies, Toddlers, Texting and Technology.

10 Q 4 letting me share my Good News.
Feel free to tweet it 2 and add it to your Facebook page. J

C U Wednesday 4 a WWW!

Esther Hershenhorn

                                                       * * * 

And now, for the Book Giveaway Details!
Once again we’re using Rafflecopter to give away two signed copies of Txtng Mama Txtng Baby (Sleeping Bear Press)! 

If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, you may want to read HERE about how it words.  And click HERE to learn the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. signing in with your email address.

You’ll see you have 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. (If you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to enter.) 

If you enter via a comment to this blog post, please tell us your favorite emoticon--think the : and ) that create a smiling face, or an initialism, such as OMG.

The giveaway will run from today, August 5, through August 13, 2013.  Winners will be notified August 14, 2013.

Good Luck!

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25 Comments on :) A New Baby Board Book - and Giveaway! :), last added: 8/20/2013
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40. Book Giveaway: Itch by Simon Mayo

                       Book Giveaway: 
Itch The Explosive Adventure of an Element Hunter by Simon Mayo

Are you ready for a thrilling adventure? Are you looking for a great summer read? Be sure to read Itch by Simon Mayo. One of the best books I've read all year. You can enter now for your chance to win.

Giveaway Details: 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 August 11, 2013 at 11:59 EST.

Be sure to check out my review of Itch.

**Contest prize will be provided by the publisher. 

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16 Comments on Book Giveaway: Itch by Simon Mayo, last added: 8/11/2013
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41. Internet: Good vs. Evil

The Internet, as we all know, can be a giant vortex of time suckage.  I have little willpower, it seems, and thus find it dangerously so.  At the same time, I can't imagine how I ever functioned as a writer without it.  Any national security agency or Internet giant personnel monitoring my search history might be alarmed by recent forays into the topics of murder plea bargains, drug dealer slang, and paramedic protocol for overdose, interpersed with "Thanksgiving party games" and  "Schoolhouse Rock."  Such an interesting life I lead...

While I am far from methodical about endeavors such as organizing, searching, schedule-making, etc., I have happened in my peripatetic Internet travels upon several useful business sites for freelance writers.  Many of our faithful readers are probably already familiar with these, but for those who aren't:

Robert Kent's Middle Grade Ninja is invaluable for any writer seeking an editor, an agent, or plain old writing inspiration.  Each week brings informative new interviews with agents, editors, and/or writers.  I've gotten a lot of great reading recommendations here.  The online "book club" is fun to follow, too.

Emma D. Dryden's drydenbks blog is full of great advice, but even better, if you friend her on facebook, she aggregates information from the best writing blogs and saves you the trouble of finding it yourself.  Highly recommended!

For those interested in digital publishing and new technology, Jane Friedman is a cutting-edge source.

Finally, QueryTracker is a informational and organizational treasure trove -- part spreadsheet, part encyclopedia, part user review site and entirely free.  If you haven't already tried it, check it out pronto.

Happy Internet travels!  And may the time saved exceed your time spent on facebook and Words With Friends.  --Jeanne Marie
Don't forget about our latest Teaching Authors Giveaway.  Follow the instructions to enter for a chance to win a copy of Parched by Melanie Crowder.  Good luck!

3 Comments on Internet: Good vs. Evil, last added: 6/26/2013
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42. Book Giveaway and Guest TeachingAuthor Interview with Melanie Crowder

Today we're taking a break from our series of posts featuring our favorite online resources to bring you a guest TeachingAuthor interview with debut novelist Melanie Crowder. At the end of the interview, you'll be able to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Melanie's recently released middle-grade novel, Parched (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). A Junior Library Guild selection, Parched is a haunting, lyrical story told from three perspectives. Here's a little about it:

Sarel has just witnessed the death of her parents. But she is not completely alone on the drought-ridden land; Nandi is the leader of a pack of dogs who looks out for her pups and for skinny Sarel-girl. Nandi knows they are all in trouble, and she knows, too, that a boy is coming—an escaped prisoner with the water song inside him.
The Wall Street Journal called Parched, "an absorbing and strangely beautiful story of valor and survival that is all the more impressive for its restraint." And Booklist said, "The direct powerful prose in this first novel dramatizes the exciting contemporary survival story. . . . Fans of Gary Paulsen's Hatchet (1987) will want this."

