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1. Serving Parents of Children with Disabilities

Being a children’s librarian goes beyond serving children.  Certainly, that’s a HUGE part of the job, but the reality is that our jobs are more encompassing than that.  We are challenged and rewarded to serve the needs of patrons of all ages, and that includes the needs of parents and caregivers.  If your library is focusing on outreach to children with special needs, don’t forget that the parents of these children require our services, too.  Here’s just a short list of things that public libraries can offer parents of children with disabilities.

Special Needs Collections: If your library already has a parenting collection, think about expanding it or adding a new, targeted collection of items focusing on special needs related topics.  Whether this collection is simply made up of adult materials, or if it includes a combination of materials that both adults and children can use, there is a variety of ways you could serve the informational needs of your community.  And highlighting those materials in a separate collection makes those items more accessible and noticeable.  Make sure to gather input from your patrons first–you might discover that your community is interested in this collection having a specific focus.

Parent Workshops: Libraries are community centers for learning, so it makes sense to offer learning opportunities for parents about a variety of special needs related topics.  You could bring in guest experts to speak on topics, such as education, technology, language development, medical issues, or even advocacy.  Providing a forum for discussion of topic issues is a great way to get your community informed and involved.  At my former library, we hosted a series of Tech Talk parent workshop programs.  We knew we wanted to serve this audience of parents specifically, so we partnered with a local assistive technology specialist and offered a parent program called “Is There An App For That? Using iPads with Children with Special Needs.”  It was well received and well attended!

Booklists:  It’s been my experience that sometimes parents who have a child with special needs are looking for ways to introduce a new concept or topic to their child.  Often times, those parents are looking to the library to find a book to help that conversation along.   Quick and handy, booklists are perfect for getting book recommendations into the hands of you patrons right away.  They act as great passive reader’s advisory tools, as well, for those that are not comfortable asking more personal questions at the desk.  Be sure to freshen up your display of booklists often to check for currency and accuracy.  For a great example of what you can offer, check out Skokie Public Library’s comprehensive resource guide for parents and educators of children with disabilities.

Social Stories: Did you know that there are now free social story templates available through Microsoft Office?  Autism Speaks has partnered with Microsoft Office to offer free and customizable Social Story Templates available for download from their website.  As with any social stories, parents can use these tools to help teach various social situations to children with autism.  Topics include potty training, taking turns, going to the doctor, and even bullying.  Helpful tips like this one could easily be shared on a library’s social media page, as a way to quickly get the information out to those that need it.

Meeting Spaces:  More and more libraries are making their meeting spaces available to the public–sometimes even at a reasonably minimal cost to the user.  If you already are in touch with local support groups or parenting groups in your area, they may be interested to know that the library is a place they can come together and meet.  Once you have made contact with these groups, they may be interested in having a representative from the library come in and speak with them.  The more conversations we can have with actual library users (or non-users) to find out what they want their library to be, the more informed we are.

 

….and these are just a few ideas.  What are YOU doing at your library to serve the unique needs of parents of children with disabilities in your communities?  Share your ideas below!

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2. Ballerina Girl

firebirdbookThis year, two beautiful picture books about black ballerinas hope to dance their way into children’s hearts and hands. The latest is a gorgeous forthcoming debut by American Ballet Theater soloist Misty Copeland titled Firebird, the name of the classic role she was the first black woman to star in.

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons and illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Christopher Myers, Copeland’s work is a love letter to a brown girl who dreams of being a dazzling dancer too. To lift the child, who sees a “longer than forever” distance between herself and her idol, Copeland reveals her journey from ballet dream to determined realization. In a stirring marriage of lyrical text and poignant images that affirm and encourage, Copeland and Myers create an evocative landscape in which a new generation of young dreamers and dancers can take flight. The book is available for pre-order now and releases on September 4.

The Buzz on Firebird:

“The language soars into dizzying heights of lyrical fancy… Myers’ artwork… pulsate[s] with kinetic synergy… A starscape filled with visual drama and brilliance.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“An inspirational picture book for children daunted by the gap between their dream and their reality.”—Booklist

starlightIn January of this year, another moving ballet story began weaving its magic. A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream (Philomel), written by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by award-winner Floyd Cooper, tells the story of a 1950s Harlem girl inspired by first black prima ballerina Janet Collins.

Like Firebird, the text and illustrations are lyrical and full of heart and movement. But in this historical fiction tale, a girl whose mother works as a seamstress for a ballet school is immersed in the world of dance and dreams of being a prima ballerina. And seeing groundbreaker Collins perform at the Metropolitan Opera turns her dream into something more – a vision of who she can be.

Available in stores now.

The Buzz on A Dance Like Starlight:

“A warm, inspirational collaboration that will resonate in the hearts of all who dream.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

” . . . Though the narrator is imagined, the inspirational message is real. Cooper’s art incorporates his signature subtractive process and mixed media in tones of brown and pink to achieve illustrations as beautiful and transporting as the text.” —School Library Journal

Janet Collins Animated Film: Karyn Parsons (Hilary on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air) launched a campaign to raise funds for an animated short film called The Janet Collins Story that would be produced by Parsons’ company, Sweet Blackberry. Check out the campaign here. Great news: It was fully funded. Now, we can look forward to a wonderful film for children about Collins.

Wouldn’t it be cool to share Firebird, A Dance Like Starlight and The Janet Collins Story with kids you know?


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3. At the Breast Clinic

Picture


                                               At the Breast Clinic

The Breast Clinic is a brick and glass structure designed with women

 in mind, from fancy murals of Italy to free herbal teas in the lobby.

As you pass through the revolving doors there’s no need to wonder

which way to turn or where to ask for directions to your doctor’s suite.

The receptionist’s desk juts out and your questions about doctors,

appointments, procedures and payments can be answered quickly.

“Will my wife, Marilyn, get a clean bill of health?” takes longer.

 

When we travel together I sometime pretend that I am “Charles,” her chauffer,

since she comes from a long line of glitz, glamour and royalty. I don’t mind

being her driver and court jester, but we will be at the medical institute waiting

up to three hours for x-rays to hear good news. I didn’t sleep well last night

worrying about the Queen of my life for 41 years. There were omens in the air.

She has been called back before after a routine screening, but this is different.

 

The receptionist insisted on a speedy return and told her that a doctor

would be present in the office. The receptionist didn’t reduce fears saying,

“Oh, we just want to take a few more pictures. We do this all the time.”

With words unspoken Marilyn let me know that these were sinister omens.

She needed me to hold her hand and scare away any menacing thoughts.

That’s why I was with her with a room full of women waiting for exams.

 

I kept thinking: It has to be very good news. It has to be very good news.

It had to be good news because she had a run of bad luck, a series of medical

problems all piling up—a  fall, broken bones, arm, ribs, a sleep disorder, TMJ,

COPD, heart problems, arthritis, and two knee operations—all in one year.

I knew she couldn’t take much more of  new doctors, medicines, blood tests,

 and appointments. Marilyn was centimeters away from breaking.

 

I prayed for her and bargained with God to spare her this time from pain,

medical intervention and frequent thoughts about her own mortality. 

She deserves better. That’s what I thought again and again, as I waited

for the verdict via x-rays and a doctor. It didn’t seem fair that she had

to deal with more doctors and examinations. Yes, I know that life isn’t

fair and when things get tough, the tough get going, but there’s a limit.

 

Ninety minutes later she popped out from behind door number one

with a sparkling smile and waving thumbs up. I hugged and hugged

my queen, while others waited to see how their story would unfold.

I wished them well in my heart of hearts, and escorted my fair lady

out the door as fast as I could beyond false omens. At the Princess Diner

my beloved Queen and I ate a celebratory lunch and thanked the heavens.

