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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Esther Hershenhorn, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Happy Blogi-VERSE-ary!!!!!

Hip (to the 5th power) Hooray!
It’s our Blogiversary!!!!!
Our TeachingAuthors group blog has been teaching authors since April of 2009!

To celebrate the occasion, we’re celebrating you!  Enter our Raffle drawing to win one of FIVE Blogiversary Book Bundles – each bundle a set of five books hand-selected by a TeachingAuthor that includes at least one autographed TeachingAuthor book.  Check the end of this post for details.

But wait!
It’s also our Blogi-VERSE-ary, so smartly re-named by our reader Mary Lee of A Year of Reading, because we six TeachingAuthors chose to celebrate the occasion by reciting our favorite poem in honor of Poetry Month.

I suggested the idea once I read about the Poetry Foundation’s current Favorite Poem Project: Chicago which grew out of former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky’s national Favorite Poem Project – Americans Saying Poems They Love which celebrates poetry as a vocal art. 

Poetry Foundation President Robert Polito shared in his project description that “a favorite poem can be a talisman or mantra, a clue, landmark or guiding star and dwells deep down in our psyches.”

Thank you for your interest in the Favorite Poem Project: Chicago. Check this page regularly to view the six videos in the series which will be release twice each week starting on Monday, April 14.Hana Bajramovic
"The Order of Key West" by Wallace Stevens
Naomi Beckwith
"The Children of the Poor" by Gwendolyn Brooks
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
"Chicago" by Carl Sandburg
Thank you for your interest in the Favorite Poem Project: Chicago. Check this page regularly to view the six videos in the series which will be release twice each week starting on Monday, April 14.Hana Bajramovic
"The Order of Key West" by Wallace Stevens
Naomi Beckwith
"The Children of the Poor" by Gwendolyn Brooks
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
"Chicago" by Carl
FYI: the Poetry Foundation, located in beautiful downtown Chicago, is an amazing resource – for writers and readers, for teachers, of course, but really-and-truly, for anyone human.
To plan a (highly-recommended) visit, click here.
To explore the children’s poetry resources, click here. 
Students can find recitation tips and look for poems here.
Teachers can learn all about Poetry Out Loud in the classroom by clicking here.
So you’re never without a poem nearby, click here to download the Poetry App.

The poem I chose to recite via SoundCloud (and – fingers-crossed – successfully uploaded to today’s post so you can hear it) is Robert Louis Stevenson’s MY SHADOW.

The poem dwells deep, deep, deep in my psyche, placed there by my mean-spirited third grade teacher Miss Atmore at Philadelphia’s Overbrook Elementary.  (Think every gruesome teacher Raoul Dahl created, to the max (!), down to the spit that sprayed the air when she’d lean in close to admonish a mistake.)

In between Halloween and Thanksgiving of that third grade year, each of us was to choose, memorize and then recite before the class eight lines of a poem.  I instantly knew the poem I’d choose.  I treasured my copy of A CHILD’S GARDEN OFVERSES.  How could I not choose my favorite poem, My Shadow? I loved the poem’s sing-song rhythms; I loved its playfulness. I even recall jumping rope while I recited the poem, practicing, practicing, practicing.  I so wanted to get it right.  Standing before my classmates in the front of my classroom, beside Miss Atmore seated dispassionately at her desk, demanded Courage and Moxie, both of which I lacked.

"My poem is My Shadow,” I bravely began, and Miss Atmore stopped me, cold, mid-sentence.
“Po-em is a two-syllable word, child!” she shouted. “How many times must I tell you all that?!  Now raise your head, start again and this time, for goodness sake, speak the words correctly!”
The rhythm of the lines ran away (probably scared); I mispronounced "India" as "Indian." All I could do was stare at the two shiny pennies that adorned my new brown loafers. 
But that failed recitation serves as a landmark. Thanks to Miss Atmore, I knew then and there that when – I – grew up to be a teacher someday, everything that Miss Atmore was, I would spend my lifetime making sure I wasn't.                                (IIllustration by Ted Rand)                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Ironically, when I was first trying my hand at writing for children, I wrote a poem entitled “P-O-E-M is a Two-syllable Word.” In time the title became a line in the first poem I ever sold, to Ebony Jr. magazine.  I’ve searched high-and-low for my copy so I might share the poem, but alas, no luck.  Even today, I can’t speak the word “poem” without enunciating clearly its two two-letter syllables.

           My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head.
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow –
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes goes so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close behind me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

[Note: If you're receiving this post via email, here's the link to the Sound Cloud reading of Robert Louis Stevenson's My Shadow by Esther Hershenhorn ]

             * * * * * * * *
I offer at least five bundles of thanks to you, our readers, for embracing our blog, and to my fellow TeachingAuthors too – Jill Esbaum, JoAnn Early Macken, Carmela Martino, Laura Purdie Salas, April Halprin Wayland and currently in absentia but always in my heart, Mary Ann Rodman and Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford, for embracing me.

I did indeed find that long-ago missing Moxie and each of you makes sure I maximize it bi-monthly.

Here’s to a month of poetic celebrations!

 Oh, and don’t forget to enter our BlogiversaryRaffle to win one of FIVE Blogiversary Book Bundles. 

Good Luck!

Esther Hershenhorn

0 Comments on Happy Blogi-VERSE-ary!!!!! as of 4/14/2014 11:15:00 AM
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2. My (NON) Writing Ritual: For Times When I'm Lost

I’m here to report:
there are those times when even though I’ve ritualistically readied myself to write, I am unable to move forward with my story.

I lose my way somehow.
My fingers freeze.
My North Star is elsewhere playing Hide-and-Seek.