Pretty impressive for a debut novel! If you don't know Melanie, allow me to introduce her: Melanie Crowder graduated in 2011 with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Colorado, where she teaches English Language Acquisition at her local elementary school. When she's not writing, Melanie is most likely found outdoors—in her garden, in the mountains, or looking for the perfect swimming hole. Visit her online via Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and her website.

And now for the interview:

Melanie, would you please tell us how you became a TeachingAuthor?

First, let me say: Thank you so much for having me!

To answer your question, I have been teaching since 2001—all sorts of subjects (art, music, history, ESL)—but I have only been writing since 2005. I was in the middle of a particularly difficult school year, and I needed something outside of work to put my heart into. I decided I would write a book—it couldn't be that difficult, right? J

Well, eight years, several manuscripts and an MFA in Writing later, I finally have a book published. As it turns out, writing well is really difficult! But along the way, I learned to love the journey and delight in the challenge.

Does your experience as a classroom teacher affect your writing, and if so, how?

My students are amazing. They deal with challenges on a daily basis that would cripple most adults. Above anything else, my students remind me how resilient and brave and joyful children are. I take that as a challenge: if I am going to write for and about this age group, I had better honor those characteristics in my stories.

Tell us a bit about what inspired you to write Parched and your path to publication.

Parched began with a single image that appeared in my mind one day. It was an aerial shot, as if I were in a plane flying low over the savanna. On the ground below, a skinny girl and her pack of dogs walked along a narrow game track. I wanted to know who she was, and how she had come to be all alone in such a harsh place.

I wrote my way into the story when I was supposed to be working on other things. It was the third semester of my MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Little by little, in between drafts of my critical thesis, the story began to take shape. By the end of the semester, I had 20 pages ready. I crossed my fingers and sent it in to be considered for the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt prize for Middle Grade Literature. When it won, I received a request for the full manuscript and gleefully sent it in. I consider myself incredibly fortunate that I found an editor with the vision and experience to embrace the sparse quality of Parched, while at the same time patiently working with me to draw out the emotional depth and expository breadth that readers would need. Like so many things in life, turning this academic project into the beautiful novel it is today was all about balance, and trusting that if you assemble the right players, a team can produce so much more than any individual.

You mentioned that Parched started with an image. Do all your stories begin that way? Are they images that come to mind on their own, or do you actively look for images to inspire you, and if so, where do you find them?

My stories do often begin with an image, but it’s not something I go looking for. I think I have my subconscious to thank here; they are often images I wake up with. And because they fill my mind in that hazy space between dreaming and waking, the images are endowed with emotion and sensation—the best story starter I could ever ask for!

Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how they might use your novel in the classroom?

Absolutely! I think Parched would make a great book study, either for a small group or the whole class with all of its cross-content potential. It is a slim volume, and an adventure story, so it will appeal to some of your reluctant readers, too!

Here is a link to the discussion guide for Parched; it’s a really comprehensive resource for teachers.

And check my website in the fall when school starts up again—I am putting together a field guide for Parched, where students can track and research the flora and fauna found in the book as they read.

Oh, I love the idea of a "field guide" for a novel with such a distinctive setting as yours. I hope the teachers in our audience will check it out. So tell us, what's next on the horizon for you?

My next project is a YA verse novel about labor activist Clara Lemlich. She was an amazing woman who was instrumental in reforming working conditions for women in the early 1900s. This book is completely different from my debut--and a great challenge! My editor for this project will be Liza Kaplan at Philomel, and we are working towards an early 2015 release date.

Congratulations, Melanie! We're looking forward to seeing that. Finally, would you share about a moment when you knew you were a writer?

Well, I’ll show you a picture of a time when I had all the confidence in the world about my own writing. (I must have had a good teacher!) This is a book I wrote and illustrated in 4th grade. A sequel to Julie of the Wolves:

Don’t you think the white-out dress is a nice touch?

Very clever, Melanie. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Readers, you can enter below for a chance to win an autographed copy of ParchedIf you enter via a comment to this blog post, please tell us what you'll do with the book should you win: save it for yourself of give it away? The giveaway ends on June 26. After you've entered, feel free to check out the other stops on Melanie's blog tour, which you'll find listed on her website.

And don't forget--today is also Poetry Friday. This week's round up is at Carol's Corner.

Good luck and happy writing!

