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1. How to Teach Your Child Shapes – Bake a Shape!

For toddlers and preschoolers, the world is full of new things to discover and learn. One thing young children need to learn is the basic shapes – square, circle, rectangle, and so on.

There are many ways to teach children the basic shapes. Here is a method that is fun and tastes good, too.

bake-a-shape

Bake a Shape

1. To start, you will need a can of refrigerated biscuit or sugar cookie dough. This is the easiest way if you want to focus on making shapes instead of mixing up a recipe in the kitchen. However, if you prefer, you can always make your own favorite recipe instead.

2. Roll out the biscuit or cookie dough. Be sure you do this somewhere low enough where you child can easily reach it, so you may want to do it on the table instead of the counter. Another option is to have your child stand on a sturdy stool or chair.

3. Find some cookie cutters that represent the shapes you want your child to learn. Show your child how to cut a shape out of the dough with the cutter. Remember to flour the cookie cutter so the dough comes out easily. If your dough gets stuck in the cookie cutter, you could end up with a frustrated toddler or preschooler.

Another alternative is to make the shapes by hand. Have some examples of the shapes nearby so your child can copy them. This could also be done with letters instead of shapes. Children love to see what their name looks like in print, and they will have a lot of fun creating it themselves.

4. When you have enough shapes made, help your child arrange them on the cookie sheet. You can make the shapes even yummier by spreading them with butter, then sprinkling them with sugar and cinnamon for a delicious cinnamon-tasting treat.

5. Put the shapes in the oven to bake, according to the recipe’s instructions. You can add to the fun by watching the shapes bake in the oven together. Children are fascinated by how cookies and biscuits grow and spread while they’re being baked.

6. When the shapes have baked, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. When they’re ready to eat, examine the shapes with your child. Ask if he/she remembers what each shape is called. You may want to play a game – if your child can name the shape, he/she can eat it!

When your child begins to learn the various shapes, he will see them everywhere he looks. A fun activity like this one can help him learn to identify them on his own.

Here are some fun board books that also help children learn the basic shapes.

Shapes

Shapes

About the Book
Combining scooped-out die-cuts with raised, shaped elements, two new TouchThinkLearn books offer youngest learners an irresistible opportunity to explore their universe in a hands-on, multisensory way. See the image, trace its shape, say its name: these modes of perception combine in a dynamic way to stimulate understanding of essential concepts. Contemplate a circle by touching the raised surface of an owl hooting at night on one side, and the form of a moon rising on the other. Featuring a format unlike any other, these groundbreaking books translate abstract thought into tangible knowledge.

Grade Level: Preschool and up
Series: Touchthinklearn
Board book: 20 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books; Brdbk edition (May 27, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1452117276
ISBN-13: 978-1452117270

My Very First Book of Shapes

My Very First Book of Shapes

About the Book
Can you find what is round? What is square? In this timeless new split-pageboard book, children can find the bottom half of a page that matches the top half. Find the right pairs, and you will learn to identify all kinds of shapes. From dome-shaped ladybugs to diamond- shaped kites, this clever board book makes learning fun.

Age Range: 1 – 3 years
Board book: 20 pages
Publisher: Philomel Books; Brdbk edition (May 19, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0399243879
ISBN-13: 978-0399243875

Little Scholastic Shapes

Shapes (Little Scholastic)

About the Book
From Little Scholastic comes this innovative and interactive shapes concept book for babies and toddlers!

Bold and bright, this tactile board book features everyday objects to name and touch. Review basic shapes with this appealing, hands-on format!

Board book: 10 pages
Publisher: Cartwheel Books (July 1, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0439021464
ISBN-13: 978-0439021463

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2. Caterpillar Shoes

Caterpiller-cover_AM

Happy World Poetry Day!  We’ve been busy working on our latest children’s picture book, Caterpillar Shoes.  This story is about a colorful caterpillar named Patches.  She’s an energetic caterpillar trying to decide what activities to do.  In the end, she doesn’t put any limits on herself and lives her life to the full.  This is our twelfth children’s book and we are so excited for it’s release.  Stay tuned here to learn about upcoming promotions for this book and others.