~Joe Sottile

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4. Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Sharpshooting

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

Lego Storm Trooper

Courtesy of William Warby @ Creative Commons

Description: Shooting with incredible precision and accuracy. In most circumstances, this talent is applied to those shooting guns, because advances in modern weaponry makes it easier to hit one’s target. But with a little creative world building and foundational support, there’s no reason that sharpshooting can’t apply to other distance weapons as well:  slingshots, darts, bows, javelins, axes, knives, boomerangs, etc.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: a steady hand, good distance vision, being able to remain still for long periods of time

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: patience, determination, calmness, self-control

Required Resources and Training: Practice is obviously important if one wants to learn to shoot well. Practice perceiving distances, anticipating and planning for the wind, shooting different kinds of targets, shooting in different kinds of light—distance shots are impeded by many unseen, difficult-to-anticipate factors. While natural ability is an asset, consistent practice can make the difference between lucky shots and expert ones.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: assassins, hunters, military personnel, and Olympians. Sharpshooters are often portrayed as very detailed, nit-picky, OCD types who take their ability very seriously. To turn the cliché on its ear, consider adding traits that defy the stereotype: laziness, naiveté, playfulness, sentimentality, etc.

A good example of a sharpshooter who doesn’t run true to form is Private Daniel Jackson from Saving Private Ryan—a gifted sharpshooter who humbly accepts his ability as a God-given gift that enables him to do a necessary job.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • when hunting is necessary to one’s survival
  • when the story resolution is dependent upon the hero hitting something very small that’s very far away (think Luke Skywalker vs. The Death Star, just…with sharpshooting skillz instead of mad Jedi skillz)
  • when one would prefer to injure or startle an opponent rather than kill him/her outright
  • in a kill-or-be-killed scenario
  • in a hostage situation
  • at a funhouse carnival midway, when it’s imperative to win a certain prize for a certain someone
  • when playing paintball, dodgeball, or other competitive sports

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

The post Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Sharpshooting appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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5. Soldering in the Library

It has almost been one year since my library opened our makerspace for kids, cleverly branded the T|E|A Room for technology, engineering, and the arts, by Kiera Parrott. While we have seen a flood of new experiences in the library due to the growth in STEAM-related programming, the most inspiring thus far have been T|E|A Room family programs. The majority of maker programs offered could have easily been transformed into family programs, and our plan is to combine this new wave of library programming with our desire to grow intergenerational activities in the community.

A grandfather and his grandson working on their skill badge. Photo courtesy of author.

A grandfather and his grandson working on their skill badge. Photo courtesy of author.

One program that caused families to make the library a destination point one cloudless spring day was the Intro to Soldering class. Neither my colleague nor I had ever soldered anything before, and to be quite honest we both couldn’t even tell if the L was silent! Fortunately there were many reasonably priced soldering kits available to teach families as well as ourselves. We also made it a point to ask the library for assistance and both the Assistant Director and Building Engineer graciously offered to help us with supplies, and even gave us a tutorial on soldering basics.

The project we decided to use, mostly for its simplicity, was the Skill Badge from the Maker Shed. This is a perfect introduction to soldering and because the families learned so quickly we were able to make multiple blinking robots. Here are some tips for any librarians who may want to take their makerspace programs to the next level with soldering:

  • Safety First: Make sure to provide all the necessary items to ensure safety. This includes safety goggles for both parents and kids. Check to see within the community who might be able to donate or loan goggles for the program. In the beginning of the class I stress listening, wearing goggles, asking for help, and never touching the tip of the soldering iron. One thing I noticed was that online there were many images of kids soldering without safety goggles. I made it a point to not use those images in the class. Also, make sure to purchase lead-free solder when working with kids. It’s difficult to find, but available online.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: I’ve definitely winged it for some programs, but with soldering that’s not an option. You want to be knowledgeable about the process so you are best equipped to help your participants. If you are terrified (like me) then ask some of the library staff to assist. I discovered many staff members and parents had soldered before and were more than willing to lend a hand. It only took two skill badges before I got the hang of it, and both of blinking robots’ eyes lit up with ease.
  • Provide Visuals: I found it helpful to make each step visible to help guide us through the activity. Since the project we purchased had clear instructions on the website, it was easy to use the photos and text to explain how all the parts came together. I created a Keynote document which helped to open up discussion on defining soldering, objects that need to be soldered, and the tools and materials we would be using. Accessing tutorial videos whenever possible allows kids to see soldering up close and personal before they even heat up the iron.
  • Location, Location, Location: Be wise about where you decide to host a soldering program and feel free to limit the amount of families. We ended having two separate classes so we could manage the activity effectively. We also needed a location that had enough outlets, ventilation, and space. Smoke does come from the hot soldering iron, so I brought additional fans and asked parents to fan away the smoke.

Both sessions were a huge success, both for the kids and their adults. Those in attendance included parents, teenage siblings, and grandparents. One mother mentioned recently that a few days following the event her son’s grandfather dug out his old soldering kit so they could work on other projects together.

When I became a children’s librarian I had no idea it would lead me to the art of soldering. This program has far exceeded what families thought would happen within the library. T|E|A Room programs have challenged both my staff and I to discover ways of exposing kids to new learning opportunities. It’s refreshing to think that libraries are now becoming known for both reading and robots.

Want to learn more about soldering? Check out these resources:

Tech Will Save Us – How to Solder and Desolder A hilarious kid-friendly video on how to get started soldering. The instructor does a great job of stressing the importance of safety.

Science Kids – Soldering Lesson I specifically used this video to show how to tin the solder.

Raspberry Pi Blog – Soldering is Easy Comic

This seven-page comic is an illustrated guide to more in-depth projects. The visuals are descriptive, accurate, and fun.

Claire Moore is a member of the School-Age Programs and Services Committee. She is the Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library in Darien, CT.  For further questions, please contact at cmoore@darienlibrary.org.

 

 

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6. “The Butterfly Picnic” – A perfect holiday read?

Originally posted on Joan Aiken:
     Joan Aiken writing at her very best was the perfect companion.   She was well travelled, cultured, with a wealth of personal experience, and the ability not just to tell a gripping story, but to draw the reader in to the very process of writing.   What she loved…

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7. Cycling in Alsace

Poppy

Since we were already in Germany visiting friends in June, we decided we might as well stay a little longer and do some exploring. Yep, I know we are incredibly lucky to be able to do it, and I’m very grateful.

The theme to this side-trip was something like “Easy Biking and Eating in a Pretty Place within Driving Distance from Hannover.” I had this dream of one of those tours where they move your luggage from spot to spot, but none of those were really very kid-friendly. The Alsace region of France fit the bill for a DIY version. My French is completely rustig, so it was very nice to be able to speak German. (Sorry France, I do love French—I just need a refresher course!). Alsace is that part of France that was once part of Germany, then France, then Germany, now France.

IMG_1245

Since it had to be easy biking, I went for the flattest part of Alsace, which happens to be right next to the Rhine river, just at the border to Germany. I found a family apartment near Rhinau, and we could borrow adult bikes for free. Kid bikes we rented from the nearby tourist office. I have to say France does a great job with its tourist offices—-very handily placed and staffed.

IMG_1329

Oh, btw, in case you didn’t know, that is NOT the Rhine in the above picture. That would be a canal.

Not having a bike rack made for some logistical challenges, but still, we managed to get in a couple of days of nice long (for us) rides in between the eating and the castle-viewing. We stayed in the same spot each night and just turned around when we’d had enough.

We may also have been dragged to  taken a day to visit Europa Park, an amusement park everyone kept talking up to our kids, despite our gestures to keep mum (thanks a lot, folks!).

Picnicking on bike rides was a highlight, though we could rarely manage to get very far without eating everything up. The kids did great, though.

Another highlight: riding the ferry (free to all) back and forth over the Rhine.