If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address. Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

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13 Comments on Book Giveaway and Guest TeachingAuthor Interview with Melanie Crowder, last added: 6/24/2013
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43. Wednesday Writing Workout

When my kids were young, they'd often find nests on the ground after violent spring storms. Sadly, doomed baby birds were sometimes lying in the grass nearby . . . vulnerable to hungry barn cats.

Once, we tried to save a little robin that was hopping around, only a week or so from being ready to fly. I put a ladder against the tree and climbed up, holding the little guy gingerly in one hand, and returned it to its (too low) nest. Trouble was, he jumped right out again. One of the kids ran inside for an Easter basket. We tossed in a few handfuls of grass, tied the handle to the branch near the nest, and, once again, I took the little bird up and placed him inside. Ploop! He was back on the ground before I was.

                                                                             Photo by Sande LaFaut (used with permission)

Four or five cats were closing in fast, and one snatched the little guy before we could retrieve him, then streaked away. Nature can be cruel, or at least it would seem so to us humans.

But it always bugged me that that little bird, so close to independence, met such a tragic end. Which is why I wrote Tom's Tweet, a story in which a curmudgeonly cat's impulsive good deed goes wildly haywire when he ends up having to babysit a demanding little nestling all day. This time, I made sure the story had a happy ending, the one I wished had happened in real life:  the two become friends.

So for today's writing workout:

Think back to a real-life situation, one in which you made the wrong decision or that you simply wish had ended differently, then create a story around the incident – not the way it really happened, but with a happier or more satisfying ending.

Meanwhile, remember to enter our contest to win a copy of Angry Birds Playground:  Dinosaurs. Contest ends June 18th.

Jill Esbaum

2 Comments on Wednesday Writing Workout, last added: 6/18/2013
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44. The Real Question by Adrian Fogelin: Book Review and Giveaway

  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.

Publishing Information:
Publisher: Peachtree Publishing (Sept. 1, 2009)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56145-383-2/ISBN-10:1-56145-383-8
Hardback: 234 pages

Purchase from the following Retailers:

Shop Indie Bookstores

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.

Giveaway Details:
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.

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45. Character Interview from Faizah’s Destiny by Marva Dasef (Giveaway)

Faizah's Destiny 333x500

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.” ***

The Boys(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.

(Parvaiz) mumble…

(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.

boysandfire(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. 

Website: https://sites.google.com/site/mdasefMarva/home

Blog: http://mgddasef.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/MarvaDasef

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/?tab=wX#107073845875601488093/posts

Twitter Handle: @Gurina

Book Trailers: http://www.youtube.com/user/MarvaDasef/videos


2 Comments on Character Interview from Faizah’s Destiny by Marva Dasef (Giveaway), last added: 5/7/2013
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46. WWW: Holly Thompson's Poetry with a Plot!

Today’s Wednesday Writing Workout comes from Holly Thompsona 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.’”

 Many 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.

Congratulations, 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 Giveaway!

Click here to enter – if you haven’t already – the raffle to win one of 4 $25 Anderson’s Bookshop Gift Certificates.

Esther Hershenhorn

. . . . . . . . 

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 mistake
a decision
a first time
a last time
a betrayal
an encounter
an argument
a mix-up
a lie

With the students:

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.

4. After 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.

                                               # # #


7 Comments on WWW: Holly Thompson's Poetry with a Plot!, last added: 5/18/2013
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47. Student Success Story Interview and Book Giveaway with Nancy J. Cavanaugh

What fun, introducing our TeachingAuthors readers to (1) my former-student and long-time friend, children’s book author Nancy J. Cavanaughand – (2) her debut middle grade novel This Journal Belongs to Ratchet (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky)!

When 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.

Nancy 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.

Editors and agents as well as writing kin agreed, offering the necessary encouragement, revision suggestions and interest to keep Nancy keepin’ on.

Today 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.

A 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.

As 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 stories.”

I’ve 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 I do.
Be 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.

Esther Hershenhorn

                                               * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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.
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14 Comments on Student Success Story Interview and Book Giveaway with Nancy J. Cavanaugh, last added: 6/4/2013
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48. Searching for Snoop Dog

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.

Jill Esbaum

P.S.  Enter our giveaway and win a copy of Nancy Cavanaugh's This Journal Belongs to Ratchet (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky). Details here.

4 Comments on Searching for Snoop Dog, last added: 6/6/2013
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49. Plotting My Summer

Happy summer vacation to those of you who have already begun!  My college students have finished their semester, but my husband and kids have two weeks to slog through. We are currently in major countdown mode, and my little bookworm has piles of library books all over the house in earnest preparation for lots of reading time. 