Th only limit to a paintbrush and a blank canvas is your imagination.

 


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3. Hetvi Pareek … Child Artist

Child Artist … हेतवी पारिख जिन्हे सपने देखना अच्छा लगता है उन्हे रात छोटी लगती है, जिन्हें सपने पूरा करना अच्छा लगता है उन्हे दिन छोटा लगता है…..!!! ऐसे ही अपने नन्हे मासूम सपने पूरे करने मे जुटी है आठ साल की हेतवी पारिख. जी, हां, वही हेतवी पारिख जिन्हे आप आजकल सब टीवी के […]

The post Hetvi Pareek … Child Artist appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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4. Sukhwant Kalsi … Ek Mulakat

    सुखवंत कलसी कार्टून की दुनिया के सम्राट Journey from commerce to comics !!! बच्चों और बचपन का नाम लेते ही मन मे बहुत सारी बातें उभर कर आती हैं जैसाकि पढाई, मासूमियत, शरारतें, मस्ती और कार्टून. जी हां, बच्चों और कार्टून का गहरा नाता है. चाहे वो टीवी पर देखें या बच्चों की […]

The post Sukhwant Kalsi … Ek Mulakat appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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5. Cartoon .. Smile please!!

आज समाज में इतनी टेंशन है कि बस हम हंसना मुस्कुराना भूल ही गए है … बस काम काम और काम इसलिए जरा इस तनाव से निकल कर कुछ समय खुद को दीजिए और मुस्कुराईए … मुस्कुराने से आपके चेहरे की खूबसूरती और भी बढ् जाएगी इसलिए Smile Please

The post Cartoon .. Smile please!! appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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6. Bengal nun prayes …

Why … Why … Why … पश्चिम बंगाल की 72 वर्षीय नन के साथ जो जधन्य धटना धटी वो हतप्रभ कर गई उससे भी ज्यादा इस बात ने चौंका दिया कि नन उन आरोपियों के लिए माफी की प्रार्थना कर रही हैं. माना की यही भाव शायद उनके कोमल मृदु स्वभाव को दर्शाता है पर […]

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7. Kindle Direct Publishing

Here is a nice write up KDP did on my in their latest newsletter.  So cool!

Your Voice

KDP Author Angela Muse

Muse, Angela 2014

Angela Muse, author of The Bee Bully, shares her experience with Kindle Direct Publishing.
“I wrote my very first children’s book in 2009 as a gift to my two young children. If not for my son and KDP, my experience as an author would have ended right there. One day in 2011, he asked me why I wasn’t publishing any more children’s books, and I didn’t have a good answer. The stories were there. In fact, I’d written several that were just gathering dust in my closet. The platform for indie publishing was there. Amazon had launched KDP, and many authors were finding success. Of course, those voices that keep us from following our dreams began to mount in my head. What if people can’t find my stories? What if people do find my stories and they hate them? What if I can’t find a good illustrator that I can afford? After quashing all those voices, I decided to go nuts…literally.

“While collecting acorns with my children in the fall of 2011, I created a story entitled The Nutt Family: An Acorny Adventure and decided that this would be my next release. I found a brilliant illustrator in Poland, held my breath, and hit the publish button. In 2012, my journey as an independent author began by publishing more titles including The Bee BullyThe Pig Princess, and Suzy Snowflake.

“When I first started, I didn’t have a clue about where to find good illustrators, how to get book reviews, and most importantly, how to effectively market my books. In the beginning, I researched and networked with other authors to gather as much data as I could to help me in all these areas. The biggest hurdle was the marketing. I tried many different techniques, but one of the most effective was utilizing the free promotion days in KDP Select. Once my books were free, there were lots of websites and social media outlets that were willing to promote them. I also tried to focus on my audience as much as possible. For the most part, I write children’s picture books, but the children are not the ones who will purchase them. I focused on the parents and finding blogs and sites specific to that audience who would want to promote or feature my books.

