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This will be a short post because I'm busy preparing to attend the SCBWI Wild, Wild Midwest Conference. In fact, I've written this post in advance and scheduled it to publish right about the time I'll be hitting the road. :-)
In other good news, I've found a new home for the Girls Write! summer camps I taught at the Hinsdale Center for the Arts for nine years. (Sadly, HCA closed last year due to lack of funding.) The camps will now be held at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, Illinois. If you know any budding girl writers who live in the area, please help spread the word. The camp for girls entering grades 4-5 will meet June 24-June 28, 9:30 am–noon and for those entering grades 6-8 will meet July 15-July 19, 9:30 am–noon. For details, see the right sidebar on this page of my website.
Finally, don't forget: there's still time to enter our blogiversary giveaway for a chance to win one of four $25 gift cards to Anderson's Bookshops. See this post for details.
Today, I'm thrilled to announce an extra-special giveaway in honor of our FOURTH BLOGIVERSARY. To show our appreciation to our blog readers AND to one of our favorite independent booksellers, we'll be giving away FOUR $25 gift certificates to Anderson's Bookshops!And, as a bonus, Anderson's is generously offering our winners a 20% discount, which will help defray the shipping costs if you're unable to redeem your gift certificate in person.
In case you're not familiar with this family-owned company, in 2010, Anderson's celebrated their 135th year in business, with six generations of the family now working in their stores. Among their
many accolades, in 2011, Anderson's was named Publisher's Weekly Bookstore of the Year. Anderson's has a long history of supporting teachers by providing educator resources like mock Newbery contests, arranging author visits, and sponsoring special events such as their upcoming Teacher Open House, where educators can learn about the best new releases for classroom use. And educators always receive a 20% discount off the
list price of books to be used in the classroom or library.
Anderson's also has a reputation for hosting wonderful (and numerous!) author signings, and for championing local authors. After many years of attending Anderson's marvelous author events, I was honored to have my first signing at the Naperville store when my novel, Rosa, Sola, came out. That day, the Anderson's staff made me feel like a real star! I couldn't help getting a little teary-eyed as I addressed the crowd of family, friends, and fellow writers, telling them what a thrill it was to have my signing in the bookstore that felt like my second home.
If you're ever in the Chicago area, I encourage you to visit one of Anderson's stores. But even if a physical trip isn't possible, you can visit them virtually via their website, where you can order print and ebooks online. As you'll see below, the winners of our giveaway will have the option of using their gift certificates that way.
The TeachingAuthors are fans not only of Anderson's, but of independent bookstores everywhere. For the next few weeks, we'll be sharing stories of our appreciation for independent booksellers. Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised by the encouraging news the Salon article "Books Aren't Dead" had about both print books and independent bookstores:
". . . the Christian Science Monitor recently reported [you can read that article here], there are now many indications that a once-beleaguered portion of the bookselling landscape, independent bookstores, are enjoying a “quiet resurgence.” Sales are up this year; established stores, such as Brooklyn’s WORD, are doing well enough to expand and new stores are opening. Indies have been helped by the closure of the Borders chain and a campaign to remind their customers that if they want local bookstores to survive, they have to patronize them, even if that means paying a dollar or two more than they would on Amazon."
I confess, I'm one of those book buyers willing to pay "a dollar or two more" to support my local independent. I want to help ensure they'll still be around when I finally have another book signing. :-)
In addition to celebrating independent booksellers, we decided our blogiversary was a good time for a little spring
cleaning here on the TeachingAuthors website. I've created two new pages,
which you can find links to under our logo at the top of the page: Links and Writing Workouts. The Links page now contains all the
links that used to be in the sidebar, grouped under the following
Websites of Note
Children's/YA Lit Reading Lists
Programs in Writing for Children and Young Adults
The Writing Workouts page explains the history and evolution of our Writing
Workouts, and allows you to access all of them from one place. I've also
shortened the names of our resources pages to simply "For Teachers,"
"For Young Writers," and "Visits." And I've updated our bios on the About Us page. I hope you'll take time to explore
these revised pages and give us feedback on what you think of the
If you don't already follow our blog, I'll hope you'll sign up to do so today via email, Bloglovin', Feedly, or one of the other options in our sidebar. (Hint--our blog subscribers automatically qualify for FOUR entries in our blogiversary giveaway. See below for details.)
Before I explain how to enter the giveaway, I want to share a poem the AMAZING April Halprin Wayland wrote in honor of our blogiversary, which actually falls on Monday, Earth Day.
A Blooming Blogiversary Sheaves of paper, leaves of prose Typing wobbly rocky rows
Planting tender inkling seeds Sowing words on glowing screens
Underground the spark is struck Growing with some care and luck
First a shoot, then a sprout Weeding all the adverbs out
Seedlings reaching toward the sun Readers, writers we are one
A special "thank you" to all the readers who have stuck with us here at TeachingAuthors "post by post, year by year."
Now, for our Blogiversary Giveaway details:
As I said at the beginning of this post, in honor of our Fourth Blogiversary, and to celebrate independent booksellers, we're giving away FOUR $25 gift certificates to Anderson's Bookshops!
Note: if you're unable to redeem your prize in person at one of Anderson's stores, you will be able to do so online. AND, you'll receive a 20% discount on your purchase!
Once you've logged into Rafflecopter below (via either Facebook or an email address) you'll see that we've provided four different options for entering the giveaway--you can pick one or up to all four. The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. While we haven't made it a requirement, we hope that everyone will choose to subscribe to the TeachingAuthors blog. If you're already a subscriber, to enter, you need only click on that option and then tell us how you follow our blog.
As it says in the "Terms and Conditions," this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. You must be 18 or older to enter. And please note: email addresses will only be used to contact winners. The giveaway will run from now through the end of Children's Book Week, on May 19. Winners will be notified May 20, 2013.
I hope that covers everything. But if you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.
Good luck to everyone! And don't forget--it's Poetry Friday. When you're done entering our giveaway, check out the Poetry Friday round-up over at Live Your Poem.
Most of the adults who sign up for my writing classes have the same goal: to get a book published by a traditional publisher. They're usually shocked to learn what a long, slow process book publication typically is, whether they're working on a picture book or a novel. To help cope with the wait, I recommend they work on building a portfolio of writing credits they can mention in their cover/query letters. On Monday, Esther shared links to information on how to get published in Highlights magazine. Highlights is a well-respected magazine that's been around for years, and an impressive credit to include in your writing portfolio. Unfortunately, that means they receive a huge volume of submissions, making them a tough market to break into. I like to remind my students that there are other children's magazines, many of them more open to material than Highlights or the Cricket Magazine Group, which publishes high-quality magazines for toddlers to teens.
One of my favorite lesser-known children's magazines is Pockets, published by The Upper Room, for 6 to 12-year-olds. Like Highlights, Pockets runs an annual fiction contest. They also accept a variety of material, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, puzzles, and activities. Although Pockets is a Christian magazine, not all content is explicitly religious. I recall studying a sample issue years ago that happened to include a story that had won their fiction contest. It was a wonderful story about a girl learning to accept her new stepfather. I don't believe it mentioned God at all.
"Each issue is built around a specific theme with material that can be used by children in a variety of ways. Submissions should support the purpose of the magazine to help children grow in their faith, though all submissions do not need to be overtly religious."
The magazine's monthly themes are listed on their website, along with a submission deadline for each issue. To paraphrase something I heard Richard Peck say years ago, "A deadline is a writer's friend." When I first learned of Pockets and their theme/deadline list, I submitted some theme-related puzzles. To my delight, they were accepted! That success led me to try my hand at writing a short story specifically for an issue focusing on "prejudice." They accepted that piece, and "The Cupcake Man" became my first published children's story. Pockets also published my first children's poem. (Is it any wonder why I'm so fond of this magazine?)
Of course, the key to success when writing for Pockets or any other magazine is to study several issues so that you can draft a submission that fits with the magazine's overall feel. You should be able to check out copies of well-known magazines like Highlights and Cricket at your public library. For smaller magazines like Pockets, you can usually request a sample copy from the publisher. Instructions for doing so are often listed in the "Magazines" section of the annual Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Writer's Digest Books). You may be surprised by the number and range of magazines you'll find listed there. If you're a member of SCBWI, you can also download the latest SCBWI Magazine Market Guide, which also includes general tips on writing for magazines.
By the way, all the markets I've discussed today pay for your writing. While it's not exactly a "pot of gold," receiving payment for our work is affirming. And it has given many of my former students the confidence to say "I am a published author," even as they wait for their first book contract.
I hope you're all rested and refreshed and ready to plunge ahead into 2013.
While on our winter blogging break, we TeachingAuthorswere busy working behind-the-scenes, planning a new weekly feature. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know we often include Writing Workouts with our posts. As it says in our sidebar: "We invite classroom teachers to use these writing exercises with their students, and adult writers to try them on their own."Many of you have told us that you especially appreciate and look forward to our Writing Workouts. So we've decided to pull them out of our regular posts and create a separate feature: the Wednesday Writing Workout!
As you can see, we've added some text but kept our former Writing Workout image--a set of barbells and a ribbon with a medal. The logo represents how everyone who works out with us is a winner!
While continuing with our regular posts on Mondays and Fridays, we'll devote Wednesdays to Wednesday Writing Workouts. Each WWW will be written by one of the TeachingAuthorsor, as is the case today, by a Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor.