Rhine Ferry Crossing

I’d love to do a longer (mile-wise) trip sometime and cover more ground. I like being able to ride from town to town—-something so cool about that. Speaking of which, there are plans in the works for a cross-town urban bike trail (including joining up some existing trails) in the Charlotte area, and I couldn’t be more excited.

In case you missed the bit about the first part of this trip, click here.

Currently reading: Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? She has such a fabulous voice.

What about you? What have you been up to? We were just visiting with family (in the U.S.) and are now home again.


6 Comments on Cycling in Alsace, last added: 7/28/2014
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8. Working with Dream Themes: Returning to Work

Healing Dream Garden

A Pick from the Healing Dream Garden

Background:

Several years ago, after taking a five-year hiatus from full-time work, I felt I was ready to return to work.  Going back to work later in life is not easy, but in my case I have been blessed with terrific energy, motivation and good health and so I wasn’t worried about that.

At this stage, however, I was not ready to grab the first thing that came along.  Obviously after 37 years of working, there are many jobs that have the “been there and done that” or “at my age, I don’t need to do that…” feel to them.  Hopefully, over the years I have learned to work smarter and could apply any experience I’ve gleaned by choosing, getting and keeping a suitable job.  When I applied for several significant jobs, I was well received in job interviews and knew I could eventually land the one I best suited for me.

My psyche must have been preparing me for this event because I had some powerful dreams which seemed to be work related, expressing my anxieties about what to do, being up to working full-time again and the effects of my efforts to go back to work but some were telling me that the prospect of working would not be a problem.  Here is one of them.

Dream:

I own a large house (not the actual one I was living in at the time of the dream.)  A young, healthy worker comes in the house and says he wants a room to live in.  I say OK, and tell him he can take the right front bedroom.  Before I know it, there are two other young, strapping men just like him who are living in the room.  I go over to investigate and find the number of workers has jumped to about 20.  It was really a full house—full of all the workers.  I tell one man to write down their names so I can keep track of them.  He does.  I notice that the room has suddenly expanded to look like the inside of factory.  Something in me wonders if this is really still my house?

Reflecting on this dream using the dreamwork method that everything in the dream represents a part of myself, I could see that the house was my psychic home, and that the men (who usually in my dreams represent work-related issues) were energetic, healthy and ready to work.  They just needed a place to stay.  I found the dream comforting, letting me know I had the energy of much ready “manpower.”  But something in me asked, “Is this really me? Do I want all these men here?  Is this my responsibility?”  The dream raised more questions than answered them but I knew I was capable of working.  The real issue might be found in limiting the amount of work I take on.  The dream gave me confidence.


1 Comments on Working with Dream Themes: Returning to Work, last added: 7/24/2014
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9. Making Our Own Market: DuEwa Frazier

We are honoured to welcome DuEwa Frazier to the Brown Bookshelf today. Poet, founder of Lit Noire Publishing, author of DEANNE IN THE MIDDLE, and much, much more — DuEwa is a true wonder woman. Grab your notebook and a glass of iced tea, lemonade, or just some cool, clear water…and prepare to be inspired.

duewa
If I could describe myself in one word, it would be determined. When I graduated from Hampton University as an English major, a few of my classmates asked me what I planned to do after graduation. I told them, “I’m going to be a writer and children’s author.” I didn’t know how I was going to do it but that was my goal and I was determined. Upon graduation I was chosen to be an editorial intern at a teen publication in Massachusetts, my family did not think it was a good idea for me to move to Massachusetts by myself, being so young and right out of college. So I moved back to the Midwest and became an elementary school teacher, I also started graduate school in Secondary English.

Through the 90’s and into the early 2000’s I wrote poetry and children’s stories. In 1999, I moved to my birthplace of Brooklyn. The internet wasn’t quite as booming as it is now, so when I submitted my work for publishing, I made phone calls to agents and publishers and sent my submissions via mail. I even submitted my children’s stories to Nickelodeon hoping to write for the hit show “Little Bill.” I started hand making children’s picture books, putting pencil sketched illustrations to words, in order to create visuals for the stories I wanted to share with young readers. During this time, I received rejection after rejection. Agents and publishers communicated to me that they couldn’t accept my work because I didn’t have a solid track record in publishing. I met an editor at an event who was seeking to publish poets. My first poem “Son of My Sun” was published in Essence Magazine’s December 1999 issue featuring Samuel Jackson and his wife on the cover. It was my first publishing experience and I was actually paid for it!

Years ago I heard the phrase, “What you put your attention on – grows.” This became true for me in my creative life. My poems were published in Essence several more times, as well as in literary journals, online and anthologies. I also published editorials and interviews online. Still, receiving a “publishing deal” through a book publisher was not something that was offered to me, and after a while I didn’t seek it. I kept writing, networking at author signings, attending conferences, reading, doing research, performing my poetry and saving money. Eventually, I taught myself how to self-publish. There was no one there to hold my hand through the entire process but I did receive support. I took writing workshops with the late, great poet, Louis Reyes Rivera and was mentored by Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets. I attended many of the Center for Black Literature’s National Black Writers Conference’s early panels and workshops. I later took children’s writing and non-fiction workshops at other centers in the city. I became a part of a community of writers who had academics and cultural consciousness in their backgrounds.

When I published my first book, Shedding Light From My Journeys in 2002, publishing became an act of community service for me and an added connection to my being an educator. My company, Lit Noire Publishing was founded in 2002. I became an author, publisher, cultural organizer and consultant all under one umbrella. I hired graphic designers and printers. I shared my book and the books of other authors with my middle school students in Brooklyn. Louis Reyes Rivera helped me edit my first collection. He gave me advice about selecting poems that relate to each other in theme. I had been performing on the poetry circuit in various cafes, arts venues and colleges. I was no different from many other writers and poets who wanted their work heard and read, but I made a conscious decision to publish my books because long after we are all gone, the books will still stand.

I am the author or editor of six books to date: Shedding Light From My Journeys (2002), Stardust Tracks on a Road (2005), Check the Rhyme: Anthology of Female Poets & Emcees (2006), Ten Marbles and Bag to Put Them in: Poems for Children (2010), Goddess Under the Bridge: Poems (2013) and Deanne in the Middle (2014). The anthology I edited, Check the Rhyme features 50 women poets from across the globe and was nominated for three awards: NAACP Image Award in Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry, African American Literary Awards Show – Poetry and Writer’s Digest Publishing Awards – Poetry. If your intent is to produce quality literature and share with a community of readers, your work will land where it is supposed to.

I have many writing projects that are “waiting” to be further worked on or picked up, including a few I am currently editing. Creation never stops when you have a passion for writing, but I am not interested in releasing a book every few months. I think each project should have its own space and time. A possible challenge in self-publishing is that you have to motivate yourself to use both traditional and alternative or creative methods of marketing and promoting your work. I have an entrepreneurial, pull myself “up by the bootstraps” spirit, so self-publishing and managing my work doesn’t frazzle me. But every writer may not be suited for it, because you do not have a publicist, manager and editor at your disposal 24/7 creating plans, representing your ideas and doing your bookings.

When you’re self-published, you become DIY all around and you have to be okay with that, including being okay with spending your money to fuel your ideas. However, I do support writers who have good experiences with traditional houses and I find value in it. It’s all about communities of readers and however you are able to share you work is what is most important.