The Good News, however?
Like that wondrous woman who lives inside our cars’ or devices’ GPS,
the one who expertly and melodically repositions our course when we turn left instead of right or bypass our designated Exit or come to a grinding halt at the wrong destination,
I know how to RECALCULATE!

Here’s my 3-Step Easy Ritual for finding my way back.

I take myself away from my writing space, sit still and quietly re-read the encouraging hope-filled greeting cards I’ve mailed myself the past 37 years (!) while out-and-about on my Writer’s Journey.

Next I re-read and think on the inspirational quotes I’ve tucked away inside my treasured Hansel and Gretl box.

#3Finally I empty my beautiful one-of-a-kind carpet bag of its contents - the notes, letters and Thank You’s I’ve received, and read my way through, savoring the words,

especiallyand always those penned long-ago by my fellow TeachingAuthor Carmela Martino when I sold, at long last, my very first picture book.

Before I know it,
I’ve recalibrated my compass, refueled my heart and found my way home to my keyboard and story.

Happy Writing – and – Recalculating (if and when needed)!

Esther Hershenhorn

The above Rx is a true-blue twofer; the 3-step ritual helps me REBOOT too!

Let’s hear it for that hard-working second-chance prefix RE! Where would we be without it?

0 Comments on My (NON) Writing Ritual: For Times When I'm Lost as of 3/17/2014 11:37:00 AM
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3. Real Life Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

4 Comments on Real Life Fiction, last added: 8/14/2013
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4. Listen Up and Share a (Real Life) Story!

I love how good ol’ Serendipity works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Esther Hershenhorn

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

Click HERE for the Details.


3 Comments on Listen Up and Share a (Real Life) Story!, last added: 8/26/2013
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5. Mushing Through the Days (and Middles) of our Lives

I am unabashedly a Big Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford Fan.
Like our readers and my fellow TA’s, I shall sorely miss her Monday posts.

Who else but Jeanne Marie could spend her days telling the sentimental soap opera saga of the rootable Hortons – “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives!” - while grounding our TeachingAuthors readers in the Truthful Realities of her Every-Day’s-a-Balancing-Act Writer’s Life?

No wonder my Favorite Jeanne Marie post is “The Middle,” with her March 15, 2010 “Job Description” a close second.

“In life,” Jeanne Marie wrote in her January 2 New Year’s post in 2012, “it occurs to me that we tend to focus a tremendous amount of our energy and attention on beginnings and endings -- the weddings and the funerals, as it were.  But it's the vast middle that comprises the bulk of our existence.  Likewise, in writing, we start with an idea -- a character, a situation, a premise.  Usually we know where we want to start and where we want to go.  But it's the getting there that makes the story, breaks the story, or too often stops us from finishing the story.  After the sexy thrill of the beginning fades, we must still live there, in the treacherous middle, for a very long time before we can ever type THE END.
“Ain’t that the truth!” I sighed.

It just so happens, speaking of soap operas, I am the Susan Lucci of Children’s Books.
I know all about Middles.
My Children’s Book Writing Quest had a Middle so vast, four American Presidents came and went, and two were re-elections.

My Beginning was terrific.  It got me going.
My Ending was even better than I’d – continually and creatively - imagined.
Making it through my Middle, though, proved my mettle.

Because that’s what Middles do, be they the sagging centers of the stories we write or the seemingly never-ending mid-sections of the writer’s story we’re living.
They prove our mettle, as in strength of character and spirited determination.
Think courage, bravery, guts, grit, nerve, pluck, resolve, valor, vigor and cojones.
Everything our Heroes and Heroines must do we must do too.
We keep on keepin' on.

At the end of Jeanne Marie’s post, she shared her writing mantra – “Slow and steady,” giving me another opportunity to shout “Ain’t that the truth!”

As luck would have it, while thinking about Middles and today’s post, I received my daily email from marketing guru Seth Godin.  It was titled “The Red Lantern.”  Thank you to my writer, Dr. Carol Swartz of UNC Charlotte, for connecting me to this brilliant blog and thank you, Seth Godin, for gifting me with the perfect ending to my Jeanne Marie tribute.

The Red Lantern Award is presented to the Iditarod musher who makes it through that grueling event's middle and finishes... last.  Godin put forth that this type of award should be offered more often, for all sorts of endeavors - school projects, performances, competitions. 

This year, the Red Lantern Award was presented to rookie musher Christine Roalofs on March 17.  She and her team made it to Nome from Willow in 13 days, 22 hours, 36 minutes and 8 seconds.
That’s a whole lot of sand (and snow and mud) through the hourglass!

Thank you, Jeanne Marie, for grounding me in the Real World these past four years.  You kept me keeping on.

Onward and mush!

Your Fan Esther Hershenhorn

3 Comments on Mushing Through the Days (and Middles) of our Lives, last added: 9/16/2013
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6. Read a Book. Stop a Bully.

Meet 11-year-old Jack.
He’s funny. He’s inventive. He has a rich and loving family that includes his very busy Mum, his rather odd Nana, his sort-of-stepdad Rob and his sister Samantha.   
He likes everything most boys his age do, whether they live in the U.S. or Australia: going to school, learning, hanging out with his friends.
How perfect his Life would be if only his classmate George Hamel vanished!
Alas, a lame joke on Jack’s part led to George calling him a “Butt head.” Once the whole school joined in, Jack’s school days spelled D-A-N-G-E-R.

Jack shares his plight in the award-winning I AM JACK, a rite-of-passage children’s book in Australia lauded as “accessible and hilarious…an absolute must.” Published in the U.S. by KaneMiller in 2012, School Library Journal called I AM JACK “a solid addition to the growing collection of books about bullying.”
Jack’s first engagingly-told novel was adapted into a successfully-touring play in Australia and will begin its U.S. run in 2014.
His second and third novels include ALWAYS JACK (which deals with cancer in families) and SUPER JACK (which deals with blended families.)