To introduce the new feature and celebrate a new year, we're also having a Book Giveaway! Every writer and writing teacher will want a copy of our giveaway book on his/her reference/inspiration shelf: Keep Calm and Query On: Notes on Writing (and Living) with Hope (Divertir Publishing). And the book happens to be written by today's Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor.
I'll share our Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor's bio before giving you his Writing Workout. See if you can guess the author's identity before I reveal it below. (No fair looking up the MGTA's books online before that!)
Before I reveal the identity of our Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor, here's his TERRIFIC Wednesday Writing Workout:
Give Logic a Lollipop:
I am one of those people who believes that we’re all still children, really. Whether we’re 32 or 64 or 96, there’s something innate in us that stubbornly refuses to grow up no matter how much coffee we drink (in my case, a lot), how much we worry about paying bills, or how professional we look in our formal attire. The kid-like parts of us are often covered by layer after layer of logic. While the growth of logic is hugely beneficial to things like paying our bills, walking out of the house with matching socks and a straight tie or proper dress, and generally being responsible, an area that is bleached of vitality by our intense focus on forcing everything to make sense is our writing life.
This Wednesday Writing Workout, then, asks us to momentarily allow logic to sit by himself on the far bench, way over on the other side of the room. Give Logic a lollipop and the latest Time magazine, and then sneak off to your writing desk and try something illogical to fuel those writing muscles.
1. Visualize your favorite film actor or actress.
2. Close your eyes, and continue visualizing that person, and then reach out—literally!—your hand and shake their hand, up and down. Then smile knowingly (eyes still closed) like you and your favorite film star are sharing some inside joke even though you haven’t spoken any words yet. You’re that tight.
3. Open your mouth (literally!) and speak the very first words that come to mind.
4. Now open your eyes, pick up your pen or open up a Word document on your computer and write your name, then a colon, then the words you’ve just said.
5. Then write the actor’s / actress’s name, a colon, and his / her response.
6. Continue writing your ‘scene’ with dialogue that emerges organically and no matter how seemingly ridiculous it is, just follow the exercise through.
7. Every once in a while, try to insert a small note on the setting—the weather outside, what you’re eating (lollipops?), what noises occur in the background, and anything else that creates the mood of your conversation.
8. Try to continue this scene for at least two pages. This is a perfect opportunity to work our writing muscles by putting ourselves into a situation that allows the kid-like part of us to trump the adult part of us.
So often, as writers, we can think in terms of productivity and progress. And these are both great things in the life of a writer. Hey, who doesn’t want to add a few more pages to that novel, or bang out a few more notes for that picture book? But sometimes, persistent focus on productivity and progress have the side effect of hiding us from the kid-like parts of our writer selves, that are concerned—almost entirely—with joy, engagement, emotion, quirks, and creativity.
My seven-year-old nephew loves writing stories. When I talk with him about what he’s writing, he doesn’t give me the latest page count or the stats on which publishers have checked out his work yet. Even while I sometimes focus too much on those things, I try to shake my head and heart to return to what matters: the creation itself. The sheer beauty, hilarity, pain, joy, and love of it. And this process must, by definition, involve flights of fancy and the decision to leave logic a little lonely at times.
Today, for your Wednesday Writing Workout, craft this scene and let the kid in you lead the way. I promise you’ll discover pearls that—if nothing else—will make you laugh, and possibly even provide a kernel for a louder pop later.
* * *
What a wonderful Wednesday Writing Workout to inaugurate our new feature! And now, finally, it's time for the big reveal. Today's Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor is (drum roll please):
To enter our drawing, you must follow the TeachingAuthors blog. (If you’re not already a follower, you can sign up now in our sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.)
You may enter the contest one of two ways:
1) by posting a comment below OR
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Whichever way you enter, you MUST:
1) Just for fun, tell us whether you guessed Luke's identity before the big reveal. We'd also love your feedback on his Writing Workout and/or what you think of our new Wednesday Writing Workout feature.
2) give us your first and last name, AND
3) tell us how you follow us (via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs) .
4) If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.
This contest is open only to followers who can provide a mailing address in the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. The entry deadline is 11 p.m. (CST) next Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. We'll announce the winner on Friday, Jan. 11. Good luck!
"To make a poem, we must make sounds. Not random sounds, but chosen sounds."
Oliver goes on to explain that "A 'rock' is not a 'stone'" when it comes to sound. And she offers advice on how to choose words with sounds that best fit a poem's meaning and mood. While aimed at poets, this book contains valuable advice for picture book authors and novelists, too.
". . . in this unprecedented volume, thirty-two internationally renowned poets provide words of wisdom and inspiring examples of their own work for new poets everywhere. . . . This rich volume - an ideal resource for classroom teachers and a beautiful gift for budding writers of all ages - offers the perfect opportunity to do just that."
Since today is Poetry Friday, I'll share the first stanza of one of my favorite poems in this collection:
Poets Go Wishing by Lilian Moore
Poets go fishing with buckets of words, fishing and wishing. . . .
"Part blank journal, part helpful workbook and reference, its pages are highlighted with insights from famous poets, an exercise to summon the muse, and definitions of classic poetic techniques. . . . This ingenious and useful writing tool also includes a six-page appendix with rules of form, meter, and rhythm to help readers compose their own sonnets, haiku, and other poems."
It's a slim, lightweight journal that's easy to carry along on your next "fishing" expedition.
If you have any recommendations for poetry-related books from your writer's bookshelf, I hope you'll share them in the comments. And don't forget to check out the Poetry Friday round up today at A Teaching Life.And, in case you missed it, be sure to read the poem, "Pencil Speaks to Writer" by our Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor in our latest Wednesday Writing Workout.
Happy Poetry Friday, all!
Today, the TeachingAuthors are celebrating Poetry Friday in a special way with a sneak peek at a poem from the soon-to-be-released Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Houghton Mifflin). And one lucky TeachingAuthors follower will win an autographed copy of the book. See the end of this post for complete details.
We're also thrilled to feature a Student Success Story interview with Tamera, a former student of mine. As Tamera shares in her interview, she's also taken classes with two of my fellow TeachingAuthors. That's half the TeachingAuthors' team! I can tell you, we're all smiling like proud mammas today. :-)
But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, let me introduce you to Tamera by sharing her official bio:
Tamera Will Wissinger writes stories and poetry for children. She was inspired to write Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse after writing “Night Crawlers,” a poem that stemmed from her fun childhood memories of night crawler hunting with her parents before fishing trips. A graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, Tamera shares her time between Chicago and Florida.
"Using a wide variety of poetic forms – quatrains, ballads, iambic meter,
rhyming lists, concrete poetry, tercets and free verse – this debut
author tells the story of a nine-year-old boy’s day of fishing. Sibling
rivalry, the bond between father and son, the excitement – and
difficulty – of fishing all add up to a day of adventure any child would
want to experience."
You can connect with Tamera online via Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook. For more of her lovely poetry, visit her online journal, The Writer's Whimsy, where you'll find links in the sidebar to several group blogs she participates in.
And now, for the interview.
1. Tamera, it's hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since we met “virtually” when you took my online class in writing for children. Do you recall what inspired you to sign up for that class?
I just came across notes from that workshop; that can’t have been ten years ago! That class was Fundamentals of Writing for Children, the first children’s writing workshop that I had ever taken. At that time I was writing stories and quite a bit of poetry, but I wasn’t focused on a specific age reader. It was my husband who suggested that I might want to try writing for children. That sounded like an interesting idea, so I found the Writer’s Online Workshop that you were instructing, and I signed up. 2. Do you recall any specific ways the class helped you?
I remember being really nervous and also glad for this new online way of learning and for the opportunity to explore writing for children. The class itself was wonderful and you put me at ease right away by your genuine interest in the students, the focus on our stories and our writing habits, and the study of writing for children. You learned during that class that your novel, Rosa, Sola, was going to be published. When you shared that news I remember being so thrilled for you and your achievement and excited for me to be learning from someone with so much experience and success.
That class gave me an excellent foundation for understanding the range and limitations of children’s literature, but there was so much more to it. I remember feeling really welcomed and cared for, as though I had found a place in the writing world where I belonged. And I can trace a direct path between that first class with you and my first novel. Here’s how:
During the workshop with you I learned about SCBWI,
Shortly thereafter I met you in person at an SCBWI event,
At that event you introduced me to several other students from your online workshops,
In the mean time, Hamline University announced their MFAC program and
When Hamline began receiving applications in 2006 I was ready,
I applied, was accepted, and
What I learned there helped prepare me to write Gone Fishing.
I don’t know if I ever told you that story, Carmela, so I’m really glad for this opportunity to tell you now! When I look at this chain reaction, I’d say that first class has helped me immensely.
3. Wow, Tamera, reading about this chain of events gives me goose bumps! I do remember how wonderful it was to finally meet you and some of your classmates face-to-face after only knowing you through your online classwork. And I recall how pleased I was to learn later that you'd received your MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University. What made you decide to enroll in the program? And would you share a bit about your experience there?
After several years of attending writing workshops and conferences and participating in critique groups, I started to believe my writing was good and I began to submit stories to editors. Eventually I began to receive positive and specific feedback, but aside from stand-alone poems, I hadn't received any offers to publish. I recognized that there were still things about writing for children that I needed to know and since I was committed to finding a way for my stories to reach children, I felt that connecting with experts in the field of children's writing was the best way to try and reach my goals.