To date, what I enjoy about publishing my work is that I have a certain amount of creative control and as long as I am here, my books will not go out of print. I have talked with writers who have had experiences with publishers who allow their works to go out of print. I do not know why that happened, but I thought it was unfortunate because we’re living in an age where our children need access to books in print to become literate. And one of our legacies is printed books. As an author, I love participating in programs with my books and interacting with readers – both youth and adults. There is nothing like discussing books and hearing about the interests of readers. I have been fortunate to participate in numerous literacy programs for youth, literary conferences and author signings where it has not mattered that I represent myself as an indie author. I have been a writer for fifteen years and I think I have shown my commitment to the work. But I have humility in knowing I still have much to learn and work to do. As a new children’s author, I believe there is great value in continuing to produce books in print, not just in digital format. When I teach workshops for youth, I bring my books with me as references and students enjoy paging through the books and reading from them. There is relationship that a reader has with a book, which digital reading cannot replace. You can curl up with a book and dog ear your favorite pages. You can make notes and symbols in books on the pages. And there’s nothing like the smell of a book – whether new or worn. I am also a big library geek, and I promote our young people to always have a library card and access books through the local library.
My new book Deanne in the Middle chronicles the experiences of 14-year old Deanne Summers who is starting her first year of high school.

Not unlike many youth, Deanne faces bullying, peer pressure and issues in conflict resolution during her first semester. I wrote the story to have a dialogue with young readers about conflict and having friendships with those who are different from you. So many students are bullied and harassed for being different.

I felt Deanne in the Middle was a worthwhile story to tell. This is a story I began writing in 2007 and I submitted it to agents in the past. I was told there was “no market” for my story. ditm-FRONT-vEBOOK-1 And when I workshopped the story I was told that my characters didn’t “sound black enough.” Well as an educated person who has worked with youth of diverse backgrounds, and whose family is also diverse, I really didn’t know what “black enough” was. How many “yo shortys” and “what ups” can you put in a young adult novel to make it believable? For me, not many. If I were a teen, I would become bored with a book written with lingo just to target me and I would feel that the author is patronizing and stereotyping me. And these are among my reasons for publishing my novel Deanne in the Middle, and not waiting another five years or so for someone else to find the “market” in my work. There is value in my story because I know the youth who I serve and young readers deserve to have a myriad of stories to choose from when selecting books to read.

I suggest to aspiring authors and writers for children to: (1) write often (2) have your work workshopped and critiqued and (3) attend literary events and conferences to network. There are times when I could not devote 100% of my time to publishing due to working and attending graduate school (I earned three Master’s degrees from 2006 to 2013 and have an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School) but I realize that it’s all about the journey. The journey is filled with learning experiences – how I learn from other authors and what I have to teach. I made a market for my work and have felt privileged to share my writing with young readers and connect with like minded authors.

Thank you for this opportunity to tell my publishing story!

For more from DuEwa Frazier, visit her online at duewaworld.com.

What are you waiting on? Go!


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10. Theatrical Reviews: The Snow Queen

SnowQueenMusical 300x300 Theatrical Reviews: The Snow QueenI was trying to remember the last theater review I wrote for this site.  At first I thought it might be the review I did way way back in the day for the staged adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline where the main character was played by a heavyset middle aged woman (it worked quite well, thank you very much).  Then I remembered that I did write up the Matilda musical when Penguin was kind enough to offer tickets to local librarians.  Still, that was over a year ago and my theater going has shriveled in the wake of my increasing brood.  What would it take to get me back in the swing of things?  Good friends from my past, apparently.

The Snow Queen, which I have discussed here briefly before, came to NYC as part of the 2014 Musical Theatre Festival (spellcheck is questioning why I chose to spell it “theatre”, by the way). Having originated in the San Jose Repertory Theater the composer of the show is one Haddon Kime, a friend of mine from long back.  Indeed his wife Katie presided over my wedding and long ago he created the music for my very brief foray into podcasting.  He’s always been ridiculously talented but I confess that I’d never seen a show of his.  Until now.

For those of you unfamiliar with the plot of this Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, here’s the long and short of it. Two kids, Gerta and Kai, are best buddies.  Then one day two shards of a magic mirror enter Kai’s eye and heart, rendering him a cold-hearted bastard (which is to say, a teenager).  Along comes The Snow Queen who takes Kai away to her magic palace up North.  Rather than just mourn her friend, Gerta sets out to rescue him, encountering rivers, witches, crows, royalty, thieves, and more.  When she finds Kai he doesn’t exactly want to leave, so engaged is he in a puzzle The Snow Queen set up for him.  Fortunately love wins out, and the two kiddos go back home.

SnowQueen3 300x200 Theatrical Reviews: The Snow QueenAs the novel stands it is unlike most Andersen tales in that it has a metaphor so clear cut you’d swear it had been ghostwritten by Freud himself.  The shards of glass in Kai’s heart and eye are so clearly a stand-in for the changes adolescence that it’s scary.  Indeed, when Anne Ursu wrote the Snow Queen inspired novel Breadcrumbs, she made explicit what is only implied in the Andersen tale.  With that in mind, I was very curious how a staged production of the show would deal with some of these themes.

Right from the start the show casts Kai and Gerda as adults playing children.  This is a clever way of dealing with adolescence in a theatrical setting.  Years ago the remarkable staged adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials saga cast two adults as Lyra and Will, allowing them to learn and grow throughout the show.  And since Kai spends a fair amount of time in this show begging a grown woman in a white garter belt to kiss him, this was a wise choice.

I suppose you could say they decided to give the show a Steampunk feel.  There were a fair number of corsets and goggles, but it wasn’t overwhelming.  When I saw a Steampunk version of The Pirates of Penzance a couple years ago the effect was overdone.  Here it was subtle, more evident in the clothing than anything else.  Each character was outfitted in a simple but effective manner, none so effective as The Snow Queen herself.  Played to the hilt by the commanding Jane Pfitsch, she’s a photo negative of The Phantom of the Opera, bedecked all in white, luring a boy through a window (as opposed to the Phantom bedecked all in black, luring a girl through a mirror).  Admittedly her very cool costume resembled that of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” outfit from the MTV Music Video Awards, but there’s no crime in that.  Her blond bob stood in stark contrast to the elaborate headwear of Elsa in the Disney Snow Queen adaptation Frozen.  But it was her singing voice and violin playing that gave her true power.  A very strong soprano, you can actually see her right now in the current revival of Cabaret as Rosie.  As for the violin playing, this show followed the current trend of having the performers play instruments on the stage, but her violin contained not a jot of fly-by-night fakery.  This girl could play!  I was impressed.

SnowQueen2 300x200 Theatrical Reviews: The Snow QueenOther strong performances included Eryn Murman as Gerda, Reggie D. White as a Troll, a Hyacinth, a Prince, and a Reindeer respectively, and Jason Hite as an oddly sexy River, Crow, and Italian (for no particular reason) Daisy.  But the strongest actress, aside from The Snow Queen herself, was clearly Lauren Cipoletti.  There is much to be said for performers that have fun with their roles.  Cipoletti, by all appearances, seemed to be having a blast.  First she was a rosebush, and though all she does is preen in a manner best befitting The Rose of The Little Prince, you are entranced.  Later she came on as an adorable nerdgirl princess, pulling off the cheery “Never Give Up” song that might have wilted in a lesser performer’s mouth.  Best, however, was last since her most memorable role was the psychotic Little Robber Girl.  Singing “I Want That”, a ballad worthy of Veruca Salt herself, Cipoletti let her freak flag fly.  She was punk one minute and a cabaret singer the next.  She was Amanda Palmer and Courtney Love and a whole host of other wild women.  You didn’t trust her not to slit your throat while cooing sweet nothings in your ears all the while.  I’ve always loved the Little Robber Girl.  Now I adore her.

The music?  Superb.  Catchy.  Hummable.  I have actually been humming the song “Flying” ever since I saw it online, actually.  See, here’s a taste.

New York News

Neat, right? The show is jam-packed with music, making it almost more operetta than musical.  Haddon mixes up the styles, creating punk rock anthems and Southern bluegrass and Irish ballads depending on what fits best.  Should the show ever get picked up it could, of course, be cut down.  Some songs were lovely but easy to do away with.  In fact the song “Gone” was probably the loveliest of the batch, but superfluous in terms of plot.