“I wasn’t one of those people who sought out an agent for my work and tried to go the traditional route. With KDP, I have a golden opportunity to go at this myself and do things my own way. I can set my own goals and deadlines. I can market my books in the manner I choose. I can decide my price structure. I have full control.

“Did I make mistakes along the way? You bet, but I also learned a lot in making those mistakes. I found support from many great authors who were also forging ahead in the indie publishing world, and we were all doing this together. It felt like we were all out in this big ocean trying to catch oysters, each of us looking for our own pearls.

“It’s been almost three years since I began this journey, and I’m so grateful to KDP and the KDP Select program for giving indie authors a chance, that not long ago, we never would have had. I wouldn’t have received fan mail from preschool aged children who enjoyed my stories if not for KDP. One of my goals as a children’s author is to get kids to read. KDP allows me to publish quality children’s picture books to help me accomplish that goal. The smiles and giggles from the kids who read my books are just the icing on my indie publishing cake.”

 


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8. Does the Story Heart Exist?

SSXpedition FINAL

Only 99 cents!

I’ve stumbled along on the writer’s journey long enough to learn one thing above all else:

We don’t write to explain, we write to find out.

Boy, did I find out.

Story Structure Expedition: Journey to the Heart of a Story is two years’ worth of finding out.

It launches today as an eBook on Amazon.com. Ninety-nine cents!

Two years of finding out the hard way, I might add.

I discovered what it’s like to be a writer trapped as a protagonist in his own fiction. It sounds crazy, I know. The more impossible my fantasy became, the more I knew something original might be happening on the page.

“A mind-bending whiplash journey,” says one beta reader, “into the heart of how and why a writer can write…memorable stories.”

Truth is, I headed up that jungle river with no such hifalutin hopes. My trip was fueled by a single question:

Does the story heart exist?

Does the story heart exist?

As if the heart’s existence needed proving, which I’m afraid it does, though perhaps not to anyone with the instinct to open a book that promises an expedition to that very heart.

Does the story heart exist?—I let this central question fire me up, can you tell? Listen to this, from the book’s Introduction:

[The heart] exists, all right. Ask the riverboat captain in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Though the heart is hidden upriver, Captain Marlow can smell it leaking. The dread essence lures him to the far side of sanity. He sure found out the hard way.

Ask Rick, the American expat in the movie, Casablanca. Mention the heart and he’ll break into a sweat as surely as if you were marching him at gunpoint to the brink of the abyss. “Go ahead, shoot me,” he says. “You’ll be doing me a favour.” Those are the words of a protagonist on the threshold of the story heart.

Ask that pair of mismatched mavericks in Out of Africa—the baroness Karen Blixen and the hunter Denys Finch Hatton. The heart of their story—as in so many of the best stories—lies in the surrender of the protagonist’s hardened principles. But to relinquish one’s precious beliefs is to die. So, die!

If I was to fulfill my role as protagonist in my own book, I might be required to go that far. How does a protagonist manage that? He can’t, of course. That’s the job of his writer. Which explains why I had to bring her on my jungle journey, dammit. It was all I could do not to throw her overboard.

(I mean, what kind of book is this, anyway?)

What kind of book is this?

Here’s what another pre-reader said about it:

A “metaphorical, philosophical, crossover between prayer, meditation, marching orders, poetry and fiction, that will tantalize your imagination and your soul.”

(I’m not making this up, I’m happy to say.)

Early readers of Story Structure Expedition: Journey to the Heart of a Story are at least enjoying the premise of a metaphysical search. In fact, many questions flow from the central question:

  • Would fiction have become our lifelong obsession if it had no heart?
  • Would stories ring true?
  • Wherever else should their meaning lie?
  • If not for the story heart, how would readers get their money’s worth?
  • Why would we even read fiction?
  • Why would we bother to write it?