I feel so lucky to have had that opportunity. Each residency I got to hear lectures by the talented faculty and a variety of visiting children's authors. I also got to interact with classmates who were as committed as I was to learning about writing for children. Each semester I was paired with a faculty advisor. The two of us would work together to develop a personalized study plan that included the creative writing I hoped to develop, as well as aspects of craft that I intended to study. I learned to love essay writing; thinking critically about a specific story aspect or technique is one of the keys to becoming a better writer, and that's something that I've carried with me beyond the program.
One other wonderful outgrowth of the program has been the sustained connection that I have with the Hamline MFAC writing community. I'm in touch with fellow graduates, current students, faculty, and staff, and I feel a close bond with everyone because of those common experiences and interests.
4. Your experience sounds a lot like mine at Vermont College! Now can you tell us more about what inspired you to write Gone Fishing? Why did you choose to write it as a novel-in-verse? Did that format present any special challenges?
My inspiration for the story came from my good childhood memories of going fishing with my family. The first poem in the book was initially a stand alone poem. It’s called "Night Crawlers" and is based on the excitement I remember feeling when I got to stay up after dark in the summer and hunt for worms to take fishing the next day. After that first poem, others followed until I had a collection of father and son fishing poetry. Later, poems that included a younger sister began to emerge and that’s when the sibling rivalry story line started to take shape.
I didn’t originally set out to write a novel in verse. Even with the inclusion of the sibling rivalry, the story that I first submitted included around twenty poems – enough for a picture book. My editor had the wonderful idea to expand the story and the number of poems. That idea intrigued me and I continued to work on it. The final story ended up at around forty poems, which gave it enough text to be a novel in verse.
Writing using this format did present special challenges. In any novel, the story is the most important aspect of the writing. In a verse novel, the poetry has to enhance the storytelling, or it won’t work. What helped me keep focus on the storytelling was to pay careful attention to conflict, crisis and resolution. If a poem didn’t advance the story or aid in some element of storytelling, then it didn’t belong. Add to that the different poetic forms, and that was another layer of complexity.
5. Expanding a picture book into a novel sounds like it would require some major revisions. Would you share a bit about that process?
As I mentioned above, the story initially had twenty poems. We expanded it to about forty, so, yes; the book had some pretty significant revisions. I was lucky that my editor had a good sense of direction. She provided me with enthusiastic encouragement, asked many insightful questions, and gave intriguing suggestions that I was eager to explore. By the end of the first revision, more specific scenes and interactions were filling in and the story was taking shape. It was challenging and fun to see what might emerge and whether or not I would be able to produce more poems that had substance. The miracle of it was that one new poem often led to another and another, each exposing more depth and breadth to the story.
6. Gone Fishing includes a “Poet’s Tackle Box” in its back matter. What does the box contain? How might classroom teachers use its contents to extend their poetry lessons?
Developing this section was another of my editor’s smart ideas that stemmed from one of my dearest critique partners suggesting that I label the poetic forms I had used in my original manuscript. The Poet’s Tackle Box contains poetry writing tips and definitions, including information on rhyme and rhythm, poetry techniques, and poetic forms. I hope that this section can be a good reference for classroom teachers who are helping students learn the joy of reading poetry and writing their own poems.
Before I go, Carmela, there are two more things that I’d like to mention, first, I want to say hello to two of your fellow TeachingAuthors :
Hello, Esther Hershenhorn! Esther taught a picture book writing workshop that I attended at Ragdale on a chilly Chicago day. Inside, though, it was a wonderful, cozy, enriching day of reading, critiquing, and talking about picture books. Esther was so enthusiastic and encouraging and shared all kinds of good and important information on picture books and the publishing industry!
Hello, Jill Esbaum! Jill led a weekend rhyming picture book workshop that I attended at The University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival. It was a sunny Iowa summer weekend and Jill was so welcoming and even came with the students to an alfresco lunch and talked informally about children’s writing. Jill was such a champion of rhyming text and finding fresh story ideas; she gave me hope that there was a market for rhyming picture book manuscripts!
And finally, in celebration of Gone Fishing’s release this coming Tuesday, here is the opening poem in the book – "Night Crawlers" – the one that started it all:
Dark night. Flashlight. Dad and I hunt worms tonight. Grass slick. Worms thick. Tiptoe near and grab them quick. Hold firm. They squirm. Tug-o-war with earth and worm. Ninety-four. Worms galore. Set our bucket near the door. Next day. No delay. Look out, fish — we’re on our way!
Thank you for hosting me today on TeachingAuthors, Carmela! I had a great time.
Thank YOU for joining us, Tamera. We especially appreciate your sharing your wonderful poem with us today.
Readers, for more of Tamera's lovely poetry, visit her online journal, The Writer's Whimsy. There, you'll find links in the sidebar to several group blogs she participates in. You can also connect with Tamera via Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.
And now, as promised, here's your chance to win an autographed copy of Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse written by Tamera Will Wissinger and illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Houghton Mifflin). You must follow our TeachingAuthors blog
to enter our drawing. If you're not already a follower, you can sign
up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend
Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.
There are two ways to enter:
1) by a comment posted below
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Either way, to qualify, you must: a) give us your first and last name AND b) tell us how you follow us AND c) tell us if you'll keep the book for yourself or give it to someone special.
If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address
(formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com).
Contest open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries
will be discarded. Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Winners will be announced Friday, March 15. Good luck to all!
And after you've entered, don't forget to visit the Poetry Friday round-up at Julie Larios' blog, The Drift Record.
Today we're celebrating by featuring a guest TeachingAuthorinterview with the wonderful poet, author, teacher, and now, editor, Heidi Bee Roemer. And I'm THRILLED to announce the forthcoming release of the brand new poetry anthology edited by Heidi and Carol-Ann Hoyte: And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems--ATCGW for short. The anthology, which is illustrated by Kevin Sylvester, includes 50 sports-related poems by poets from ten countries. I am honored to be one of those poets, and I have to say that I'm in some pretty amazing company, including Charles Ghigna, J. Patrick Lewis, David L. Harrison, Avis Harley, Priscilla Uppal, and my former fellow TeachingAuthor, JoAnn Early Macken. ATCGW is geared for children ages 8-12, and showcases nearly 30 different poetry forms. A portion of royalties from both the paperback and e-book editions will be donated to Right to Play, an international organization that uses sports and games to educate and empower children facing adversity.
And great news for our TeachingAuthors readers: you can enter our drawing for a chance to win your own paperback copy of this terrific anthology, autographed by Heidi (or her co-editor, Carol-Ann, if you live in Canada). See details at the end of this post. If you don't win our contest, see the official CrowdGoesWild website for information on how to a copy. (The e-book is only $3.99!)
In case you don't know Heidi Bee Roemer, here's an excerpt from her bio: With nearly 400 poems, articles, and stories in various children’s magazines and anthologies to her credit, Heidi is also a song lyricist and children’s book reviewer. Her debut book, Come to My Party and Other Shape Poems, (Henry Holt) received starred reviews and was nominated for several awards. Her newest books are both from NorthWord Press: What Kinds of Seeds are These? and Whose Nest is This? Heidi is a former instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and currently serves as a writer-in-residence for several Chicago Public schools.
I had the privilege of taking a poetry class with Heidi a few years ago, and I can tell you from experience that she's a great teacher--several of the poems I wrote while in her class were eventually published in children's magazines or anthologies. When I saw Heidi's call for submissions for ATCGW, I initially submitted a couple of reworked poems from that class. Then Heidi sent a follow-up call, asking specifically for poems about paralympic athletes--athletes with physical limitations. My first thought was: How can I write about a paralympic athlete when I don't know any? Then a few days later I remembered watching my son run his first marathon, and how inspired I was by all the paralympic athletes who participated. One runner in particular, a British man who ran on two prosthetic limbs, had left such an impression on me that I still recalled the awe and respect I felt watching him. So I wrote a list poem called "At the Chicago Marathon" as a tribute to him, and that was the poem accepted into And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. I don't want to make this post too long, so I'll share just the first stanza of my poem here:
Heidi, will you tell us how you became a TeachingAuthor?
My “on the job training” experience as a teacher is based on nearly 300 school presentations and library visits. As a poet-in-residence for Chicago Public Schools I learned how to make poetry lessons informative, lively and fun! In 2001 I was accepted as an instructor for The Institute of Children’s Literature, a college-credited correspondence course for adults who want to write for children. I also teach poetry to adults and children in various local venues.
What's a common problem/question that your students have and how do you address it?
New poets often write rambling, overly-long poems and approach revision with reluctance. Most rookie poets need guidance on how to trim, tighten, and tweak their words. Someone wisely wrote: “Poetry is a can of frozen orange concentrate. Add three cans water and you get prose.” I agree! Want practice writing succinctly? Write terse verse because it contains only a few words per line. Children’s terse verse may be sprinkled with rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and wordplay. Closing lines should illicit a response from the reader—a sigh, gasp, smile or giggle. To understand how to write stellar poems for children in any poetic form, I often direct aspiring poets to magazines such as High Five, Babybug, Ladybug, Spider, Hopscotch, Boy’s Quest, Fun for Kids, Turtle, and Humpty Dumpty. Those wishing to be published in these specific magazines should study not just one issue, but two or more years of back issues.
Would you share a favorite writing exercise for our readers?