I tried to sucker Kate into writing a "guest post" today to give some insight into the mind of an 8-year-old who loves to read (and write), but she was not so inclined. She did tell me, after much consideration, that she reads to "find out what happens next."  While she talks to us primarily about snippets of scenes or dialogue or characters (Allie Finkle's BFF has come up often recently in real-life analogy), it's the plot that gets her to turn the pages.  She added that the chapter titles often entice her to keep reading.  I was somewhat surprised to hear this tidbit, but then I remembered her methodology for writing stories of her own.  She scrawls out chapter titles and then writes content to bear them out in fulfillment of a nebulous plan that she somehow manages to bring to fruition. I suppose this is her personal method of outlining.  [Kate also says that she likes to write stories because "you can write whatever you want instead of having to write what your teacher tells you."]

The topic of outlining reminds me of a graphic I've seen floating around on facebook recently, showing handwritten outlines of famous authors' works:

(I'm sure many of you have seen this, yes?)

I outline in narrative form (akin to a screenplay treatment), so I was intrigued by the depth and complexity of this spreadsheet format.  I was particularly interested in JK Rowling's outline, and google helped me find this analysis:


Wow!  She not only relates each main even to each subplot, but she knows the day on the week that it happened.  As well she should.  As well I should!  It seems I have a lot of work cut out for me and, thank goodness, finally some time to do it.

Wishing a happy, relaxing, and productive summer to all!  I am about to dive into a friend's WIP and give myself a major dose of inspiration.  And, in the spirit of "reading is writing," don't forget to enter our latest giveaway contest to win a copy of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh. I can't wait to read this one, myself. :)  -- Jeanne Marie

2 Comments on Plotting My Summer, last added: 6/7/2013
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50. New Book Giveaway! What I Knew About Dinosaurs...

...would've fit on the head of a pin. Or maybe a thumbtack. One of my sons was dino-crazed, back in the day, and I stepped on my share of spiny plastic stegosaurs. But it's been awhile.

So when my National Geographic Kids editor asked me to author Angry Birds Playground:  Dinosaurs, I hesitated for a second before jumping in. But only a second.

(Re)learning all things dinosaur was a blast. New species are being discovered all the time, often by everyday folks. I had no idea how far we'd come in our dino knowledge. A tiny sampling:

-Scientists know what certain dinos ate because they sometimes find bones from smaller animals lying   in the stomach area of a dino skeleton.
-Slower-moving dinos often had deadly, whip-like tails to fight off predators.
-Dino bones have been discovered on every continent – including Antarctica.
-Scientists used to believe a Stegosaurus could flap the plates on its back to keep itself cool.

So where do the Angry Birds come in? Here's the copy from the back cover:

"It's an extraordinary day on Piggy Island because the Angry Birds haven't lost their eggs, they've FOUND something amazing:  a bone! Not a plain old bone – a HUGE and very old bone. What kind of giant creature could this bone have come from? That's a question for Mighty Eagle – the wisest bird they know. Join the Angry Birds on their imaginary trip through time to discover the most awesome animals ever to roam this planet:  the dinosaurs!"

As Mighty Eagle helps the Birds imagine prehistoric times, they all wear tiny animals skins and bones in their head feathers, ala Bamm-Bamm Rubble. Very cute.

The book also answers these questions . . . 

-What was Earth like in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods? 
-How are fossils created? 
-How do scientists determine a fossil's age? 
-How are dinosaurs related to modern birds?
-How are all those dino names pronounced?  

Throughout the book, Franco Tempesta's spectacular paintings give kids an idea of how dinosaurs might have looked (click on his name to see for yourself!). His colorful and realistic dinos (48 of them!) all but leap off the pages.

Back matter includes a world map showing where various dinosaur bones have been found, a fun-filled quiz, a glossary, and dino-related activities for kids.

If you know a dinosaur-loving kid, or one who is nuts about the Angry Birds, enter below to win a copy of Angry Birds Playground:  Dinosaurs (National Geographic). In your comment, please let us know who you'd be sharing the book with.

Entry deadline:  June 19th

Jill Esbaum

If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, you may want to first read their info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and/or the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address. Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

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22 Comments on New Book Giveaway! What I Knew About Dinosaurs..., last added: 6/30/2013
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