Now meet Jack’s creator, Susanne Gervay, the award-winning, Order of Australia for Literature author whom I proudly call friend, colleague and SCBWI Kin. (Susanne serves as the Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s Eastern Australia and New ZealandChapter.)

Jack, it turns out, was based on Susanne’s real-life son Jack.

“When I discovered that Jack was being bullied, I fulfilled my Jack's worst nightmare. Yes, I went up to the school. Yes, he was scared. Yes, the school acted. Yes, the bully was called up.
It took six months for things to really change. Eventually my Jack worked through the bullying with the support of family, friends, the school. By the end he felt good about himself, had great friends, loved his school, did his school work, played soccer and learnt that society can be a fair place.”

Susanne shared with me an email that followed her recent school visit to a multicultural state school, the Bankstown Public School in Sydney.  Here’s what Akila in 5p posted on the class blog:

“At first if someone calls you names like Bumhead (poor Jack) it's funny, the next time it's just nothing, a million times feels like ok you can stop now and a jillion times equals AHHHHHH I had enough!" Remember what Susanne Gervay said. Teasing is not bullying. Bullying affects you in a different way. It makes you scared. We can help stop bullying in many ways! You've got to give a helping hand and help someone else in trouble. And remember George Hamel? Well I remember Susanne saying that he had supporters which can happen here too. Bullying can happen at anytime and anywhere. If you're bullied then tell somebody. Your family and friends are there to love and help you so appreciate that!”
Exploring the website for National Bullying Prevention Month, sponsored by Pacer, I was taken with the Pacer Center tag – “Champions for Children with Disabilities.”
“Disables,” I said to myself. “That’s what bullying – in any form, does.  It DIS-ables the victim.”
But as Jack says in the KaneMiller book sticker that introduces this post,
reading stops a bully.
Reading EN-ables – the victim, the aggressor, the observer – to take action.
Or at least it can and should, with the right book.

I applaud MaryAnn and April for sharing their vulnerability so honestly in last week’s posts, and in the books and poems they write.
I applaud Susanne Gervay for doing the same in I AM JACK.

Marian Dane Bauer spoke the Truth in WHAT’S YOUR STORY?: we need to put our own stories in the stories we write if they’re ever to resound in our readers’ hearts, if they're ever to enable them to do what needs doing.

go read a book and stop a bully!

Esther Hershenhorn

Don’t forget! The October 9 deadline looms for our Book Giveaway of Alexis O’Neill’s newest book The Kite That Bridged Two Nations.

2 Comments on Read a Book. Stop a Bully., last added: 10/7/2013
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7. WWW: Holly Thompson's Poetry with a Plot!

Today’s Wednesday Writing Workout comes from Holly Thompsona fellow TeachingAuthor, just in time to celebrate yesterday’s Delacorte/Random House release of her second young adult novel in verse, The Languge Inside.

The novel tells the story of Emma Karas “who was raised in Japan; it’s the country she calls home.  But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma’s family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma’s grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

Emma feels out of place in the United States. She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother's urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena's poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.”

The starred School Library Journal review called the novel “a sensitive and compelling read that will inspire teens to contemplate how they can make a difference.”

Kirkus described the novel as “an artistic picture of devastation, fragility, bonds and choices.”

The Horn Book Magazine remarked that “readers will finish the book knowing that, like Zena, the Cambodian refugees, and the tsunami victims, Emma has the strength to ‘a hundred times fall down / a hundred and one times get up.’”

 Many TeachingAuthors readers met Holly in 2011 when my March 16 Student Success Story interview celebrated the release of her first young adult novel in verse, Orchards.

Orchards went on to win the APALA Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

Raised in Massachusetts, Holly earned a B.A. in biology from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. in English (concentration creative writing/fiction) from New York University’s Creative Writing Program. A longtime resident of Japan, Holly teaches creative writing at Yokohama City University and also serves as Regional Advisor for the Japan Chapter of SCBWI.  Holly’s fiction often relates to Japan and Asia.

Congratulations, Holly, on yet another successful book!

And, thank you for sharing your expertise with our TeachingAuthors readers – who happen to have only until Sunday, May 19 to enter our TeachingAuthors Blogiversary Giveaway!

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

Esther Hershenhorn

. . . . . . . . 

Holly Thompson’s Wednesday Writing Workout: Poetry with a Plot

When I do author school visits, I love to introduce students to narrative poems and narrative verse and get them started on writing their own. You can write and/or teach this type of poetry, too – poetry I call “Poetry with a Plot.”


1. Gather some narrative poems—poems that tell a story—to share with students. Examples are Gary Soto’s Oranges,” Jeffrey Harrison’s “Our Other Sister,” Naomi Shihab Nye’s “My Father and theFig Tree,” and “Fifteen” or  Traveling Through The Dark,” by William Stafford, and my poem “Cod” (published in PoetryFriday Anthology Middle School

2. Also gather some verse novels. Select one scene to share with students. Choose a scene that has a fairly clear beginning, middle and end. Chapter 22, Visitors, of my novel Orchards is an example of a scene in verse with a clear plot arc.

3. Create a list of situations to share with students. Here are a few examples of some situations that I like to use:

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

With the students:

1. Read the narrative poems aloud. For each narrative poem, ask students to react. Ask: What lines or stanzas do you like? Why? What is the mini plot of the poem—what happens in this poem? Then have them look at the structure and style of the poem. Ask: Do the structure and style help create the narrative? How?

2. Read aloud a scene from a verse novel. Ask students to react. Ask: What lines or stanzas do you like? What lines move you? What lines are powerful? Where did your breath catch? Where did the pace pick up or slow down? Why? What is the basic plot arc of the scene? Did any action happen off the page? How did the writer structure the scene and create tension—with repetition, white space, short lines, long lines, particular images, or sounds and rhythms?