Try writing terse verse—it’s not as easy as it looks! Short lines force the writer to trim excess words. Focus on a single age-appropriate topic using mostly concrete nouns and vivid verbs. Establish a word pattern and engage your young reader by incorporating a lighthearted, playful tone. Terse verse, also called cryptic rhyme, was popularized by author Verla Kay in Orphan Train, Gold Fever and other books. Writers who wish to master this poetry form should read Verla’s complete cryptic collection. I’m pleased to say that ATCGW contains a delightful terse verse written by U.S. author, Ellen Ramsey. I won’t give away her surprise ending, but here are a few opening lines:
Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how they might use And the Crowd Goes Wild! in the classroom?
Educators will find ATCGW an easy fit with school curriculum. One suggestion is to engage students in related physical activities. For example, Laura Purdie Salas’s roundel is about goalball, an official sport of the Paralympics games; visually impaired players chase a ball that contains a bell inside. Using a cat toy with a bell inside, let blindfold students try to toss and catch the toy, aided only by the ringing sound. Patricia Cooley’s free verse about chess, “The King’s Gambit,” can also be creatively adapted. Students can hold large cardboard replicas of chess pieces (rook, pawn, bishop, etc) and play a life-size game of chess.
ATCGW can be used as a study of various poetry forms. The end pages identify nearly 30 poetic forms found in the anthology, such as haiku, limerick and shape poems, as well as less familiar forms: cleave, etheree, and palindrome. Keeping a poetry journal, students can study the various forms and write a new poetry form each week.
ATCGW also introduces students to poets featured in the book. Some contributing poets are recognized and revered around the world, others are just at the cusp of their writing careers. Students can visit the poet’s website or blog. If the poet has published other books, students might read those as well. Geography can play a role in classroom studies, too! Students can use pushpins and a world map to indicate where each poet lives. Once the study is done, students may write an email or letter to their favorite poet.
ATCGW is your first project as editor. What’s the experience been like? Would you do it again?
My dream job is to be a poetry editor for a children’s magazine. So when the book’s creator, Carol-Ann Hoyte of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, asked me to be part of this international “Olympic-related” sports poetry project, I jumped at the chance. It’s an exciting experience to discover new talent and see a book come to life. Yes, I would love to edit another poetry anthology—or children’s poetry magazine, for that matter!
I know you’ve lined up a number of events to promote ATCGW around the world involving some of the contributors (including ME!). Would you tell us about some of those events?
Carol-Ann and I are excited about our upcoming book launches this fall. The U.S. launches will feature eight Illinois poets. ATCGW’s official “Poetry Team U.S.A.” includes contributors Cathy Cronin, Patricia Cooley, Heather Delabre, Claudia Kohlbrenner, Eileen Meyer, Patricia Murphy, Heidi Bee Roemer, Michelle Schaub, and (yay!) today’s TeachingAuthor interviewer, Carmela Martino! My heartfelt thanks, Carmela, for letting me tell your dedicated followers and fellow poets about And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. I hope your readers will check the listings below and join us for an hour of poetry, poets, prizes and fun surprises!
Thank you, Heidi, for this great interview, and for allowing me to be part of And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. Below is information about the book's first two launch events. I'll be posting additional dates and times next Friday. Meanwhile, don't forget to enter our contest for your chance to win an autographed copy. See the details at the end of this post.
Thursday, September 13 at 7 p.m.
Selwyn House School
95 Cote St. Antoine Road, Westmount, Montreal
In the U.S:
Wednesday, September 26 at 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
11327 W. 195th Street
Mokena, Illinois 60448
Finally, details on entering our giveaway:
You must follow our TeachingAuthors blog to enter for a chance to win an autographed paperback copy of And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. If you're not already a follower, you can sign up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.
There are two ways to enter:
by a comment posted below OR
by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your name AND tell us how you follow us. If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted like: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment. Contest open only to residents of the United States and Canada. Incomplete entries will be discarded. For complete giveaway rules, see our Book Giveaway Guidelines.
Entry deadline is 11 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 (Central Standard Time). The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and announced on Sept. 12. Good luck!
And after you've entered, don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday round-up at Poetry For Children.
Hi Everyone, As Esther mentioned on Wednesday, this week we're participating in Random Acts of Publicity 2012. Unlike Esther, who introduced you to some new books, I want to remind you about three books published earlier this year that we've already mentioned here but that you may not have gotten around to reading yet.
Back in May, I celebrated the release of my good friend Karen Schreck's new book, While He Was Away (Sourcebooks Fire), with a guest TeachingAuthor interview. I have to confess--I'd read Karen's manuscript quite some time ago, but I didn't have a chance to read the final book until just last week. While I loved the original story, I think the revisions brought more depth to both the characters and the plot. Even though I knew how the story would turn out, it still brought tears to my eyes. Well done, Karen!
If you missed my interview with Karen, here's her summary of the book's plot:
While He Was Away (Sourcebooks Fire), is about an eighteen-year old girl, Penna Weaver, whose boyfriend, David O’Dell, is deployed to Iraq. Penna and David are deeply in love, and commit to be true to each other while he’s away, but Penna quickly realizes that the realities of David’s situation will make this more challenging than either of them expected. Lonely and isolated, it seems Penna’s world is falling apart, until she works to solve a family mystery, hidden for half a century, about love in wartime, and ultimately learns some powerful truths about love and forgiveness.
Karen recently posted on her blog that the book has already gone into a second printing. I encourage you to read Karen's book if you haven't already so you can understand why.
Wednesday, September 26 at 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
11327 W. 195th Street
Mokena, Illinois 60448
Tuesday, October 16 at 7 p.m.
123 W. Jefferson Ave.
Naperville, IL 60540
Saturday, November 3 at 1 p.m.
The Arlington Heights Library
500 N Dunton Ave.
Arlington Heights, IL
Saturday, November 17 at 1 p.m.
The Magic Tree Book Store
141 N. Oak Park Ave.
Oak Park IL, 60301
Saturday, October 13 at 2 p.m.
Sunnyside Branch -- Ottawa Public Library
1049 Bank Street, Ottawa
Friday, November 9 at 5:30 p.m
Northern District Branch -- Toronto Public Library
40 Orchard View Blvd., Toronto
(just north of Yonge and Eglinton)
Finally, if you'd like to celebrate any 2012 books that may not have received as much attention as they deserved, please share their titles in the comments. And after you're done entering our giveaway, head on over to Write. Sketch. Repeat. to celebrate Poetry Friday!
A big THANK YOU to all the readers who entered our latest giveaway contest--see the end of this post to find out who our winner is. And stay tuned for more fun giveaways in the coming weeks.
As Mary Ann posted on Monday, this week we're answering an Ask the TeachingAuthors question submitted by Joanna Cooke. Before I share my comments on the topic, I want to remind readers that if you have a question you'd like us to address, either about writing for children/young adults or about the teaching of writing, you can use the link in our sidebar to submit your own Ask the TeachingAuthors question. Please keep in mind, though, that our posting schedule is usually set several months in advance, so we may not be able to address your question right away.
Now, back to our current question: Joanna asked us to share some of the pros/cons of getting an MFA. Mary Ann has already discussed one of the biggest advantages: your growth as a writer. I'd been freelance writing for years before entering the Vermont College MFA program. Like Mary Ann, I'd also attended conferences and taken workshops related specifically to both fiction writing and writing for children and teens. (Unlike Mary Ann, I was already active in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and had served as publicity chairperson for the Illinois chapter for a number of years. That's how I met Esther Hershenhorn!) Yet I didn't understand just how much I had to learn until I started at Vermont College. I'd enrolled with the intention of polishing a young adult novel I'd already written. After getting my first adviser's feedback on the manuscript, I realized that I wasn't skilled enough as a writer to tackle the major revisions the novel needed. I chose to work on several other projects instead, and eventually wrote a draft of the middle-grade novel that was later published by Candlewick Press, Rosa, Sola.
So, for me, the number one "pro" of going through the MFA program was learning to be a better writer. When I look back on those two years, I'm still amazed at how much my fiction writing improved in that time, and also at how I learned to read so much more critically. However, another important advantage for me was a HUGE increase in my writing productivity. I wrote more in those two years than in any similar period before or since. In addition to starting and finishing a draft of my novel, I wrote several polished short stories and about five picture book manuscripts--all on top of the program-required critical essays and thesis writing, and teaching part-time. The monthly deadlines, and knowing my adviser was waiting to read and critique what I'd produced, really helped me stay on task.
One of the biggest "cons" of going to graduate school, at least for me, was the cost. It is a significant investment, and not an easy one for me to make. Interestingly, that turned out to also be a "pro" for me--I was determined to get the most for my money! As a result, the expense made it easier for me to say "no" to distractions and other demands on my time, thus raising the priority of fiction writing in my life. That, too, contributed to my productivity.
I could say plenty more about considerations when deciding on pursuing an MFA, but I'll leave that for April and Jeanne Marie who will also be blogging on the topic. Meanwhile, I want to remind readers that we have links to information about MFA programs in our sidebar, under the heading "Graduate Programs in Writing for Children and Young Adults." As Mary Ann mentioned, when we started at Vermont College, it was the only school that offered a graduate program devoted to writing for children and young adults. That's no longer the case. If you know of any programs we missed in the sidebar, please let us know and I'll add links to them as well.
And now, time to announce the winner of an autographed copy of And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, edited by Heidi Roemer and Carol-Ann Hoyte. Our winner is:
Congratulations, Karen! (Please respond to the email I sent you so we can get the book in the mail right away.)
We had LOTS of great entries in our latest giveaway contest--see the end of this post to find out who our winner is.