Does the story heart exist?

You be the judge.

In the spirit of a book launch you can help bump this baby into visibility on Amazon’s best-seller page by grabbing an e-copy of it this week for 99 cents. And if you feel your mind bending a wee bit, go ahead and leave a short review on Amazon.

All of you, thank you. Whether or not you have the time to support this launch, thank you for being an important part of my life.

I do it for you.

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9. Poem … My India

I Love my India मेरा भारत महान … कुछ समय पहले हमारे एक मित्र विदेश जा कर बस गए कुछ दिनों बाद जब उनसे बात हुई तो उन्होनें बताया कि उनका दिल नही लग रहा वो वहां सैटल नही हो पा रहे. बेशक जब वो जा रहे थे तो हमे भी लगा था कि वो […]

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10. Poem .. mahila

यह कविता मैने नारी जगत को प्रेरित करने के लिए लिखी है. असल में हम महिलाए, अक्सर  घबरा कर चुपचाप बैठ जाती है जबकि अगर हम हिम्मत , बहादुरी और दिलेरी से सामना करेंगें तो  मुसीबत दुम दबाती नजर आएगी .. ऐसे  तनाव भरे माहौल से  महिलाओ को जागृत करने के लिए इसे लिखा है … Continue reading Poem .. mahila

The post Poem .. mahila appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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11. Book. “Bagger Island,” to be released in April.

My second book in the Conor and Anne, murder-mystery series is complete and will be released in April.

Details later in the month.

Stay tuned.

Denis.

BookCoverImage.jpg Createspace

 

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12. How to Renew Interest in an Older Book

Since the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire took place in March (over 100 years ago), I thought it was a good time to generate new interest in two of my books by showcasing them here.

The Locket

The Locket: Surviving the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire













Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Sweatshop Reform














You can visit the stops of my 5-day virtual book tour, that took place last April. Just go here:

Virtual Book Tour Stops for The Locket

Although this tour took place last year, each of the articles, interviews, and videos from the tour are still available.

A good way to revive interest in a book that has been out on the market for a while is to showcase it again.

Has one of your books been previously showcased here at the National Writing for Children Center and you’d like to renew interest in the book right now?

Contact us (click on the contact page in the top menu bar at the homepage) to find out how to have your showcase renewed.

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13. Beep Beep Go To Sleep!

 

 

 

Here is some art from my forthcoming picture book, BEEP BEEP Go To Sleep written by Todd Tarpley. It’s a fantastic story, and I can only take credit for the artwork. Coming in September 2015 from Little Brown char_lineup BeepBeep_34 BB_page16-17 BB_page10-11 BB_page04-05

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14. KUBOO’s Virtual Puppies Teach Kids on Responsible Pet Ownership

Every kid wants a puppy. “I’ll take care of him, I promise.” “I’ll walk her every day after school.” “I’ll feed him in the morning before I catch my bus.” How many times are those promises made? While kids love their pets, how often does it end up being Mom or Dad who has the responsibility to make sure that the new addition to the family is fed, bathed, and properly cared for? Kids mean well, but before long, they’re so engrossed in their video games that they don’t have time to take care of their pets.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Instead of complaining because kids spend so much time playing video games, why not use that pastime as a way to find out if your child is really ready to have a pet?

That’s the thinking behind the partnership of Arizona Humane Society and KUBOO.com. By working together the two give kids a patent-pending, virtual 3D online pet rescue adoption game where children can adopt a dog and learn how to be a caring and responsible pet owner.

Humane societies are well aware that kids don’t always deliver on those heartfelt promises to take care of the pets they begged their parents to get. KUBOO.com provided an answer: a way to introduce kids to the actual responsibilities of pet ownership. Together the Arizona Humane Society and Kuboo.com decided that the best way for kids to measure what pet ownership means is to demonstrate it through a medium that kids actually pay attention to: gaming.