SnowQueen1 300x200 Theatrical Reviews: The Snow QueenAs I exited the theater during intermission I saw a small girl wearing a Frozen t-shirt.  Since it was a 9 p.m. performance she was the only one of her kind to do so, but I like to think that there were other kids in the audience in a similar state of mind.  Kids entranced by Frozen who have an interest in the original source material.  My husband has always said that Frozen feels more like a prequel to The Snow Queen than anything else.  A cool thought (no pun intended).  However you look at it,

The show ended its run July 20th and one can only hope and pray that it gets picked up here in the city in some manner.  For another opinion check out the New York Times review A Fairy-Tale That Rocks in which reviewer Anita Gates calls parts of the show “evocatively effective”.  Also check out the TheaterMania review which calls Haddon’s score, “an endlessly listenable pastiche with elements of bluegrass, punk rock, and symphonic metal.”

Interested in reading the original story?  For the best round-up of Snow Queen works, go to the SurLaLune Fairy Tales site containing Modern Interpretations of The Snow Queen.  There you will find a list that is jaw-dropping in its content. It really is a remarkable collection.

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11. Signed up for Kindle Unlimited? Get my books!

Signed up for Kindle Unlimited?


Many of Untold Press titles are available for download with it!

Check them out HERE! <– CLICK
Look for 0.00kindleunlimted under the title!

 

The following books of mine are available through it!

Aro Coversm

 

Princesm
EverSm


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12. Cover Reveal: The Whisper by Aaron Starmer

When I originally read The Riverman by Aaron Starmer this year it blew me away. I couldn’t think of anything to really compare it to. Entirely original, wonderful and strange, it has remained quite clear in my memory ever since. Yet I was shocked when I learned that it was just the first in a trilogy. At first I couldn’t reconcile the first book with a second in my brain. Yet as time passed I found myself really and truly wanting to see where it would go. It’s as if my entire interpretation of the first book hinges on the second. Well, I am pleased and honored to present to you today a cover reveal for its sequel.

Ladies and gentlemen . . . The Whisper!

Whisper Cover Reveal: The Whisper by Aaron Starmer

On shelves March 17, 2015.

Many thanks to Mr. Starmer and Macmillan for allowing me to reveal the jacket here today.

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13. New Literary Agent Looking to Build List

whitleypiccroppedWhitley Abell joined Inklings Literary Agency in 2013. Before joining Inklings, she completed successful internships with Carol Mann Agency and P.S. Literary Agency. She is based in St. Louis, MO, where she daylights as a production manager for several medical and S & T journals. She graduated in 2011 BA in English and Creative Writing, and again in 2012 with a MAT in Secondary English Education, which basically means she can tell you anything there is to know about feminist literary theory and the Common Core Standards.

Whitley is primarily interested in Young Adult, Middle Grade, and select Upmarket Women’s fiction. She likes characters who are relatable yet flawed, hooks that offer new points of view and exciting adventures, vibrant settings that become active characters in their own right, and a story that sticks with the reader long after turning the last page, be it contemporary or historical, realistic or supernatural, tragic or quirky.

She loves mythology and literary re-imaginings, heartbreaking contemporary novels, historical suspense, and craving cute romantic comedies for YA through adult (ex: Sophie Kinsella, Lauren Morrill, Stephanie Perkins).

She is not interested in vampires, werewolves, angels, zombies, dystopian societies, steampunk, or epic fantasy. Please no paranormal / fantasy for adults. Submission guidelines:

They accept electronic submissions only. Do not call the agency to query, or to inquire about querying. Do not use the postal service to mail your submissions.

To query, type “Query (Agent Name)” plus the title of your novel in the subject line, then please send the following pasted into the body of the e-mail to query(at)inklingsliterary(dot)com:

  • A query letter that includes:
  • The title, genre, and word count of your project.
  • A brief blurb about the story.
  • A brief bio including any publishing credits.
  • The first 10 pages of your manuscript
  • A brief synopsis (1-2 pages)

Your subject line should look like this (If you were querying Michelle and the name of your book is “One Thousand Ways to Drink Coffee”):
Query Michelle: ONE THOUSAND WAYS TO DRINK COFFEE.

They will not open unsolicited attachments, so make sure you send all of the above pasted into the body of the email.

Their response time varies for queries, but they do answer all queries that come in while we are open to submissions.

Email Alex: alex@inklingsliterary.com

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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14. 18 Quotes for Writers from Ernest Hemingway

578_originalToday marks the 115th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s birth. In his lifetime, Papa had quite a lot to say about writing. Here are 18 of our favorite quotes, in no particular order.

 

1. I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

 

2. If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.

 

3. For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.

 

4.That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best – make it all up – but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.

5. Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.

 

6. My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.

 

7. When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.

 

8. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.

 

9. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

 

10. There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.

 

11. To F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Write the best story that you can and write it as straight as you can.”

 

12. Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.

 

13. All stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.

 

14. A serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.

 

15. It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.

 

16. To an aspiring writer: “You shouldn’t write if you can’t write.”

 

17. After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.

 

18. My training was never to drink after dinner nor before I wrote nor while I was writing.

 

What’s your favorite writerly quote from Ernest Hemingway? Share it in the comments!

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15. How To Mine Your Dreams For Story Gold

We’ve all experienced it…the curtain to consciousness opening, and with it, the realization that the best story idea we’ve ever had is carefully unraveling with each passing second into wakefulness. We grab something–anything–and start writing down a the images, thoughts, character tics, plot snippets and world building details before they can escape.

dreamcatcherAfter a shower, a coffee, and if we’re lucky, some form of breakfast that doesn’t have the word “leftover” in it, we sit down to reread our brilliance. And often, the only word to describe what we see is gobbledegook.

It’s disheartening, because we feel that heart flutter, that sense of knowing that a gemstone resides within the clatter of words. But if our dream catcher fails and the images seem no more than disjointed fragments, how can we turn what we’ve collected into something usable?

I’m turning the blog over to author Anthony Metivier, visiting us from Germany, because he’s pondered this very question and has some great ideas to share. Please read on!

FleuronIt’s well known that if you want to consistently remember your dreams, you need to write them down each and every morning.

This practice used to be a pain back in the day of pen and pencil, especially if you slept with another person.

Today it’s as simple as iPhone and the Plain Text app syncing the words to Dropbox faster than you can thumb them in.

With that problem solved, the question is: how do you get the dream material you’ve recorded into the form of a narrative, a compelling story that people will actually want to read?

A lot depends on exactly how you dream, but it seems to me that irrespective of whether you see narrative shards or full blown scenarios, all dreams serve the same function as Tarot cards spread out on a table before the interpreter’s eye.

As Doktor Freud once taught us, dreams provide the basis for association and the more dreams you have, the more associations to the dream you can make. Recent advances in psychology have worked to demonstrate that dreams probably have no meaning, but that doesn’t suggest that dreams can’t be interpreted and mined for narrative treasure.

Thus, imagine the following scenario:

You wake up and write down everything you can remember from the cinema of your sleep. Because you’ve been practicing “dream writing” for awhile now, the dreams tend to blossom large in your mind and you have no difficulties capturing full portraits of your night time activity.

Instead of looking for a story within the dream itself (which is also a perfectly reasonable and wonderful thing to do if the material is present), look at the dream you’ve written down and its images and let your mind free associate. You might come up with a completely new story or find yourself reflecting on something from your past. It could be something for yesterday, last year or a decade ago.

Using the most prominent association that comes to your mind, examine it for the following characteristics of compelling narrative:

  • Does it involve a driving desire that is in conflict with a critical need (like wanting a home with a white picket fence but needing to be a better parent before that house can have any authentic value and serve as a home)?
  • Does it involve being trapped or imprisoned in a particular social situation (job, family, etc.)?
  • Is there a dilemma in which many options offer themselves as possible solutions without any of them being particularly desirable?
  • Has a crisis forced you or someone in the association to take action?
  • Did the action lead to some kind of confrontation?
  • Did any sense of self-revelation or a better understanding of the self emerge?
  • Was there a resolution?