As Jill shared last Friday, for our current TeachingAuthors topic we're talking a bit about our daily lives/routines as writers. Before I discuss my routine, I have a confession to make: I don't want to be writing this blog post right now.
It's not that I mind the topic, or that I dislike blogging, because I enjoy these posts and the opportunity to connect with you, our blog readers. It's just that I've been working hard, keeping "butt in chair" for the past few weeks, trying to finish the revision of my young-adult historical, and I'm almost done--"almost," as in, to start this blog post, I had to stop at page 274 of a 280-page manuscript! I really wanted to keep plugging away without interruption until I reached the end AND worked through Chapter 1 again so I could send it off to my Beta
Ironically (given today's topic), I would easily have made it through those last pages if regular life hadn't intervened with a minor household crisis this afternoon. But that's a topic for another day.
However, since I'm being brutally honest here, I should also note that these last few weeks have really been more "fun" than "work." That's because I FINALLY got through the revision of Chapter 12--the pivotal chapter where the two formerly antagonistic main characters realize they're falling in love! Once I had that chapter working to my satisfaction, I was on a roll: tweaking scenes, pulling threads, deepening sensory details, adding imagery, polishing language, etc. The stuff I love to do!
If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know it's taken me a LONG time to get to this point with this current work-in-progress. In fact, I've been ready to give up on this novel countless times. Back in June 2011, I blogged about how having a "writing buddy" turned out to be the key to my getting a finished draft. But that draft still needed a lot of work--work I hope to have finished by the end of this week. Hooray!
[By the way--my blog post about having a "writing buddy" led me to write a freelance article on the topic for the 2013 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (Writer's Digest Books), edited by Chuck Sambuchino. The book was just released on September 21, and is also available in ebook form.]
So, what IS my typical day like? I blogged about my "ideal" day back in June, 2009, and that ideal hasn't changed much, though I rarely live up to it.
I find I'm most productive if I get up around 6-6:30 in the morning and get to work as soon after breakfast as possible, without checking email or Facebook. Since I have a hard time resisting email, I set a timer and don't allow myself to look at it until after I've put in 2-4 hours of work, depending on what else I have going on that day. After email and lunch, I work another 2-4 hours, though I take an exercise break in the middle of the afternoon on most days. (If you haven't read about the recent studies citing the dangers of prolonged sitting, you may want to read this Forbes article: Why Sitting at Work Can be so Deadly.]
I should clarify that "work" varies depending on my teaching schedule and my work goals for the week. I'm not currently teaching any classes, so the "work" time these days may include:
writing/revising my current historical YA novel-in-progress (that's almost done!)
researching/planning where to submit a novel I recently finished co-writing with another author
writing a blog post, like this one, or planning future blogging topics
pitching/querying new freelance writing projects
writing/researching freelance writing projects
updating my website with information about upcoming classes, publications, etc.
Weeks when I am teaching, my "work" time includes lesson planning, publicizing classes, and reviewing student work.
Depending on how much time I spend on email and social media, my typical work day is usually 5-8 hours long, Monday through Friday, plus 4 hours or more on Saturday. (I often teach on Saturdays.) If I'm on deadline, or on a "roll" as I have been the last few weeks, I may put in some extra time after dinner. But I can't do that for an extended period. I agree with what Jill said on Friday, that we need to have time away from our work to gather the material that will enrich our writing.
I know many of you have full-time jobs that make it pretty much impossible to spend 2-4 hours per day writing. The good news is, many writers who have much less time to devote to their writing are still able to have successful careers. Esther recently mentioned a new blog by Carol Coven Grannick called Today I Am a Writer. In one of her first posts, Carol talks about how productive she's been by following the simple tenet of devoting the First, Best Hour to her work. As Carol has discovered, knowing we have a limited amount of time can sometimes help us stay focused. I'm a believer in Parkinson's law--work often does expand to fill the time allotted for its completion.
Life happens whether you are writing or not. You don’t have to wait for the right time, or that Muse-blessed idea or a fellowship to a writing colony or a winning lottery ticket or anything. You just have to give yourself permission to take seriously your writing dream.
So I hope you'll give yourself permission to take your writing dream seriously. Why not start today, by setting aside some regular writing time?. Even if you missed Anderson's Fifteeen Minutes a Day Challenge last month, there's nothing stopping you from using her posts to work through your own month of writing fifteen minutes a day. Day one begins here.
Hooray! Today I'm pleased to share a Student Success Story interview with my former student and now picture book author (and fellow poet) Eileen Meyer. I believe all of you who are aspiring writers will be especially interested in learning about Eileen's path to publication.
Eileen's brand-new book, Who’s Faster? Animals on the Move, (Mountain Press) is a nonfiction picture book illustrated by Constance Bergum that introduces readers to 14 different creatures from the animal kingdom. Written in lyrical prose, the book starts with the slowest animal and builds to the fastest, describing each creature’s unique locomotion. An informative appendix provides fun facts about animal movement and speed. After reading my interview with Eileen, I hope you'll enter our drawing to win an autographed copy for your children or classroom.
First, let me tell you a little about Eileen Meyer. In addition to her picture book, Eileen also has a new poem in the recently released sports anthology And the Crowd Goes Wild: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems edited by Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi B. Roemer. (If that title sounds familiar, it's because one of my poems is also in the anthology! I wrote about it in this interview with Heidi.) Eileen's upcoming picture books include Ballpark (Amazon Publishing) and Sweet Dreams, Walrus (Mountain Press). Her poetry has appeared in children’s magazines, including Highlights for Children, Ladybug, and Highlights High Five. She lives in the Chicago area with her family. When she’s not writing or visiting schools, she enjoys reading, watching sports and traveling. To learn more, visit Eileen's website.
And now, for the interview:
1. Eileen, it’s been a long time, maybe 10-12 years, since you took
my introductory class in "Writing for Children" at the College of DuPage.
Do you recall what inspired you to sign up for the class and/or any ways the
class helped you?
I remember the first writing course that I took from you
with such clarity, Carmela!My three sons
were in preschool and elementary school and we loved to spend hours together reading
fabulous contemporary children’s books. So for me, it was my interest in great
children’s books that directed me towards your class and prompted me to
consider writing for children. Your class was filled with a group of
like-minded starry-eyed students and it was an informative introductory program.
You encouraged us to join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), to attend programs and network meetings, to
learn how to properly critique work, and to consider submitting to the magazine
market. These were all excellent pieces of advice for new writers beginning to
find their way.
2. I'm so glad you found the class helpful, Eileen. And that you took my advice to heart! In your article in the current SCBWI-Illinois newsletter,
you discuss the importance of writing classes in your career development. Would
you tell our readers a bit about some of the classes you took and how you found
When I joined SCBWI, I signed up for many different courses
in order to explore and learn more about myself and what I liked to write. Most
class offerings were either advertised on the SCBWI-IL website, posted on our
Listserv or listed in the College
of DuPage Course Catalog.
Through Heidi Bee Roemer’s class, "The
ABC’s of Children’s Poetry," I not only discovered my interest in writing
poetry, but I was able to connect with classmates and form a special poetry
critique group. Through Pat Kummer’s program, "Nothing but the Facts: Get the Scoop on Writing Nonfiction for Children
and Young Adults," I found that I enjoyed researching and sharing
information with young readers. I’ve taken many courses over the years, but
Heidi’s and Pat’s classes were critical in my personal development. I encourage
new writers to find their own pace by attending a wide array of programs. You
never know what course or speaker might expand your horizons. [Speaking of classes, if you live in the Chicago area, you may be interested in a new one I (Carmela) am teaching this Saturday, Oct. 13, from 1-5 pm at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook: "Fundamentals of Writing Fiction for Children and Teens." See my website for details.]
3. Terrific advice, Eileen. Your first publishing credits were poems in children’s
magazines. As it happens, both you and I have poems in the recently-released
anthology, And the Crowd Goes Wild: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems.
Would you tell us about the poem you wrote for that collection?
Carmela, it’s really exciting that a number of Illinois poets have work in the newly
released, And the Crowd Goes Wild: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. For my sports poem, The Letter, I
wanted to combine two interesting themes: first, introduce a situation where a
parent is the coach and highlight the awkwardness that may result on occasion,
and second, expand upon the concept that we all have had a sports outing where
nothing seems to go our way – one of those days in which absolutely everything
goes wrong! I was able to weave these two themes together in a humorous fashion
in this poem. Volleyball’s fast-paced action provided the perfect setting for
this young player’s all-too-silly mishaps. In addition, it was fun to work
outside of my comfort zone and write something humorous.
[Note to readers: Eileen and I will join editor Heidi B. Roemer and 4 other contributors to And the Crowd Goes Wild for a specialBook Launch Party and Poetry Celebration to be held at Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, at 7 pm, Tuesday, October 16, 2012. The event will be especially geared to children ages 6-12, though adults are welcome, too. See the Anderson's website for details. And if you'd like to reserve a copy of the book to have autographed by the poets that evening, be sure to call Anderson's as soon as possible: 630-355-2665.] 4. Would you tell us how you came to write and publish Who’s Faster? Did the book go through a
lot of revision between acceptance and publication?