The game Kuboo Rescue Adoption is based on the principles of the Arizona Humane Society, which focuses on empathy, compassion, and a respect for animals as living beings, not toys, who deserve attention and need care. Children will choose their own virtual rescue pet, just as they’d choose an animal in a shelter or pet store. They are responsible for taking care of their pet; that means feeding it, bathing it, brushing it—all the basic tasks that are key for keeping a pet happy and healthy. Kids even get the benefit of video tips from the AHS veterinarians and staff.

The site is free and signing up is easy. Parents have complete control over whom their children meet on the site, so that it’s entirely safe for young users. Just visit KUBOO.com to sign the forms and download the game. As you ask your children how their virtual pet is faring, you’ll be determining whether or not your child is ready for a puppy for the upcoming birthday present.

You can visit the Kuboo demonstration video to try out the game before your kids try out a puppy!

About KUBOO, Inc.

KUBOO, Inc. (www.KUBOO.com) designs products that are designed for today’s modern family. Parents can relax because they have complete control, and because their children are enjoying games, entertainment, controlled chats, and multiple channel online streaming in a child-safe virtual world. Their Kuboo Rescue Adoption partners with the Arizona Humane Society to introduce multi-dimensional learning to teach younger children about responsible pet care. Learn more at: www.KUBOO.com.

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15. What’s Your Biggest Question About Doing School Visits?

sticky note mind map with questions on a blackboardI’m putting the final touches on School Visit Wizard, a step-by-step, customizable kit to help authors book, plan and deliver A+ author visits in schools.

I want to make sure I’ve covered everything, so if you’re willing to help by answering one quick question, I’ll send you a FREE report outlining The 7 Essential Documents Every Author MUST Have in Their School Visit Kit. (What’s a School Visit Kit? Don’t worry – this report answers that, too!)

Just click on the link below, fill out the form and click submit – and you’ll receive the report immediately.

Thank you!

https://emmawaltonhamilton.wufoo.com/forms/whats-your-biggest-question-about-school-visits/

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16. Article …. Drive

Drive …. कुछ देर पहले एक मोटरसाईकिल वाला अपनी बाईक को एक किनारे पर लगा कर मोबाईल पर बात कर रहा था. बहां से तीन लडकियां जा रही थी उसे देख कर मुंह पर हाथ रख कर हसंने लगी और बोलने लगी ये बदलने चले हैं समाज को … by chance मैं वही खडी थी.. … Continue reading Article …. Drive

The post Article …. Drive appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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17. Register Now for Our April Blue Ribbon Showcase

We’re accepting registrations right now for our April 2015 Blue Ribbon Author Showcase. If you have a children’s book that was recently released or one that will be released this month or next month, our April Blue Ribbon Showcase is the perfect way to get the word out about your book.

But, don’t forget, we have 4 Showcase levels – one will surely fit your budget and your promotional needs.

book bites for kids

Each of our 4 showcase levels includes an interview on Book Bites for Kids, which has been a popular talk show about children’s books on blogtalkradio since 2007.

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18. How to Write for a 3 Year Old

Metafiction:
a literary device that poses questions about the relationship between fiction and reality.

Not the kind of thing you would ever find in a book for 3-year-olds.

Until now, that is. I didn’t intend to, honest.

It happened like this:

SSX b&w smallWhile writing Story Structure Expedition (which launches in two weeks) I found myself the unwitting protagonist in a Congo River nightmare.

Narrator — that’s the role I signed on for. From Brazzaville we would head upriver in search of the heart of a story. My thesis would prove first of all that the story heart exists, then explore its deadly nature.

Something happened. The essay morphed, it went rogue. Characters showed up uninvited and soon I found myself in  a novella. I didn’t ask to become fictional. I suppose it’s my fault for not blowing the whistle, which left me to face the consequences that befall any worthy protagonist.

I didn’t quite get it — me, a  fictional protagonist in my own story.