3. Next, give students your list of situations. Have students brainstorm examples of the various types of situations. Students will then choose one type of situation from which to create a narrative poem or scene in verse. Point out, for example, that “Oranges” can be considered a first time poem; “Our Other Sister” a lie poem; “Fifteen” and “Traveling Through the Dark” decision poems; and “Cod” a betrayal poem. Chapter 22 in Orchards might be considered an encounter scene. Tell students they can start from a true situation, or partially fictionalize a situation, or veer away from actual truth to completely fictionalize a situation.

4. After students create first drafts of their narrative poems or scenes, have them work at revising, individually and in peer workshops, checking for the narrative arc, details, poetic elements, line breaks and spacing.

5. Finally when students have polished their work, have students read, perform, create multimedia presentations, publish in zines or submit their narrative poems or scenes in verse to school magazines.

 Be prepared to be amazed! Good luck and let me know if you try this approach to introducing narrative poems and and narrative verse.

                                               # # #


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

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

When I first read Nancy’s manuscripts, some 19 years ago, I knew instantly: she was the Real Thing, ripe with talent, original stories and a unique voice.  Her teaching experience showed through, too, helping her target the right format for the right story for the right reader.

Nancy also evinced Passion, with a capital P, and enough Perseverance to serve three children’s book writers no matter where they were in their careers.

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

Today she’s represented by Holly Root of the Waxman Leavell Literary Agency; Kirkus starred This Journal Belongs to Ratchet; and Sourcebooks just bought her second middle grade novel!  She also contributes to the group blog of the debut authors of 2013 – the Lucky 13’s.

A Student Success Story indeed.

As for Ratchet's "Student Success Story," she spends her days fixing cars with her dad in the garage, living in a world of spark plugs, pistons, and crankshafts –not exactly normal for an eleven-year-old girl. Even with the odds stacked against her, Ratchet endeavors to change her life and realizes her skill as a mechanic might just be the path to her first friend. But in the process, she alienates her father and discovers a secret she wishes she never knew. She finds a way to, not only accept the truth she discovers, but also accept herself and her dad.

As I wrote in a blurb for Sourcebooks, “Readers will fall in love with eleven-year-old Rachel, nick-named Ratchet by her car mechanic-environmentalist Dad, as she writes from her Life in her Home School Language Arts Journal, wanting to repair what’s broken, needing to replace the missing parts, so her very own engine can run true and on course.  Ratchet’s journal proves a user-friendly Instruction Manual for readers – and especially writers – eager to discover the wonder of their own life stories.”

I’ve been sharing this original story in this original format with teachers and Young Authors since I received my ARC from Nancy in February.  All love the book – and Ratchet - as much as I do.
Be sure to enter our TeachingAuthors Book Giveaway for AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF This Journal Belongs to Ratchet.  Include a shout-out for your Favorite Car – real, imagined, long-ago, present, fictional, cinematic, even longed-for.  The deadline to enter is June 3. See contest details following the interview below.

And, also be sure to check back in two days for Nancy J. Cavanaugh’s Wednesday Writing Workout!

Thank you, Nancy J. Cavanaugh, Children’s Book Author (!), for sharing your Writer's Journey, yourself and This Journal Belongs to Ratchet with our TeachingAuthors readers.

Esther Hershenhorn

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

We first worked together privately in the early 90’s when you were just beginning “your race to the finish line,” on two picture books that still remain in my heart and on my brain’s Hard Drive.  Do you recall what you were hoping to learn – and – what you indeed took away – about writing, the Children’s Book World, publishing - so you could keep on writing?

I was hoping to take my writing to the next level, so my questions were:  Do I have all the essential parts of the story?  And, what will make my story marketable?  Two things I remember learning from you:  1. not to miss opportunities – opportunities to develop my characters, opportunities to add layers to my story, opportunities to add emotion to the overall plot;   2. to dig deep and find out what my story was REALLY about – not just on the surface, not just what was happening, but what “life thing” the story was really about.

I’ve always considered your classroom teaching experiences That Extra Something that bolstered both your writing and the stories you chose to tell.  Please share how your teaching impacted, influenced and inspired your writing?

As a teacher, and then later as a librarian, I got to read SO many books aloud to students, and I had the opportunity to see what young people were reading and what they liked best.  That’s sort of the obvious way in which my school experience helped my writing, but something not quite so obvious is the impact of the repetition of certain stories over the years.  There are many books which I read over and over throughout the years, and as I did this, I was learning the patterns of language that we find in stories.  These patterns were practically becoming engrained in my DNA.  The understanding of what “story” really is was becoming part of my soul.  I believe that understanding of story is always at work in me now as I write.

What kept you going all these years so you could indeed cross your much-desired Finish Line? 

Wonderful writing friends.
Enriching experiences (researching topics, attending meetings, conferences, workshops, and retreats)
The satisfaction of always having something to strive for
Small successes along the way (having articles and short stories published in magazines and books)

How did Ratchet’s story come to be – and – why did you choose a home-schooled student’s journal as her storytelling vehicle?

The idea started with a character, and her name was always Ratchet.  My ideas usually start that way, and then I let my imagination dream up what the character’s issues are and what her story might be.  I chose Homeschooling for Ratchet because it seemed to be the best way to isolate her.  Also, because of her father, it made sense that he wouldn’t want her to go to school in mainstream society.   The idea of writing through the assignments in Ratchet’s journal came to me in the very beginning, but it took a lot of figuring out along the way in order to tell the whole story in this format. 

What about the revision process for This Journal Belongs to Ratchet? How did your agent Holly Root and your Sourcebooks editor Aubrey Poole help you fine-tune the manuscript to earn a prized Kirkus-starred review.