Although the disconnected fragments of a dream may not contain these elements, the episodes our dreams sunder in our minds for association often will. Exploit these and then combine them with the intense imagery of your dreams to make narrative magic.

To give you a case study, during a recent trip to Athens I dreamed of a pregnant woman with a butterfly tattoo on her cheek getting out of prison. She approached a throbbing wall made of human bones and flesh, behind which a dragon was spouting flames. She gave birth to her child and held it up to the wall, which immediately disintegrated into pieces.

When I woke up, I wrote the dream down and immediately started associating it with whatever came to mind. After a few seconds, I arrived upon the Berlin Wall and started to think about a futuristic alternative world in which people are kept out of East Berlin instead of being trapped in it.

I had also recently seen my girlfriend buy a lottery ticket, something that shocked me because I never would have suspected she was a gambler. For whatever reason this came to mind during the free-association, it gave me the idea of having some kind of lottery involved in how people get into this new version of East Berlin.

The next step was to take the scenario and answer each of the questions given

The result:

A basic sketch for a visually intense novel I drafted over the next two weeks tentatively called Electville. Using nothing more than my dreams, random associations and my iPhone, I crafted the basis for what would become a rich first draft, most of which was also drafted in bed upon awakening.

The sexiest part of this kind of practice is that it builds what you might call a self-interfering feedback loop. What I mean is that you create one novel-sized plot from a dream and then continue dreaming while working on the novel and still writing down your dreams on a daily basis. Although it doesn’t seem to provide more dreams that richen the novel drafting process, it does seem to compound the intensity of the dreams so that the idea-generating aspect get more and more intense and the depth of the outlines and sketches that emerge become a treasure trove for future exploration.

Even if unused (as most of our ideas ultimately must be), these outlines and sketches are like the gold coins in a pile you never spend because you always have enough to sustain yourself from the surface. And yet those coins you do pick from would never be so evident to your fingers and agile in your imagination if it weren’t for the unspent coins supporting them from below.

This I have learned from making dreams the horde of gold that supports of all my fiction.

AnthonyAnthony Metivier is the author of Lucas Park and the Download of Doom, How to Remember Your Dreams and founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a 21st century approach to the Memory Palace Method that makes memorizing foreign language vocabulary, poetry, and the names of the important people you meet easy, elegant, effective and fun.

The post How To Mine Your Dreams For Story Gold appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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16. A Half Bad Giveaway

I hope you had a good two weeks off. I know I did. My WIP is up to 16K (hooray!), not as far as I’d like to be, but all progress is good so I’ll celebrate that! Today I’m giving away my ARC of a YA novel that I’ve heard compared to Harry Potter. (Yeah, […]

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17. House of Angels 2014

Flowers are in full bloom. The sheep are waiting for completion of the lion and the lamb.

100_1369 100_1570 100_1571


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18. Highlighting the National Association for the Education of Young Chilren and the Operation Backpacks for Kids run by the Volunteer of America

The ALSC Liaison with National Organization Committee works to build liaison relationships with national organizations who serve children and youth and who share similar goals to ALSC.  Committee members work with these organizations to make them aware of ALSC’s activities and goals, and to involve themselves in the activities of these organizations.

One of the organizations that I work with is the National Association for the Education of Young Children. I have asked them to provide a brief description of the work they do for young children. Below is a description provided by Stephanie Morris from the NAECY organization.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) — the world’s leading membership association working to ensure that all young children, birth through age 8, experience excellence in early childhood education. NAEYC’s vision for excellence and equity in early childhood education is built on the framework of developmentally appropriate practice. NAEYC brings together early childhood teachers, administrators, professional development specialists, adult educators, researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to share cutting-edge information regarding early childhood related research, policy, and practice and to work to advance each of these areas. To learn more, visit NAEYC online or NAEYC’s For Families website.

I am also presenting an initiative that I feel very strongly about. Each year the Volunteers of America – Greater New York  try to place backpack filled with school supplies into the hands of children living in homeless shelters. Below is a description from Colleen Magri.

“More than 22,000 children live in NYC’s homeless and domestic violence shelters, according to the NYC Department of Homeless Services. One of the most devastating consequences of homelessness is the impact is has on a child’s education. Each year since 2001, Volunteers of America-Greater New York has been collaborating with companies, community groups and individuals to distribute new backpacks filled with grade-specific school supplies to homeless children throughout New York City. A filled backpack relieves parents of a financial burden and provides a sense of normalcy to the otherwise chaotic lives of these children, helping them to look and feel more like their classmates. More importantly, a filled backpack allows these children to start the school year feeling prepared and confident, with the knowledge that their education is important and that someone believes in them.”

This program is run in other states as well, even though the needs and requests might vary. Here is a list of active states that provide a backpack or school program through the Volunteers of America:”

VOA – Chesapeake

VOA – Delaware Valley

VOA – Kentucky

VOA – Illinois

VOA – Michigan

VOA – Pennsylvania

VOA – Northern California & Northern Nevada

by Danielle Shapiro – Brooklyn Public Library

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19. The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

KidsKnit The Scourge of Upside Down KnittingWhen you grow up with a mother who is a knitter, there are certain facts in life that you simply have to accept.  Knitting all the time, everywhere, is the norm.  A bookshelf full of different kinds of yarn is not weird.  Fiber Fests are de rigeur and knowing the difference between a gossip wheel and a walking wheel (when talking spinning wheels) is par for the course.  Don’t even get me started on drop spindles and dying wool with Kool-Aid.  Not that I ever took to the craft myself.  Maybe it was just so prevalent in my home that I never felt the necessity to learn.  Also, why learn to knit when my children are amply provided for, not just by my always knitting mama, but by her friends and my knit-worthy co-workers as well (Alison Hendon shout out!)?

My mom, as it happens, is heavily involved in the knitting blogger community as a commenter.  I have honest-to-gosh had people say to me, “I saw that someone called Rams commented on your blog.  Is that the same Rams as the one on Ravelry?”  Mom be famous.  And like all knitters, she pays attention to how they are portrayed in children’s literature.

In a recent Harper Collins post the comment section suddenly got very interested in the subject of books in which knitting is accurately represented.  The talk started bring up book after book, so that I suddenly had the idea for this post.  You see, the portrayal of knitting by illustrators is very touch and go.  Artists are not particularly thrilled by the notion of the ends of knitting needles going down, in spite of the fact that that’s how one actually knits.  So as often as not you’ll see an image like this with the ends up:

LesterSweaters3 The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

Note the knitting needles to the right.

Rather than this:

KnitYourBit The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

Not sure what their fingers are supposed to be doing here, but at least the needles are down.

Here then, are a couple of our favorite artists, answering the “Does the illustrator care how to hold knitting needles?” question.  The answers may surprise you.

DOES THE ILLUSTRATOR CARE HOW ONE HOLDS KNITTING NEEDLES?

Penguin in Love by Salina Yoon – YES!

PenguinLove The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

You’ll find that for some of these books I don’t have images of the knitters knitting, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.  A penguin is naturally going to have some difficulty knitting since it is without phalanges, but in spite of this impediment Yoon’s flightless waterfowl still knows the proper way to hold its needles.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, ill. Jon Klassen – NO

ExtraYarn 500x220 The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

When the Caldecott committee sat down and considered Barnett and Klassen’s fabulous book for an Honor, did the fact that its heroine didn’t know how to hold knitting needles ever come up?  Was there a knitter on the committee?  Or did they feel that in light of the lovely art and great storytelling that this wasn’t an issue?  It’s surprising, certainly, to find that for all his talent and charms, Mr. Barnett is unaware of how one knits.  However, knowing knitters I suspect he has been informed of this misdeed more than once, and shall continue to be told for years to come.

Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs, ill. Paul O. Zelinsky – YES!

SwampAngel The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

Interesting, is it not, that I can find images of people knitting incorrectly but never correctly?  What does that say, I wonder, about the state of knitting today?  If you know Zelinsky then you know he is meticulous in his research.  If someone is, say, spinning straw into gold as in his Rumpelstiltskin, then doggone it he’s going to create the world’s most accurate spinning wheel.  And if Swamp Angel is going to knit something gigantic using (as I recall) trees for needles then you can BET Paul will make that image as correct as he can.  Other award winning artists take note.

The Hueys in the New Sweater by Oliver Jeffers -NO

Hueys 500x337 The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

Nope.  Not even close.  Repeated several times over in the same book, too.

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo – YES!

NanaCity The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

This one’s not out yet, but when it is you’ll have a chance to see some truly keen knitting on the part of Nana here.  Castillo, one suspects, actually knows from whence she draws.  Well done!

Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell – NO

LesterSweaters4 The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

This one breaks my heart because I was a BIG fan of this book when it came out.  It’s delightful.  It just doesn’t know how to portray the act of knitting.  Doggone it.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch – YES!

Hereville sequence The Scourge of Upside Down Knitting

A rare graphic novel where knitting is not only important but the climax of the book hinges on it.  And you can BET that when it came to knitting, Barry studied precisely where the fingers are supposed to go.

This begs the question: Is it possible to knit with the ends of the needles pointed high to the sky?  I leave that to the knitters to answer.  In the meantime, what are some of your favorite knitting books for the kiddos?  How did those needles fare?  High to the sky or low and proud?

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20. Walter Dean Myers

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“As a writer, I absorb stories, allow them to churn within my own head and heart — often for years — until I find a way of telling them that fits both my time and temperament.” — Walter Dean Myers

I am still reeling over the loss of this caring, smart, funny, determined and very accomplished man – the kind of man who responds to a boy who wants to write a book with him, and does just that (Kick), the kind of man of goes into prisons to talk with young people there, not just talk about the glaring lopsidedness of poor and minority kids in prison, the kind of man who is gracious and thoughtful, hoping to catch a cup of coffee sometime or discuss writing with me over email (while I took breaks between emails to hop-skip around the house, shouting, “Walter Dean Myers emailed me!  Walter Dean Myers emailed me!” and then sat back down again to try act like a grownup), the kind of man who never acted impressed with himself, although he had every reason to.  He’s such a famous author, there’s even fiction that includes him as key character (Love that Dog by Sharon Creech).

He didn’t just contribute to the body of literature — and a critical contribution since his work tended to focus on (often ignored) minorities and their families and neighborhoods — but to the body and soul of who we are.  As National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature his motto was “Reading is not optional.”  It’s not optional because reading is power.  Reading puts us on a higher level.  Reading anything — the directions on a household cleaner, a prescription bottle, a job application — can have serious implications for one’s individual future.  And, as a society, who will we become if we don’t forge those neural pathways that lead to reading, which includes distinguishing shapes, translating shapes into sounds, and shapes and sounds into meaning and understanding?  There is no video game or even audio book that will substitute for that brain training.  Don’t let a kid tell you that reading isn’t important, isn’t worth it, isn’t necessary, or is too much effort.  Tell him that if a kid from the Bronx with a speech impediment who carried books in a paper bag so no one would see he wasn’t “cool,” can read, he  can, too.  He or she might even become a writer, and write over a hundred books in a variety of genres, and maybe become the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.  But most importantly, they will learn to think and feel, to empathize, to experience the wider world, leading to understanding of others and themselves.  Reading will bring them a sense of humanity and humility, something we should all strive for so the world can have more Walters.

Authors, editors, book sellers, and book buyers will, I hope, strive to continue his calling.  He wrote, most recently in a New York Times editorial this year, about the need for minority kids to see themselves in literature, recalling what James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” did for him.  He said, “I’ve reached an age at which I find myself not only examining and weighing my life’s work, but thinking about how I will pass the baton so that those things I find important will continue.”

Thank you, Walter, for all you’ve done for us.  You have long strides for us to emulate and try follow.  But we will.  Because it’s not optional.  And, as you said, “There is work to be done.”

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21. Free Coloring Page Friday: Robot

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Children's book illustrator and writer

This week’s coloring page is a Robot for you. Isn’t he cute.

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Robot (0)

So now I have bad news and good news.

First the bad news: This is the last coloring page (sort of). I’ve had a lot of fun doing it and it’s been a good experiment for the last couple years but it’s time to put my focus other places. There will still be pages in the future, especially when books come out, they just won’t be every Friday anymore. Don’t be too sad, the old pages will still be up and available to download.

That being said the tone and direction of this blog is going to change. There probably won’t be as much stuff for kids but there will still be some, and I hope to be posting a lot more art and fun stories.

Now the Good News: Just in Time books is hosting a fun contest this summer. The Utah history hunt. It’s for Utah residences only but maybe if it goes great we’ll be able to do it in other states later on. You can win prizes including sets of the books and lunch with the authors. Click the photo for more information.

past portUtah History Hunt

 

 

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22. Ashley’s Island

welcome

I checked two major items off of my bucket list last week – driving to Maine, and visiting Ashley Bryan on Little Cranberry Island. When Deb Taylor asked if I wanted to drive up with her, it was a no brainer. Prior to our departure, a large hurricane had barreled up the east coast causing minor damage to the island but briefly leaving people without power and water. The day that we drove up was perfectly sunny and calm.

The farthest north I had ever driven was to Boston back in 1999 when my mother took me on a college tour. BU was one of my choices. I had never given New England much thought outside of that. Looking back now, I don’t have any real explanation for my disregard of the great north, other than the fact that I didn’t personally know anyone from the region. In my mind, New York City was the edge of the world.

The first thing I noticed when we reached Maine was a purplish tinge that hung on the bare bark of trees lining the highway. I thought I was hallucinating from having been on the road too long with too little sleep, but when I asked Deb to confirm what I was seeing, she agreed. The trees were purple!

MaineHouseWe spent the night in Ellsworth and then headed out about half an hour east to catch the ferry in Bar Harbor the next morning. Bar Harbor was the picture of Maine I carried in my head from Time of Wonder. Our little ferry (a.k.a. the mail boat) carried us across to Islesford (a.k.a. Little Cranberry Island) in about fifteen minutes.

Robin and Dean waited for us at the dock with a small wheelbarrow-like carrier for our luggage. Our tour of the island began at “the mall” a restaurant, art gallery, tourist shop and rest stop all in one. There at the dock restaurant, I ate my very first Maine lobster roll. Heaven. I also caught a glimpse of Ashley! Deb and I went over to make our presence known and Ashley immediately invited us to come over to his house after lunch.

The house we stayed in was a larger late 19th century rusticator. It was a five bedroom country house that sat near the water and slept ten people. There were eight of us in the house for the week – two librarians, three teachers, a teenager, an artist, and a family friend with a wicked sense of deadpan humor. The wood was exposed, very much like Jonathan’s family treasure from Building Our House, and the house was decorated with lovely island accents and old family photographs.

I could barely wait to get to Ashley.

His charming island house was about a ten minute walk from where we all stayed. As with most houses on the island, it remained unlocked with a “come-on-in” policy. Deb and I headed over on our first day and were given a preview of his latest book, a collection of Langston Hughes poems (I won’t be more specific in the interest of publication privacy). Seeing the cut paper illustrations up close was a gift. The week we arrived was the week of his opening. Due to the hurricane damage, the big event had to be postponed. A tree fell near the museum that housed the work, but did not do any damage to the building, thank goodness.