Would I have to suffer the story heart myself? The facts of fiction demand that the hero suffer a massive failure. Meaning what exactly—that my book wouldn’t get written? I would rather die.

I wanted to escape from my own story.

How meta is that?

OffYourBum, Columbus!Anyway, for comic relief I distracted myself by writing a children’s picture book.

I called it, Off your bum, Columbus! Explore the world!

A series of photographs would depict a woolly little character named Columbus who reluctantly abandons his storybook heroes to see the world with his own two eyes.

(Oh, yeah — Una Kitt — that’s my pen name.)

“Be a storybook hero yourself, Columbus!”

Do you see what’s happening here? My cute little alter ego is being made to suffer my surreal ordeal.

DSCN5539“If I was in a storybook,” Columbus asks himself, “what would I do?  Storybook heroes do something.”

Columbus confronts the very same metafictional existential dilemma. It’s a book for three-year-olds, for goodness sake!

“If this was a storybook, I couldn’t lie here all day, could I?” says Columbus. “If this book was about me, I’d get off my woolly whatsit.”

DSCN5544Columbus doesn’t have to wonder very long. The tide comes in!

Now he’s in trouble. Now up the Congo River!

I’m betting—in both these books—that readers young and old have a soft spot for the unwilling anti-hero.

I’m already finding out. Columbus launched this week and it’s already heading for #1 in its category. One reviewer liked the “ingenious concept that connected straight to the heart of my child’s imagination and to the way he already plays.”

Metafiction for kids. Who’d have thought?

If you have kids, or are a kid, or just want to see Columbus hit #1, here’s the Amazon link to save Columbus:

Go Columbus!

 

 

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19. A Blizzardy Update

Autumn and Ducks in Tallahassee

A longtime reader wrote to ask if everything’s okay. He was concerned because I post here so rarely.

Everything is okay! My stepdaughter, Autumn, turned twenty-one! Often I still think of her as the little waving girl in the photo above. But she is an astounding young woman, a clear and compassionate thinker, a poet, a gift, my only child. Also, my goddaughter and her mom moved away. I miss them tons. And my cats died, a few months apart. Oof, as my friend Carrie says. That was sad. 

After Emily’s death in July, we got Florian to keep Percy company, and then after Percy’s death in November we didn’t want Florian to be alone, so we got Wanda. They’re great — we’re so comforted by their companionship and antics — but losing pets is as awful as Laurie Anderson says. I actually got Emily after I lost my dog, Ripley, back in 1997. After Emily’s death, I finally felt ready to have a dog again, but our coop doesn’t allow them. Neither, for that matter, did Percy.

Right now there’s a blizzard outside. I’m drinking water and tea and working on my book, which is usually what I’m doing, unless I haven’t refilled the water and tea recently.

The manuscript is due in 2016, and I asked for regular installment deadlines with my editor to keep myself on task, and I’m so busy writing that I actually got excited when an app I use to keep myself from wasting time online malfunctioned for a few weeks. It cut off my access to half the Internet, including this very site. I’m also working on a related profile-essay thing that’s taking me a long time to finish to my satisfaction, and I’m very excited about it. And I’ve been doing a lot of weird, wide-ranging reading, which I’m sure will all be reflected in my book, if you’ve missed my meandering fixations.

I hope to fixate here, too, from time to time. Until that happens, or in case it doesn’t, you can as usual more frequently find me on Twitter, Tumblr, The Begats (my other Tumblr), Instagram, and Facebook. It’s also possible to sign up for my verrrry sporadic “ideas and intimacies” dispatches at Tiny Letter. And I’ll be speaking at A.J. Jacobs’ Global Family Reunion on June 6, if you’d like to catch up in person.

For now, we’ve just gotta get through January. And I keep reminding myself, so I’ll remind you, too: the days are already getting longer.

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20. Family Tree: Slate, Tin House, Begats

Grave map

At Slate, Ariel Bogle recaps a discussion I had last week with AJ Jacobs, Wilhelmina Rhodes-Kelly, and Chris Whitten on how technology is affecting the family tree. I talked a little bit about what drew me to research my ancestry in the first place.