My first children’s book, Who’s Faster? Animals on the Move(Mountain Press), was a project that I wrote during
winter 2007. Interestingly enough, I have come to find that the January–March
time frame is a very productive one for me. I’m not an active winter sports participant,
so when I am chased inside by our frigid temperatures, I’ve used my time
productively for a number of manuscripts. This project was an outgrowth of the fact
that I had found books about fast moving animals, and detailed nonfiction books
about particular animals, but there didn’t seem to be a book that represented
the broad spectrum of slow-crawling to fast-racing mammals. So I began my
research and drafted the manuscript within a few months. I had the work
critiqued by two different writing groups that I met with at the time and both
groups had excellent ideas for tightening the text, incorporating repetition,
and including substantive appendix materials. The manuscript text is less than
350 words, so it was a great experience to carefully reduce the text as much as
I could. The appendix was 1000 words and included detailed research.Additionally, the book was fact-checked by local
zoo staff. Once the manuscript was polished and ready to go, I began to submit
to a few publishers at a time.Early on,
I received a number of no's but I also had one close call – the editor noted
that he turned it down after quite a bit of deliberation. That was one of my
first so-called “good rejections” and it spurred me on. As it ended up, my
lucky 13th submission hit the jackpot. In March of 2009,
approximately 2 years after I had finished writing the manuscript, Mountain
Press, contacted me about publishing the book.
5. Your story is yet another example of perseverance paying off. I always tell my students how valuable it is to attend
events where they can hear editors and agents speak, but I’m not sure they
believe me. ☺ Would you share your story of how attending a conference led to one of your book
I make it a point to attend the fabulous Illinois Prairie Writer’s Day
Conference held in mid-November. The line-up of editors and agents is always
very compelling. In 2010, I listened to a panel of editors talk about their
particular interests for manuscript submissions, and I jotted down notes that one
editor was looking for sports-related picture books. A month later, I submitted
my manuscript to her, and then I forgot all about it as I immersed myself in
other projects. About nine months later, the editor contacted me and asked for
a revision to my manuscript, Ballpark.
After my resubmission, I was offered a contract for that picture book! This was
an opportunity only afforded to conference attendees. SCBWI-IL was critical in
opening this door for me to earn my second book contract.
6. On your website, you mention that you didn’t always want
to be a writer. Your first career was in business. Has your business experience
influenced your writing career in any way?
Yes, I previously worked for over 10 years as a software
consultant in California and Texas after I earned undergraduate and
graduate degrees in business. I designed
training programs, helped market the programs and interfaced extensively with
customers.After my children were born
(three in less than two years – yes, I have twins!) I elected to stay home with
my sons and it was a wonderful period in my life. After about six years at
home, I decided to write for the children’s magazine and book market, I was
glad that I had a varied business background that would aid me in my current
efforts. I’ve been able to create and produce some professional looking
marketing materials myself – such as bookmarks, school visit brochures,
promotional flyers and then have had other projects such as my website, farmed
out to experts after I wrote the copy. As a former professional software
trainer, those skills transitioned easily to the classroom as I designed and
created new school programs offerings. All in all, it’s been a nice blend of
new and old skill sets that I’ve been able to utilize.
Thanks for joining us today, Eileen. I'm always excited to share stories of my students' success.
And now readers, as promised, here's your chance to win an autographed copy of Who’s Faster? Animals on the Move written by Eileen Meyer and illustrated by Constance Bergum. You must follow our TeachingAuthors blog to enter our drawing. If you're not already a follower, you can sign up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.
There are two ways to enter:
1) by a comment posted below
2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.
Just for the fun of it, tell us what animal you think is the fastest. (This is optional.)
Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your first and last name AND tell us how you follow us. If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment. Contest open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Winners will be announced Wednesday, Oct. 24. Good luck to all!
Thank you to all who entered our latest TeachingAuthor giveaway. See the end of today's post to find out who won an autographed copy of Eileen Meyer's debut picture book, Who’s Faster? Animals on the Move (Mountain Press).
Image courtesy Microsoft Clipart
When MA posted on Wednesday, she thought she would be the last TA to talk about research, but we're not quite done with this subject. I agree with what my fellow TeachingAuthors have already said about the importance of research in fiction. So, instead of beating that dead horse, I'm going to share three research resources some of you may find helpful:
1. Consult an expert Jeanne Marie's post reminded
me of an important resource many writers, including me, shy away from:
talking to an expert. As Jill wrote in her post, that expert can be a family member or friend. But what do you do when you don't know anyone with the background to answer your questions? I look for professionals in the field. Most often, they are the authors of books or articles I've come across in my research. So far, I've contacted two such experts for information related to my historical young adult work-in-progress--both university professors. Because of their positions, their email
addresses were easy to find on their university websites.
From my experience contacting subject matter experts for my nonfiction work, I knew that most experts are happy to share their knowledge. These two professors were no different. One was able to answer my question via email. But he also expressed his pleasure at learning of my project and asked me to keep him informed of my progress. The other professor agreed to a phone interview and spent over an hour talking with me. He did more than simply answer my questions--he also provided information about additional research sources for my project.
Of course, I did my homework before contacting these experts. I didn't want to waste their time by asking "stupid
questions" or anything that could be answered by reading the right
references. If you need an expert's help and have never contacted one before, I suggest you do some research (either online or via books about nonfiction writing) on conducting effective research interviews first.
2. Visit your setting virtually In last Wednesday's post, Esther discussed using maps and photographs in books to "travel" to the location of her picture book. Nowadays, we have Google Earth to allow us to take virtual tours of locations around the world. And this past weekend, while attending the SCBWI-Wisconsin Fall Conference, I learned from a fellow attendee that another great resource is the U.S. Geologic Survey website. I haven't had a chance to explore this site in depth yet, but it appears to include historical topographical maps of U.S. locations as well as satellite images from around the world.
3. Watch a video demonstration
It never occurred to me to use YouTubeas a research resource until I was trying to find out about cat tricks for my I Fooled You short story, "Big Z, Cammi, and Me." Thanks to YouTube, I was able to watch videos of cats that had learned to "High Five" with their paws, a trick my main character teaches his cat, Big Z. More recently, I've watched re-enactments of eighteenth-century dances and step-by-step demonstrations of how to dress in eighteenth-century clothing.
Do any of you know of other resources, besides traditional library references? If so, please share them with us, either by posting a comment or sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Research Resource" in the subject line. Please note: several readers have emailed us about problems with Blogger's Word Verification software when trying to post comments. I've temporarily turned off Word Verification to make commenting easier. I'm hoping we won't be flooded with Spam as a result. I'm afraid that if we are, I'll have to turn WV back on. But for now, please "comment away"!
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all in the path of Hurricane Sandy, including our own Jeanne Marie. As a last-minute sub for her, I'm posting a quick preview of a special event we'll be sponsoring in November. We've decided to expand last year's Ten Days of Thanks-Giving into a full Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving, and we're hoping many of you will again join in the celebration, especially if you're a teacher or fellow blogger. This post includes an invitation to teachers who'd like to incorporate the event into their November lesson plans.
Before I explain how to participate, let me share some background: In October, 2011 Esther blogged about a poetry form called a Thanku--a thank you note written in the from of a haiku. Her post inspired the TeachingAuthors team to sponsor our first ever Ten Days of Thanks-Giving last November. During those ten days, all our posts included thank you notes to someone special. In my post, I shared the following Thanku addressed to my teacher and mentor, Sharon Darrow:
Your encouragement yielded a harvest beyond my expectations.
We also invited readers and fellow bloggers to share their own thank yous via comments, emails, or blog posts. At the end of the ten days, we posted some of those thank you notes on our blog, along with a round up of links to other blogs that had participated in the event.
We plan to do the same this year, with some minor modifications. As I mentioned, we're expanding the event so that it will run for two full weeks. This year's Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving will take place November 16-November 30. We will again invite our readers and fellow bloggers to participate by writing a thank you note of no more than 25 words via prose or a poetry form of your choice. (We'd love to see more Thankus!) But this year, we ask that your thank yous be writing-related, expressing your gratitude to a writing teacher who helped you or to a writer you admire. You may consider following Sherman Alexie's #1 bit of advice in his Top 10 Pieces of Writing Advice:
 When you read a piece of writing that you admire, send a note of thanks to the author. Be effusive with your praise. Writing is a lonely business. Do your best to make it a little less lonely.
Now, to all the classroom teachers out there: We invite you to give your students the same assignment-- to compose a thank you note to an author of their choosing. Please limit the assignment to 25 words of prose or poetry. (If you're planning to have them write their notes as Thankus, see Esther's original post for inspiration.) We'd love for you to share some of your students' notes with us, either via a comment, email, or your own blog posts. We'll then include some of their work (or a link to your blog post) in our final round-up on November 30. The kick-off post on November 16 will include complete details on how to submit to us.
For all our readers: We hope you'll also participate in our Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving. Again, watch for our November 16 kick-off post for complete details. And if you know any teachers who may be interested in participating, please share this information with them as soon as possible.
In the facilitated critique workshops that I teach, we follow the critiquing model I learned at Vermont College. The format is described in this guest post by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. There are two unique aspects to this format that are specifically designed to help keep the writer from getting defensive:
1) The author remains silent while others discuss his or her work. When you think about it, this makes sense. When you submit a manuscript to an editor or agent, you're not there to explain the choices you made. The manuscript must succeed on its own. Also, an author who remains silent is more likely to really hear the feedback because he or she isn't sitting there thinking about how to respond to what's being said.