My agent Holly is a wonderful editor and always has helpful suggestions before we send something out, but I had already done a great deal of revising before sending it to Holly, so we didn’t really have to do much – just a few tweaks here and there.   When my editor Aubrey read Ratchet, though she loved the character and the story, she asked for revisions even before Sourcebooks acquired it.  She gave me some specific direction as to what she was looking for and thankfully I was able to deliver.  After Sourcebooks bought the manuscript, Aubrey and I did two more rounds of revisions, and I absolutely loved it because she’s a fabulous editor.  She always had an amazing vision for what the book could be, and she guided me so that my writing would get there.  I also have to add here that Aubrey worked hard to get just the right cover and artwork for Ratchet, and I think that has really made this book stand out and become something special – so much more than I ever imagined.

Finally, can you let us in on your next book, also to be published by Sourcebooks?  :-)

My next book will be coming in Fall 2014 and will be another alternative format.  The entire story is told in lists, letters, and writing assignments, in which a girl named Abigail uses her language arts class’s Friendly Letter Project to cope with the worst school year ever – and in the process turns it into the best year ever.

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

And now, for the giveaway details:

Our blogiversary giveaway was such a success that we're again using Rafflecopter to run this giveaway. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, you may want to read their info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and/or the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

To enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky) log into Rafflecopter below (via either Facebook or an email address). You'll see that we've provided three different options for entering the giveaway--you can pick one or up to all three. The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. While we haven't made it a requirement, we hope that everyone will pick the first option--subscribing to the TeachingAuthors blog. If you're already a TeachingAuthors subscriber, you still need to click on that button and tell us how you follow our blog, which will give you THREE entries in the giveaway! (If you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to enter.)

As it says in the "Terms and Conditions," this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. You must be 18 or older to enter. And please note: email addresses will only be used to contact winners. The giveaway will run from now through June 3, 2013. Winners will be notified June 4, 2013.

If you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.
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14 Comments on Student Success Story Interview and Book Giveaway with Nancy J. Cavanaugh, last added: 6/4/2013
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9. Wednesday Writing Workout: Ratchet Up Your Writing with Revision

Now you – and/or - your students - can write a Success Story, thanks to the Revision Tips our Monday Student Success Story Interviewee, children’s book author Nancy J. Cavanaugh, shares in today’s Wednesday Writing Workout!
Thanks, Nancy, for introducing our readers to ThePlot Whisperer, Martha Alderson.

And, Readers: if you haven't already done so, go to Monday's post to enter our TeachingAuthors Book Giveaway to win an autographedcopy of Nancy’s debut novel Ratchet (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky).
Let’s hear it for that prefix “re”!

Esther Hershenhorn

* * * *  * * *
My main character Ratchet knows a lot about engines, and I know just a little bit too.  The way I learned about engines was by taking them apart.  Taking something apart is a really great way to learn how it works.  It’s also a great way to figure out what’s wrong with something when it doesn’t work.  When you bring your car to a mechanic, you don’t expect him to open the hood and just stare at the engine.  You expect him to get out his tools and start taking things apart.  It’s really the same way with writing.  It’s called revision, and it gets messy.  When you finish a draft, your first inclination is to love it and to think it’s perfect.  It feels so rewarding to have that clean copy in your hands, and it looks so good!  But, the reality is, if you want to make it better and take it to the next level, it’s got to get messy all over again. 

Martha Alderson’s Blockbuster Plots and The Plot Whisperer provide me a lot of direction when I am taking apart a manuscript.  In her books and DVDs, Martha uses a plot planner and a scene tracker.  Very simply put, it’s a method of taking apart your story by listing each scene.  Putting your story into this format allows you to get your head around the whole thing at one time.  Listing your scenes this way enables you to determine whether each scene works within itself and to determine whether each scene works within the overall plot.  Taking apart your manuscript his way also helps you clarify which parts of the overall plot are not working or what parts are missing altogether.  (Martha’s books and DVDs give detailed instructions on how to create the scene tracker and plot planner.  Check out Martha’s website to learn more.
At first, Martha’s method seemed much too tedious and time consuming.  I didn’t want to take apart my manuscript piece by piece after I had worked so hard to write it, but when I finally got tired of my story not working, I decided to give it a try.  I did my own version of Martha’s scene tracker and plot planner, but I used her basic format to find what was missing in my plot and make my story stronger.  It took a lot of work, a lot of time, and made a big mess of my manuscript; but if I hadn’t taken things apart in this way, I never would’ve been able to see what was really wrong with my story and why it wasn’t working. 

My advice?  Find a revision method that works for you, and take the time to do it because when it comes to revision there really are no shortcuts.  Taking apart your story is necessary, and that takes time and gets messy, but when you put in the time and clean up the mess, your story will run like a race car.
                                                        # # #

6 Comments on Wednesday Writing Workout: Ratchet Up Your Writing with Revision, last added: 5/24/2013
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10. Links for Easy Summertime Living and Learning

Why not make the living – AND – the learning easy this Summertime by signing up to receive daily and/or weekly emails from three of my very favorite all-year-long online services?
(1)   A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg

The New York Times called A.Word.A.Day “The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace.”

Monday through Friday, subscribers receive a new word, one of five purposefully grouped words that underscore a particular teaching point.
This past week?
Selected words were those that appeared to be misspellings:


How fun to learn why and how they weren’t!

Take a look at Friday’s post for jargon to see all that each post offers:

noun: A colorless, pale yellow, or smoky variety of zircon.
From French jargon, from Italian giargone, from Persian zargun (golden). Earliest documented use: 1769.
"The genial jeweler then suggested white jargoon."
P.G. Wodehouse; The Intrusion of Jimmy; W.J. Watt and Co.; 1910.