DebAbbyThe rest of my days were spent reading and drawing. I woke each day around 8AM to a breezy 74 degrees or so. We would have coffee near the window while Abby worked on her 1000 piece puzzle. Robin would knit, and the rest of the house would quietly read. In the evenings we played trivia and card games. After breakfast, I would head out with my sketchbook to explore and spend time with Ashley.

paontingashleyOn my first day alone with Ashley, we compared sketchbooks. I shared my drawings from Africa and he shared his drawer full of sketchbooks from Germany and France. He shared his cut paper collages and I showed him my digital ones. His entire house was a museum. The walls were lined with books, toys, weavings, prints, and paintings. Airplanes hung from his ceilings. When I arrived, he was preparing a canvas to paint in the garden. We collected his morning materials and headed out. I drew. He painted.

A few hours later, we came in for lunch and I was able to meet Ashley’s nieces and nephews. Ashley graciously prepared bread, cold cuts, and cheese for us to lunch on. The big treat of the day, cranberry soda mixed with orange juice! We discussed the Kara Walker sculpture and the insensitivity to things misunderstood along with education and family. It was a lovely afternoon.

My observation of the day was that all of Ashley’s relatives had the “ey” sound at the end of their names. No doubt stemming from his famoly’s love of music. Once the table was cleared Ashley brought down the work from his latest book to which he exclaimed “Gather ‘round children!”. It was time to hear some poetry. And all of us “children” obliged and sat to listen and admire the vivid cut paper collages.

RopesBouysWe got a call after lunch saying that the museum was open briefly and we could head down to see the exhibition. I gathered Robin and the crew and we all bounded over to have a personal tour of the exhibit from Ashley. What a treat. The walls sung with color and art. There was a timeline of Ashley’s art and his 92 years of life, many selections from his hundreds of sketchbooks, a fantastic display of his handmade puppets, his amazing sea glass windows, and of course, original art from many of his popular books, including “Beautiful Blackbird”, “Let it Shine”, and “The Dancing Granny”.
The next day, after breakfast and reading (I made it through half of Octavian Nothing), I said goodbye to my friends and struck out to draw on the island. The docks were full of activity, so I plopped myself down and began a drawing of the Cranberry Isle Fisherman’s Co-op. It was the end of the work morning, so most were packing up and heading home. While drawing I met Stephanie Alley. After a bit of conversation I realized she was a famous Captain on the island and gave lobster tours on her boat. The next morning, I grabbed Abby and headed on down for a lobster boat adventure. Robin had mentioned Stephanie’s tours the night before and serendipity brought us together.

After our morning adventure, I found myself back at Ashley’s house. I hadn’t planned to bother him that day, so I sat outside on the curb to draw his home. No more than fifteen minutes had gone by when he and his dear friend, Suze popped out of the house to head over to the museum and greet fans. I was still drawing when he returned home an hour later. Being extremely hospitable, Ashley didn’t just disappear inside his home. He came out to make a few notes from the painting he began the day before, which ended up being my cue to come on in for a spell. Knowing that he had already had a long day, I excused myself shortly after he settled inside.

My last day on the island, I was itching to make a strong portrait of Ashley. I struck out to his house mid day and let myself in to an empty house. Though his door was open to me, I still felt strange hanging out in his empty home. I went outside and finished an earlier drawing and by the time I was done, Ashley appeared. It had been another long day for Ashley and he was expecting more guests, so I didn’t force myself. We had dinner plans at the house that evening, so I headed back to read more of Octavian, which turned into a delicious nap in the sun next to the picture window.

Dinnertime came and we all rallied around Ashley. Dean prepared a wonderful brisket that he had brought over by the mail boat. We had been all abuzz over it throughout the week. Ashley sat and announced, “okay, draw me!”. No pressure there. I made three miserable attempts at a portrait and gave up. During dinner, when the plates were cleared and dessert was brought out (Robin prepared a delicious lemon ice box pie), I grabbed my drawing book and began again, finally capturing Ashley’s spirit.

AshleyhandDeb and I said our goodbyes the next morning and headed back to Bar Harbor, passing along the boat ticket to Robin and Dean’s daughter, Julie. What a treat. “A Visit with Ashley Bryan” will be on display until September 20th on Little Cranberry Island. If you can head over, I highly recommend it.

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23. Flop Sweat and Butt Trampolines

This week over at the Wild Things! site, my co-author and I are doing the following:

  • Taking a look at the phenomenon that is the author school visit — the good, the bad, and the ugly. (You’ll see, if you read this post over at Wild Things!, that the title of this post today here at 7-Imp tips its hat to that.)
  • Asking whether or not Beatrix Potter really yelled at young children. (The Horn Book’s Lolly Robinson gives us the low-down.)
  • Udder Indecencies of one sort or another; or, The Saga of the Unobtrusive Monster Penis (pictured above).

Tomorrow, we’ll have a post Leonard Baskin fans, in particular, will appreciate.

On Saturday, we’ll look at two of children’s literature’s most cryptic picture books.

On Sunday, we’ll look at some true tales behind famous awards speeches.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

* * * * * * *

The above image is used with permission of Sergio Ruzzier.

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24. Character Skills and Talents: Promotion

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

PromoterDescription: a person who uses enthusiasm, product knowledge, and compelling reasoning to sway an audience to invest in a product, brand or service. A promoter drums up business and sales, raising awareness and facilitating discoverability. To do this, they effectively utilize different forms of communication: in person events, one-on-one solicitation (such as a phone call or door-to-door selling), written communication (emails, letters and advertisements), as well as virtually using social media. 

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: A good promoter has strong hygiene, dresses appropriately for interacting with one’s audience, is well spoken and has strong product knowledge. Knowing how to read people and their moods well and be able to juggle multiple action items at one time are both important. Having a strong sense of presence, good manners and posture, a pleasing sense of humor and being genuine are all strong qualities that will help a promoter succeed at getting the word out about one’s message. The most important aspects in promoting is the desire to help the audience and believing in what one is selling, as that passion will come through to others. Understanding preferred forms of communication (in person, online, email, phone, etc.) of one’s audience and being well versed in these methods allows the promoter to be effective when getting his or her message across.

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: Extroverted, Passionate, Genuine, Outgoing, Enthusiastic, Focused, Hard Working, Shrewd, Intelligent, Organized, Friendly, Courteous, Confident, Creative, Persuasive (in the short term: deceptiveness, questionable ethics and manipulative deceitfulness may all be of benefit, but in the long term, the truth will come out.)

Required Resources and Training: Public speaking, working as a team, researching the market and competing products, understanding how ads work and psychology behind decision-making, looking at things from the audience’s view to what they need and want so one can best slant promotion to fit these needs, being well versed in online etiquette and social media

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions:

  • that promoters are pushy and refuse to take no for an answer*
  • they talk more than they listen*
  • they are motivated by “what’s in it for me” instead of “what’s best for the audience/customer”*
  • they use social media poorly by shouting “promotional white noise” instead of engaging with people*
  • they do what they are told by employers, even if they morally disagree *

(*note, many “perceptions” are actually “misconceptions,” simply because of the tendency to judge all promoters by the actions of a few)

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • a career in sales
  • job interviews
  • working on a political campaign
  • working in advertizing
  • being one’s own advocate

Resources for Further Information:

A few things to know about being a Promo Girl

The Art of Shameless Self-promotion

Promoting Your Product or Service

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

photo credit: Andrew Stawarz via photopin cc

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25. All our books are now on Kindle Unlimited

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Just announced today Amazon has a new subscription service for e-books called Kindle Unlimited.  For a flat monthly fee of $9.99 you can enroll and download up to ten e-books at one time.  When you are done, just return them and then you can download more.  We know young children can be voracious readers and we are excited about the opportunity to reach new readers with this program.  Now parents can download books for themselves and load up on some quality children’s books too for one low price.  There are over 600,000 titles currently available and they can be loaded onto any device.  What a bargain!

 

Try the new Kindle Unlimited FREE for 30 days HERE

 

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