2) After a round of sharing positive feedback regarding what's working well, instead of telling an author what's "wrong" with the piece or what needs "fixing," critiquers share questions about the manuscript. I've found it takes some practice for my students to learn how to express their comments in question form, but here are a few examples:
“Is the narrator a boy or a girl?”
“What time of day is it? What season?”
“What happened to the dog?”
“How did the narrator feel when that happened?”
“Why did the mother react so strongly to such a minor accident?”
“Why didn’t the mother react more strongly?
I do allow my students to preface their questions with an “I” statement to indicate points in the story where they were confused or found something unclear. For example:
I was confused here. I thought the narrator was a boy. Is the narrator a boy or a girl?
I couldn’t picture this scene. Is the main character sitting or standing here?
I didn’t understand exactly what this sentence means. Could you clarify?
However, not all questions are appropriate. I discourage critiquers from trying to tell the author how to "fix" the story via their questions. As critiquers, we may not see or understand the author's goals. Therefore, I believe questions like "Why don't you get rid of the mother character?" aren't as helpful as "What purpose does the mother character serve?" The first question puts the author on the defensive. The second question leads the author to think more deeply about the story. It may be that the mother is important, but the author hasn't shown why clearly enough yet.
When I facilitate critique workshops, I remind students that all feedback is subjective, including mine. Just because I'm the "teacher," that doesn't necessarily mean my comments are "better" or more valuable than anyone else's. I also encourage students to share their opinions even if they disagree with me and/or with their fellow students--it's important for a writer to know different readers may react differently to the manuscript.
So, when you're the author, how should you handle contradictory feedback? My advice is to latch on to the feedback that feels "right" or "true" first. For example, let's say that while drafting your piece you wonder if a section of dialogue sounds too mature for the character's age, but you leave it as is. Then, when you bring the piece to critique group someone asks: "How old is this character? I think his dialogue sounds old for a 9-year-old." Even if another critiquer responds, "I disagree. His dialogue sounds just right to me," I'd go back and revise the dialogue.
On the other hand, if you're not sure which feedback feels "right," you can go one of several ways. You may decide to go with "majority rules"--what do most critiquers agree on? OR, if there's someone in the group whose opinion you particularly respect or tend to agree with, then you might go with that one individual's response, even it it's the minority opinion. In the above example, if the person saying the dialogue sounds "just right" is a third-grade teacher who works with 9-year-olds on a daily basis, I wouldn't revise. OR, you may decide that the contradictory feedback is a symptom of a deeper problem that requires you to go back and revise something earlier in the story. Perhaps your character is precocious, and mature dialogue is part of his personality. In that case, you may want to go back and check whether his dialogue has been mature for his age from the very beginning. If his precociousness is important to the story, you might want to include other signs of it, besides his dialogue.
Keep in mind that the more critiquers you have, the more likely you are to get contradictory feedback. Sometimes, that's a good thing, but not always. I've seen writers revise over and over again thinking they will eventually satisfy all their critiquers. The problem is: You can't please all your readers all the time. If you don't believe me, go to Goodreads and look at the reviews for The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Alongside this bestseller's many 4- and 5-star ratings, you'll see reviews with only 1-3 stars.
As I said earlier, reading is subjective. While critique feedback can be invaluable, in the end it's your story, and yours alone.
Hi Everyone, As promised, we're hosting Kidlitosphere Interview Wednesday here today! Below are links to recent interviews related to children's/young adult literature. If you have an interview you'd like to share with us, please post a comment containing the url. The interview should meet the criteria listed at the end of this post.
To start out, I'm excited to remind everyone about Esther Hershenhorn's terrific interview with teacher, author, and children's literature expert Leonard Marcus here on our TeachingAuthors blog last Wednesday. Leonard has just released The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, which includes not only background information about the writing of the novel but also Leonard's own comments on the text. Read Esther's interview here for some fun (and funny!) behind-the-scenes stories, and be sure to enter for a chance to win your own autographed copy of The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth. Entry deadline is this Friday, November 4, at 11 pm (CST).
Here's the round-up so far. I'll check back later to add more links as they're submitted.
TeachingAuthors' follower Lois Barr suggested we take a look at the Whole Megillah blog, which recently featured an interesting three-in-one interview with the author, editor, and illustrator of the picture book Sadie’s Sukkah Breakfast, written by Rabbi Jamie Korngold, edited by Joni Sussman, and illustrated by Julie Fortenberry.
Here on the TeachingAuthors blog, we've been discussing the classic children's books we never read till adulthood. The series was inspired, in part, by Esther's interview with Leonard Marcus in honor of the release of The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth last month. When Esther first told me about the new book, I felt a twinge of guilt--I'd never read the original Phantom Tollbooth. So I suggested this topic to motivate me to finally read Norton Juster's masterpiece. If you're wondering what classics and must-reads you may have missed, be sure to check out the links in the Writing Workout below.
I wasn't reading yet in 1961 when The Phantom Tollbooth was first published, but that was no excuse for my not reading this classic. When, as an adult, I became interested in writing for children, I began reading voraciously in the field. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, which Mary Ann blogged about on Monday, was one of the many children's books I came to as an adult that I fell in love with. (Unlike Mary Ann, I'm somewhat of a Math geek, which made me love L'Engle's book all the more!) Yet, despite a number of fellow children's literature enthusiasts telling me that Tollbooth was one of their all-time favorites, I never made time to read the book, until Esther's interview with Leonard Marcus inspired me to do so a few weeks ago.
I'm happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The wordplay and puns are great fun, but the Math geek in me was especially happy to see the book's celebration of numbers. I was also impressed at how Juster wove important themes about the value of education and action into such an entertaining read. One of my favorite paragraphs (among many) was:
"You must never feel badly about making mistakes," explained Reason quietly, "as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons."
I believe the combination of entertainment and enduring themes contributed to making The Phantom Tollbooth such a classic. I'm grateful to Leonard Marcus for bringing this book back into the spotlight. In case you missed the short video in which Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer, and Leonard Marcus discuss the book's creation, I've embedded it below, or you can watch it at YouTube here.
Are there any classic children's/young adult books you missed reading as a child or teen? If so, please share their titles in the comments below. And if you need suggestions of children's/YA books now considered "must reads," see the Writing Workout below.
Today is the official start of our Ten Days of Thanks-Giving! As JoAnn explained on Friday, this is the first of what we hope will be an annual event, taking place November 20-30.
It all started with Esther's post about a new poetry form she invented: the THANKU, a thank-you note in haiku form. After her post, we talked about how there's so much negativitiy and bad news in the world, and how it might be uplifting to do a series of thank-you posts about people and things for which we're grateful. We'll start that series tomorrow. Meanwhile, we came up with the idea for sponsoring the Ten Days of Thanks-Giving: an opportunity for our readers and everyone in the Kidlitosphere to share their own thank-yous. We encourage you to write a thank-you note of 25 words or less, as a poem or prose, and then post it as a comment or send it to us via email to teachingauthors at gmail dot com any time from now through November 30. Or, if you post a thank-you note on your blog, share the link with us and I'll post a round-up of all the links on or after our last day, Nov. 30.
If you're feeling creative, try your hand at writing a THANKU. She first wrote about the form here. And Lori Degman used the form to write a lovely reply in the comments:
Thank you Esther H. for sharing yourself with us. You've touched countless lives!!
I'll be sharing my thank-you when I post next week. Meanwhile, know that I'm especially thankful for my five amazingly talented co-bloggers, for all our wonderful readers, and for all the fantastic Kidlit bloggers I've come to know since we started this blog.
Today is the last day of our Ten Days of Thanks-Giving. The event was inspired by Esther's post about a poetry form called the THANKU, a thank-you note in haiku form. We TeachingAuthors decided to sponsor the Ten Days of Thanks-Giving as an opportunity for our readers, students, and everyone in the Kidlitosphere to share their own thank-yous. We hope to make this an annual event taking place every November 20-30.
Today, I'll share some of the thank you notes we received, and a roundup of links to sites where fellow bloggers posted their thank-yous. But first, I want to share my own THANKU.
On Monday, Mary Ann wrote about being thankful for the Hive, a group of Vermont College alumni that we're both blessed to be part of. My thank you today is an appropriate follow-up to that post because it's to the woman responsible for my attending Vermont College: my teacher, mentor, and friend, Sharon Darrow. I've known Sharon for so long now that I can't even recall how we first met. However, I do remember the fateful day when we had lunch together and I mentioned my desire to take some advanced writing classes. Sharon encouraged me to apply to the Vermont College MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults instead. The idea terrified me. Who was I to try to get an MFA in writing? My undergraduate degree was in Math and Computer Science! But Sharon had such faith in me that I decided to take the plunge and apply. Little did I know then all the wonderful things my acceptance to VC would lead to.
Thank you, Sharon. And thank you to all the wonderful writing teachers I worked with at Vermont College as a result of following Sharon's advice.
Now, to share some of the thank you notes and comments we received during our Ten Days of Thanks-Giving. As it happens, just this morning Bobby Miller, a terrific writer I met when we were both students at Vermont College, posted a Vermont College-related thank-you comment on Mary Ann's post of yesterday:
I share my big Thank You to the MFA/Writing for Children program. It changed my life, personally and professionally. It brought my life's goal into focus, gave it purpose. And I walked away with treasured friendships.