Explore "jargoon" in the Visual Thesaurus.
The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. -Daniel J. Boorstin, historian, professor, attorney, and writer (1914-2004)

I especially enjoy the Visual Thesaurus.
I especially appreciate the added inclusion of previous days’ words, just in case the definitions and pronunciations had somehow lost their place on my brain’s Hard Drive.

Click here to increase your vocabulary on a daily basis.  
You can send a Gift Subscription too!

(2)  TransparentLanguage – Learn a New Word a Day in a Foreign Language!

Thanks to my bi-lingual Brazilian-born grandson, Brazilian Portuguese is my Transparent language of choice.

Truthfully, I still don’t speak this language well – and my sweet, sweet lindo namerado (little boyfriend) recently turned three.
BUT, I do understand his words and conversation.

I especially love the ability to hear a native speak the word, not only by itself but in a sentence.
And like A.Word.A.Day, I can always return to previous words that – somehow – refused to stick. J

Today’s entry?
Portuguese word:          Amanhã
English translation:      Tomorrow
Part of speech:              Adverb
Portuguese examples:  Meu filho chega amanhã de sua viagem.
English examples:         My son arrives tomorrow from his trip.

I have always relied on Booklist, the bi-monthly review journal of the American Library Association, available at most libraries, to keep me sharp and smart when it comes to the best of the children’s books being published.

I’m happy to report that many free Booklist offerings are now available online.
For example,
the Great Reads page, with terrific book recommendations for both kids and adults,
the Bookends blog by Cindy and Lynn,
the monthly youth e-newsletters Quick Tips, aimed at connecting books to the classroom, and the new e-newsletter focused on YA Books, Booklandia,
and the free Webinars. 

Maybe amanhã you'll check out the above, thus making sure your summer's living and learning are easy?

Esther Hershenhorn

1 Comments on Links for Easy Summertime Living and Learning, last added: 6/11/2013
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11. A Winning Writer's Jump-Start: Lee & Low's New Voices Contest

Today’s post not only officially restarts our TeachingAuthors blog after a brief Summer Hiatus.
It jump-starts our writers’ engines with a winning opportunity: Lee & Low’s New Voices Contest.
That’s right: jump-starts.
IMHO, a Writing Contest serves as the perfect external battery to get any writer goinggoinggoing and moving forward.

Think Motivation – i.e. publication, prize money, a publisher’s attention, for example.
Think Focus – i.e. a specific format, theme or subject matter.
Think Opportunity – i.e. a guaranteed reading and audience!
And don’t forget DEADLINE – in this case, September 30, 2013.
(Deadlines excel at keeping writers writing.)

For those unfamiliar with this independent publisher, Lee & Low Books focuses on diversity, specializing in high quality multicultural children’s books.  The company’s mission is “to meet the need for stories that all children can identify with and enjoy.  They pride themselves on books about everyone, for everyone.

Established in 2000, the annual New Voices Award is given to a writer of color of a children’s picture book manuscript. The Award winner receives a cash prize of $1,000 and Lee & Low’s standard publication contract, including the basic advance and royalties for a first-time author.  An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $500.

Check out these published winners that went on to win – other - awards: Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The SammyLee Story and TheBlue Roses.

Writers who have published other work in venues such as children’s magazines, young adult or adult fiction or nonfiction are eligible.  Only un-agented submissions will be accepted.

Work that has been published in any format published online or independently is not eligible for this award.

To click on the previous years’ winners and learn more about embracing this winning opportunity, click HERE. 

As luck would have it, in her recent June 27 blog post, Anastasia Suen interviewed Pamela Tuck, author of AS FAST AS WORDS COULD FLY which won the 2007 Lee & Low New Voices Award.  This debut picture book tells a story based on Ms. Tuck’s dad’s journey of desegregating the Pitt County School System in Greenville, NC in the 1960’s.

Of course, when it comes to Writing Contests and external batteries, it goes without saying: one might lose the Contest but still drive away a Winner.

Just last month, one of my students shared her Good News that while she hadn’t won the Highlights Fiction Contest this year, the magazine wished to purchase her story in rhyme for publication!

And two months ago, another writer’s Honorable Mention in a themed blog’s picture book contest kept her believing in and submitting her original manuscript.

I love sharing with Young Writers how Christopher Paul Curtis’ college manuscript became the novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham which eventually lost out in the no-longer-offered Delacorte Contest.  But he did win an editor (Wendy Lamb) plus the chance to revise, allowing the book to go on to win a Newbery Honor.

TeachingAuthors is up and running again!
Stay tuned for more Contests to jump-start your writing.
And be sure to check out our newest Writing Contests Links page.
Good Luck!
(And keep us in the Loop.)

Esther Hershenhorn

3 Comments on A Winning Writer's Jump-Start: Lee & Low's New Voices Contest, last added: 7/18/2013
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12. :) A New Baby Board Book - and Giveaway! :)

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

You read that title right:
Txtng Mama Txtng Baby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C U Wednesday 4 a WWW!

Esther Hershenhorn

                                                       * * * 

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

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

You’ll see you have three different options for entering the giveaway: you can pick one or up to all three.  The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. (If you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to enter.) 

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

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

Good Luck!

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25 Comments on :) A New Baby Board Book - and Giveaway! :), last added: 8/20/2013
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13. A-txtng U Shall Go! - a Wednesday Writing Workout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


              A-txtng U shall go!

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

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

What’s the time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

              :)  TXTNG  :(

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, I needed to read and understand the research.

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

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

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

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

10 Q for letting me share.

 And Happy Poetry Friday!

 Esther Hershenhorn

7 Comments on Babies and Toddlers and Txtng, O My!, last added: 8/10/2013
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15. November Preview, with a Special Invitation for Teachers

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:
[1] 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.