Although technology is changing the way we discover our personal histories, the reasons why people may begin to investigate in the first place have stayed the same. Curiosity, of course, but also a sense of history. Maud Newton told the audience how her interest in her family tree was sparked by the improbable stories her mother told about their predecessors. But the importance of ancestry cut very close for Newton. “I myself was basically a eugenics project,” she said. “My parents married because they thought they would have smart children together, not because they loved each other.” Her father was particularly obsessed with the idea of purity of blood, she added. “Someone suggested to me that there might be something [my father] was hiding, and then I got really interested.”

We had lots of fun; I don’t think any of us were ready for the panel to end when it did, and how often can you say that? The audio is below Bogle’s summary, if you’d like to listen.

In related reading: at Tin House, my series of brief but wide-ranging interviews with authors about ancestry is ongoing. Guests so far are Laila Lalami, Celeste Ng, Saeed Jones, and Christopher Beha. And at The Begats, I’ve written in the last few months about Alexander Chee’s jokbo (gorgeous books recording his family history back to the Joseon Dynasty, which began in 1392), ancestor worship in the Old Testament, and some disappointing (but not too surprising) discoveries about my self-given namesake, Maude Newton Simmons, among other things.

The stark and stunning image above is a grave map — taken from Alex’s jokbo — for one of his ancestors.

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21. How to Unhook from the “How-to” Habit

Reese hitchAnyone feel they haven’t read enough “how-to” books on writing?

Claudia in Mendoza, Argentina, says she hasn’t finished reading John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction.

Go for it, Claudia—Gardner is one of my favourites. But before you go, take two minutes to consider my argument for becoming a writer from the inside out.

First, a confession:

Back in the 90s, I devoured the ‘how-to” gurus — Gardner and Hague and Vogler and Egri and Goldberg and Field and McKee and Campbell and Walter and Ueland and Dillard. Those books still adorn my office, their authors looking over my shoulder as I type. How do I get anything done?

I even wrote one of these books myself. I’m looking over my own shoulder!

That’s the answer, Claudia of Argentina–the answer to the “how-to” dilemma.

Write your own manual.

Thereby will you finally be able to unhook from “how-to.”

7 Suggestions for Unhooking from “How-to”

#1. Consume fiction

Read your brains out. Good fiction and bad. Savour, chew, and digest buckets of it. Reflect on how the best writers did it. How she moved you. How the hell did she make me cry? And laugh! I fall to sleep at night replaying the scenes that blew me away, the scenes that turned the story around. What happened there? How did she do it?

I fall to sleep soothed by the art of fiction

#2. Fall in love with the art of fiction.

Write like a lover. I remember watching sports on television as a kid, and how the instant the game ended we’d bolt out the door, bounding like jackrabbits, to the playing field where we would emulate the champions. We played past sundown, playing our brains out, in the dark—Who has the ball!

I’m equally hopeless whenever I read Virginia Woolf. I rush to my manuscript and emulate the hell out of her. I wrote the 15th draft of my novel ROXY in an adrenaline rush after reading Mrs. Dalloway.

What a joy to write like a lover. We’re not mechanics. Mechanics think. Lovers love their characters ecstatically and to death.

#3. Love your characters to death

There’s nothing “how-to” about this dictum, because no one else can tell you how to love your protagonist to death. You invented him and only you know how to thwart him. But you have to do it, the hero must die. Just do it. It is (arguably) all that counts in fiction. There’s no “how-to” book out there that teaches you how to love your fictional characters to death.

To heck with “how-to”—what about “where to”?

#4. Forget “how-to” in favour of “where-to”

What’s the point of “how to” if we don’t understand “where to”? We wouldn’t buy an appliance without knowing what it’s for. So, what’s fiction for? What’s at the heart of fiction? Is that where it’s going? What’s it all about?