I'm hosting the Kidlit Interview Wednesday round-up here on our TeachingAuthors blog this week. Actually, I'm writing this post on Tuesday afternoon, but I'll schedule it to go live just after midnight (with my fingers crossed) so that early risers and bloggers around the world can share their links whenever it's convenient. If you have an interview you'd like to share, just post a comment below containing the url. The interview should meet the criteria listed at the end of this post. I'll check back during the day to add your links to this post. If you have a blog related to reading, writing, or publishing books for children and you'd like to host Interview Wednesday, visit the official Kidlit Interview Wednesday sign-up page.
You'll find the interview roundup below. First, I want to say a bit more about the ALA awards, the topic of our current series of posts. Yesterday was the first time I've watched the announcements live (thanks to the ALA webcast). I joined the program in progress, just as they announced that the winner of the Coretta Scott King Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement was Ashley Bryan. A shiver of delight went through me--I'd heard Ashley Bryan read years ago at one of our Vermont College residencies. His reading was electrifying! His love of story and poetry and literature shone through in his voice, gestures, and facial expression. I'll never forget that day. So yesterday when they announced the winner of the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, I was thrilled to hear not only his name, but also the cheers and applause of all the attendees expressing their approval. Congratulations to author-illustrator Ashley Bryan on his well-deserved award!
I'm intrigued by the unique relationship each of the TeachingAuthors has with computer technology, especially because my own undergraduate degree is in Mathematics and Computer Science. Unfortunately, that education predates personal computers and the widespread use of the Internet. (I know, I'm dating myself here.) However, although the programming languages I studied in school are virtually obsolete (Ever hear of COBOL?), the basic principles I learned back then still come in handy. Plus, I'm not intimidated by having to tweak HTML code once in a while to get around some of Blogger's quirks. :-)
In an interesting bit of Synchronicity, I'm preparing to teach a brand new class this Saturday that is very technology oriented: "Get Started Blogging." Not only is this a new subject for me, but it's also the first time I'll be teaching a class in a computer lab. (And I keep imagining all the things that could go wrong with the computers!) Of course, as always happens when I teach, I'm learning, too. For example, I learned that the word "blog" has it's origin in the word "weblog," which itself was coined back in 1997 by combining the terms web + log. I'm also learning new software. I decided to use Wordpress.com as the blogging platform for the sample blogs my students will be creating, instead of Google Blogger, which is the platform for our TeachingAuthors blog. That way, I can better share what I see as the pros and cons of the two platforms. If any of you have used both, I'd love to know which you prefer and why.
But back to the topic of how the digital age is affecting me, personally:
As a teacher:
I'm exploring new teaching topics, such as blogging.
Now, back to the subject of Women's History: Like Mary Ann, I love reading well-written historical fiction featuring female protagonists. It's the next best thing to time travel! However, I despise books where female protagonists are not portrayed authentically. One of my specific "pet peeves" is the absence of church or prayer in novels set in times and places where daily life revolved around religious practices. Historical novelist Linda Proud expressed similar feelings on her blog:
"I’ve just read a book set in the 13th century where neither the feisty heroine . . . nor her lover nor her horrible husband nor any other character ever goes to church. Never a priest wanders into the story, never a bell rings, never a new cathedral appears on the skyline. Don’t get me wrong – it was exceptionally-well written and a gripping read. It was just that something was missing, . . . ."
As an author, though, I know it can be tricky to incorporate religious practices without boring our readers, especially when those readers are children or teens. My current work-in-progress is a young-adult novel set in 18th-century Milan and inspired by two real-life sisters. More is known about the elder sister, Maria, a child prodigy who could speak seven languages by her teen years and who became famous as a female mathematician. I originally considered making her the novel's main character. But Maria was a devoutly religious girl who spent her teen years trying to convince her father to let her become a nun. I decided it would be too challenging (for me, at least) to hook today's average teen reader with such a main character.
I've been immersed in poetry this week as I prepare for two days of school visits where I'll be "Celebrating the Pleasures of Poetry." I can't think of a better way to kick off National Poetry Month 2012!
While working on my lesson plans, I found some terrific online poetry resources, including:
Poetry at Play, blog sponsored by Poetry Advocates for Children and Young Adutls (PACYA)
Kenn Nesbitt's Poetry4kids website, featuring fun kid-friendly poems, poetry lessons, and links to lots of other poetry-related sites.
Speaking of Kenn Nesbitt, he has several funny poems that are especially timely for this weekend. I've excerpted the first and last stanza from one of them below. You can read the whole poem at the Poetry Foundation site.
“Good morning, dear students,” the principal said. “Please put down your pencils and go back to bed. Today we will spend the day playing outside, then take the whole school on a carnival ride. . . . . . . . . . . “Tomorrow it’s back to the regular grind. Today, just go crazy. We really don’t mind. So tear up your homework. We’ll give you an A. Oh wait. I’m just kidding. It’s April Fools’ Day.”
That's right, April Fools' Day is this weekend. Enjoy!
As I mentioned on Friday, I am "Out and About" this week, for two days of school visits where we're "Celebrating the Pleasures of Poetry." Yesterday, I gave 3 grade-level presentations to kindergartners, first-graders, and second-graders. It's amazing how much we squeezed into one hour (45 minutes for the kindergartners)! I talked about what it means to be an author and how I get ideas from real life; I read a picture book work-in-progress; and I taught them a fun song with hand signs.
I used the song to segue into the main purpose of my visit--to celebrate National Poetry Month. We talked about ways poems are like songs, and how, even when poems don't rhyme, they have a strong rhythm. The best part came when we wrote a group poem together modeled on one I'd found in Regie Routman's Kids’ Poems: Teaching Kindergartners to Love Writing Poetry (Scholastic). The book is the first in a series which also includes Kids’ Poems: Teaching First Graders to Love Writing Poetry; Kids’ Poems: Teaching Second Graders to Love Writing Poetry; Kids’ Poems: Teaching Third & Fourth Graders to Love Writing Poetry. If you're looking for ways to introduce young students to poetry writing, I recommend all these books. What I especially like is that they include examples of poems written by students the same age mentioned in the title. By sharing these examples, we can help our students see that they, too, can write poetry. Yesterday's group poetry-writing activity was a great success. I hope today's goes as well.
During the visit, I also shared a bit of personal good news: a few days ago I learned my poem, "At the Chicago Marathon" will be published in a new anthology coming out later this year called And the Crowd Goes Wild!: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, edited by Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Roemer. The anthology will include 50 poems by poets from 10 different countries. I'm thrilled and honored to have my work included in the book, which will also feature a poem by former TeachingAuthor JoAnn Early Macken, and a number of other poets whose work I admire. I'll be sure to let everyone know when the book is available.
We have a special treat here today on our TeachingAuthors blog: a Writing Workout from a Mystery Guest TeachingAuthor (MGTA). This is a new feature we're trying out, so I hope you'll let us know what you think.
[Note: I'm still waiting to hear from Mary Ann about our giveaway winner. Sorry for the delay--we'll be posting the lucky winner's name soon.]
Now, here's the plan for today: I'll share our MGTA's bio before giving you his/her Writing Workout. See if you can guess who our guest author is before I reveal the MGTA's identity at the end of the post. (No fair looking up the MGTA's books online to find out the author's name!) Then let us know if you guessed correctly, or if the MGTA is someone who's work is new to you. You can respond via a comment, or send us an email.
Our first MGTA is the author of numerous books for young readers. MGTA's most recent publications are two young-adult novels, Dark of the Moon (Harcourt) and King of Ithaka (Henry Holt), and the four books in the middle-grade series, The Sherlock Files (Henry Holt). Nonfiction includes The Ancient Greek World and The Ancient Chinese World (The World in Ancient Times, Oxford University Press). This author was the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Regional Advisor for the Midsouth from 1999 to 2009 and is now SCBWI’s Regional Advisor Coordinator. MGTA was awarded the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant in 2005 and a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1994. MGTA holds a B.A. with Honors in Classics from Brown University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval Italian Literature from the University of California at Berkeley. This author lives in Nashville, TN and recently retired from teaching at Vanderbilt University.
Have you identified our guestyet? Perhaps this MGTA's description of his/her path to becoming a TeachingAuthor will help:
Hi, everybody! So glad to be here at TeachingAuthors.
I was a college professor for 28 years, but not of creative writing! I taught Italian, and my students had to write in both English and Italian, especially when I taught Grammar and Composition. My students told me that they learned a lot about writing in general, not just writing in Italian, from that class! Occasionally I also taught classes in children’s literature and in writing for young readers. A few years into my teaching career I started writing for young readers, starting with nonfiction. I added fiction and now happily write both.
I like reading and writing stories that explore a familiar story from a point of view (POV) that we don’t usually hear from. I’ve written King of Ithaka, a version of the Odyssey as told by Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, and Dark of the Moon, the myth of the Minotaur as seen by the Minotaur’s sister, A
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Like much of the United States, Illinois is experiencing a terrible drought this year. Earlier this month, the USDA declared 98 of Illinois's 102 counties "disaster areas" because of the combination of drought and heat. Interestingly, the county I live in is one of the few NOT designated a disaster area. You'd never guess it from looking at the parched lawns around here.
I was inspired to suggest the topic of "writing droughts" to the TeachingAuthors team after reading "A Writer's (non) Drought" by my friend Leanne Pankuch on her blog. Leanne quotes a local meteorologist as saying, “Drought begets drought,” and talks about how the phrase is as true about writing as it is about weather. I agree.
If you're not familiar with the term, here's Cameron's description of it from her blog:
The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore
something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly
“artistic”– think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the
imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about
the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner
well of images and inspiration.