Finally, for those participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) or Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), good luck!

Happy writing!

2 Comments on November Preview, with a Special Invitation for Teachers, last added: 10/30/2012
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16. Treats and Tricks: My Q & A with Teaching Agent-Author Mary Kole

Today’s release of the hands-on how-to book for middle grade and young adult writers Writing Irresistible Kidlit (Writer’s Digest) gifts Moveable Type literary agent and KidLit.com creator Mary Kole with yet one more title:  Teaching Agent-Author.

Subtitled The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers, Mary’s interactive book offers up a bevy of agent-learned tricks, treats and best of all tools certain to help writers learn and hone their craft as well as their world.  She shares writing exercises, candid commentary and a collection of book excerpts and personal insights from bestselling authors and editors who specialize in the children’s book market.

Mary joined Movable Type from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency where she distinguished herself as an inventive and entrepreneurial agent.  Her books include author-illustrator Lindsay Wards’ When Blue Met Egg (Dial), Emily Hainsworth’s YA debut Through to You (Balzer + Bray) and Dianna Winget’s A Smidget of Sky (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).  KidLit.com was named one of Writer’s Digest’s Top 100 Websites for Writers; over 50,000 readers visit the site monthly.

This being Halloween, a favorite holiday of just about every children’s book writer and teacher I know, I consider Mary’s answers to my questions both below delicious, calorie-free Treats and writer-friendly Tricks, plural.

For one more Treat, be sure to read below of our TeachingAuthor Book Giveaway of the 2013 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market (Writer’s Digest) which includes two of Mary’s articles - “Crafting a Query” and “Building Your Author Platform.”

(1) How did you become a Teaching (Agent) Author?

I became an agent after reading for free at an agency to learn more about the publishing business. But I've always been passionate about teaching others, so I knew that I wanted to pass on what I was learning to writers. The publishing business is often difficult to wrap one's head around, so I wanted to pull back the curtain a little bit. I understand things better once I articulate them and explain them to others, so the teaching aspect of my work has also been invaluable to me.

(2) Why and how did your book come to be?                                 

I started out as a writer, so part of it was definitely yearning to be a published author. But the book also became a personal challenge: Do I have enough to say about the writing craft and can I say it in a way that it earns its keep on my readers' writing reference shelves hope the answer to both questions is "yes," of course, and I'm excited to see the reactions once the book is out in the world. Since I was doing a lot of programming and teaching for Writer's Digest, publishing the guide with them was a natural fit and the process of actually getting the book deal was easy. The process of writing it, though, took a lot more stress and work, but I'm very happy with the finished product.

(3) What are the Top Three problems you note in manuscripts when you’re reading as an agent?

Beginnings are tough to do well, and I often notice that writers don't start with a strong sense of the present moment and present action. A lot of beginnings have tons of backstory and info-dumping and not enough conflict to hook a reader in. In terms of character, writers can always work on motivation and objective--a really strong reason for characters to be doing what they're doing, and an overarching goal that they work toward in the story. In a prose sense, I often find myself giving the following note: "You are saying something fundamentally simple in an overly complicated way." Not everything needs to be a showcase for Writing-with-a-capital-W. Sometimes there's style in simplicity.

(4) What are the Top Three writers’ questions you receive at www.kidlit.com?

Questions about query letters are always popular, and this is the first resource I end up sending to writers:


Other than that, I've been answering writing questions on the site since 2009 and there are a lot of different concerns that writers have. I don't know if I can pick the runners up in terms of popularity.

(5) Please share a favorite Writing Exercise.

To really help writers individuate characters and think about voice, I like to ask them to describe the same scene or landscape from the POVs of two different characters. Think about syntax, word choice, what each character notices and how. This often drives home the point that each fictional person is unique and has a very distinct lens that should inform every choice that a writer is making.

(6) You’ve worn so many hats while residing in the Children’s Book World! Which do you love wearing the best?

I'd love to say "reader" but, to tell you the truth, there is no better way to frustrate one's love of reading than to actually work in publishing, where you are reading more than you ever thought possible and under time constraints. So I'll say that my favorite hat is "cheerleader," because there's no better feeling than believing in a project and championing it through to publication.

Thanks, Mary Kole, for the opportunity to bring you and your new book Writing Irresistible Fiction to the attention of our TeachingAuthor readers.
Happy Halloween!

Esther Hershenhorn
Trick or treat?  You bet!  We’re giving away one copy of the 2013 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market (Writer’s Digest)!

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, and since we’re offering a Writer’s Book, share your #1 chocolate Trick or Treat candy.

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) Wednesday, November 7, 2012. Winners will be announced Friday, November 9, 2012. Good luck to all!

11 Comments on Treats and Tricks: My Q & A with Teaching Agent-Author Mary Kole, last added: 11/8/2012
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17. Good Ol' Opportunity!

Thanks to more years on task than I’d ever imagined, I’m personally acquainted with the proverbial carrot that swings beneath our writers’ noses whilst we bravely and anxiously navigate our Writer’s Journeys. 
Its name?
We travel here, there and everywhere, despite unrewarded efforts, creatively visualizing our stories when printed and bound, covered and blurbed – in other words, published.

But you know what?
If we stop for a second and look around at our Children’s Book World, a multitude of publishing rainbows are there for our viewing before we reach our wished-for, worked-for destination.
Each offers its very own pot o’gold, an opportunity to achieve publication and thus experience pride, satisfaction, affirmation and sometimes even $$$.
There’s a treasure trove of opportunity awaiting us writers, besides the one we first set out to capture.

For instance, what about writing fiction for children’s magazines? 
Or what about writing nonfiction articles for educational publishers?
Even better, what about writing nonfiction children’s magazine articles?!