Reading the best fiction we learn (repeatedly) that the best protagonists are on a trajectory toward freedom from their lesser selves. That’s “where to.” That’s (arguably) all we need to know. We keep writing draft after draft until our protagonist has arrived. We know he’s there when he stops kicking and screaming. He’s got that far away look in his eye. He’s gone so far and is so disillusioned with his game plan that he has no alternative but to forsake himself. A higher cause descends. There’s no “how-to” about it. This may look like “how-to,” but it’s not. It’s about understanding the human condition.

#5. Don’t try to BE a writer

“How-to” tomes often coax us to be a writer rather than encourage us to do the hard work that would turn us into writers. That is to say, write your brains out. I’ll bet there are young writers out there reading less literature than “how-to” books. We’re being seduced into posing as writers “rather than spending the time to absorb what is there in the vast riches of the world’s literature, and then crafting one’s own voice out of the myriad of voices.” (author, Richard Bausch)

#6. Don’t get it right, get it written

I sometimes run a course with such a title. Students write at home, then come to class to watch scenes from powerful movies—scenes that give the audience their money’s worth. And by that I mean scenes that depict the hero challenging his own human condition. Challenging the right of his own beliefs to prevent his true happiness.

Immersing ourselves in fiction, we get a feel for a story’s essential payoff. We are astonished each time we recognize it. And then we constructively and lovingly critique each other’s work before bolting for home like jackrabbits.

#7. Write your own “how-to” book

Make notes on your own astonishment at how the best writers serve the art of fiction. Each of our understandings is bound to be unique. Your perspective is going to underpin your own advice about “how-to.” Write that book and put it on the shelf and let it breathe down your neck.

Go for it, Claudia of Argentina. Write your own manual out of love for writing.

Our own “how-to” will be born of the love of the art of fiction.

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22. UPDATING SITE…

Stay tuned for a new improved site!

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23. February is Black History Month

blackstarsFebruary is Black History Month. To commemorate the contributions of African-Americans to science and innovation, we offer this list of 12 books chronicling some of their many achievements: Black Inventors.

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24. Free Video Series Answering Your Picture Book Submission Questions

Group of Diverse People's Hands Holding Answers ConceptFor those of you who write picture books, here’s some great news!

My friend and colleague Julie Hedlund and I recently ran a survey asking for questions about picture book submissions. We received SO MANY great questions – literally, hundreds – and we were amazed by how many people asked the same questions.

Julie and I are both dedicated to supporting fellow children’s book authors – in our view, the children’s book writing community is perhaps the most mutually supportive of any professional community out there, because, hey, we’re all writing for kids!  So we decided to create a FREE video training series answering your most commonly recurring questions as follows:

1. How to write a GREAT HOOK sentence in your query letters

2. The Top 5 MISTAKES TO AVOID, and 5 lesser known (but frequently made) mistakes – so you don’t sink your submission before it starts.

3. Our ANSWERS to the most commonly asked QUESTIONS that came up over and over again in the survey.

Click here to sign up for the free training…. but do it quickly! These videos will expire in 10 days!

P.S. Please share this post on social media or with your picture book writing friends… there’s great information in these videos for everyone who writes picture books. And check out some of the fabulous comments we’ve already received on the first video, below!

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 3.35.39 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 3.36.43 PM

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25. Exorcising the Past: A Reading & Talk

Marie Mockett's childhood notebook

On March 5, Marie Mutsuki Mockett and I will be reading and talking about exorcising the past (all meanings of exorcise possible) at McNally Jackson at 6 p.m.

Marie’s wonderful new book, Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye, is about death and grief and family and ghosts and so much more. She’ll read from it, and I’ll read from the working introduction to my book on the science and superstition of ancestry, and then we’ll talk about all of that and take questions and comments from you. Hope to see you there!

This image is from one of Marie’s childhood notebooks; she shared it with the Asian American Writers’ Workshop when they visited her writing studio.

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