Thanks to Melissa Abramovitz’s Thumbs-Up guide, coincidentally (and appropriately) titled A Treasure Trove of Opportunity: How to Write & Sell Articles for Children’s Magazines (E & E Publishing, 2012), we can now put our writing skills, interests and talents to work mining other paths to publication.

There is indeed a market for nonfiction children's magazine articles.
Highlights senior editor Debra Hess shared with Melissa, “While we publish roughly the same amount of fiction and nonfiction in Highlights, we receive substantially more fiction submissions than nonfiction submissions.  As a result, nonfiction has a higher chance of being purchased.  We are always looking for new nonfiction writers.”

Melissa knows all about writing – for all age groups, from preschoolers through adults.  Her publishing credits include educational books on health topics, as well as science, nature and history, fiction, poetry and five rhyming picture books.  But she especially knows all about writing nonfiction magazine articles.

In this one-of-a-kind resource based on her twenty-five years of experience and extensive body of work, as well as interviews with other nonfiction magazine writers and editors, she generously shares insights she’s gleaned, proven tricks of the trade and the tools she uses to move from generating ideas to researching to structuring, on to creating whole pieces, formatting and revising, on to querying likely publishers, considering contracts and marketing your work.

Concrete learner that I am, I was especially taken with Melissa’s “Show, don’t tell” examples when making a point.  She shares her own published articles as well as those of others.  She offers the nitty-gritty details -  of referencing references, photo inclusions, author rights, and nailing a story’s audience, just to name a few.

Her listing of “salable structures” sparked all sorts of ideas:  How-to articles, puzzles, quizzes, sidebars, nonfiction verse, personal experience articles, slice-of-life or inspirational articles, profiles and as-told-to articles.

Appendix A: Grammar Gateway even offers tips on sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and unbreakable rules – good for any writer, no matter the format, genre, audience and publishing segment.

Consider this post, consider Melissa Abramovitz's book but one knock at your Writer’s Door.

(And we all know how many times Opportunity knocks.)
Happy Mining!
Esther Hershenhorn


6 Comments on Good Ol' Opportunity!, last added: 12/12/2012
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18. Good Ol' Opportunity: Redux

As reported in my December 5 post “Good Ol’ Opportunity,” in which I offered my Thumbs Up  review of Melissa Ambramovitz’s guide to writing nonfiction children’s magazine articles, A Treasure Trove of Opportunity, a multitude of publishing rainbows besides those first sought await children’s book writers on their road to publication.

In other words, Opportunity knocks often and loudly in the Children’s Book World.
Check out the following pots o’gold waiting for you should you answer your door:

(1)   Highlights Magazines Current Editorial Needs – for both nonfiction and fiction

(2)  the Highlights 2013 Fiction Contest

This coming year, the judges welcome stories of any genre (mystery, historical fiction, sports, humor, holiday, etc.) as long as the stories are intended for kids ages 6 to 8.
Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for any Highlights Founders Workshop will be awarded.
Entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2013.

(3)  The 12x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge

This is the perfect follow-up to PiBoIdMo.  
Participants will be encouraged to write one picture book draft a month, for 2013’s twelve months.
Registration is now open.
You’ll receive support, motivation and accountability, not to mention insights and instruction from authors, illustrators, editors, art directors and agents.

Please note: NaNoWriMo participants can continue learning at the challenge's blog.

Be sure to check back for the first TeachingAuthors post of the New Year when we offer our readers yet one more opportunity to work their writing muscles throughout the coming year.
Good Luck! – and – Happy Holidays!

Esther Hershenhorn
Don’t forget our TeachingAuthors  autographed Book Giveaway of former TA JoAnn Early Macken’s newest, Write a Poem Step by Step: A Simple, Logical Plan You Can Follow to Write Your Own Poems.

To enter our drawing, you must follow the
TeachingAuthors blog. 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.

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 give us your first and last name AND tell us how you follow us (via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs). If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.

Be sure to tell us about a book that influenced your own teaching or writing.
This contest is open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. The entry deadline is 11 p.m. (CST) Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Good luck!

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19. Talent, Pluck and Love, Oh, My! PLUS a Book Giveaway for Valentine's Day!

What a pleasure to introduce our readers to the talented and determined award-winning author Brenda Ferber, my unforgettable Ragdale Picture Book Workshop student, and her newest book, the picture book The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever (Dial). 

Brenda’s original story, lively writing, Positive Mental Attitude and incredible open-mindedness marked her as The Real Thing; she soaked me up and wrung me out as if I were a sponge.  I knew her moxie and PMA would help her keep the Faith and I was right: The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever collected around 70 rejections!

(Note: that particular Ragdale Workshop’s roster boasts three published children’s book creators (one an illustrator), two MFA in Writing for Children holders and two oh, so close pre-published writers.)

Brenda is the author of tween novels Julia’s Kitchen and Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire (both Farrar, Straus & Giroux).   Her newest book tells the story of Leon who’s hopelessly in love with Zoey Maloney.  But the valentine he creates for her wants nothing to do with Leon’s mushy sentiments. The valentine thinks this holiday is all about candy, and he runs away rather than suffer the embarrassment of saying "I love you." As Leon follows the valentine through town, boys, girls, and teens join the chase and chime in on their perspectives of love until finally, the conflict comes to a heart-pounding, sweaty-palm conclusion in of all places – a candy shop. 

Brenda’s website offers a free (totally adorable) downloadable activity kit to go along with the book.

Check out her invitation to join her in celebrating the book’s release by participating in a Random Act of Kindness and Love by February 14.

Finally, be sure to read how YOU can win your very own autographed copy of The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever in the Book Giveaway that follows the interview.

Enjoy and learn from one of our Children’s Book World’s Bests!

Esther Hershenhorn

                                                  * * * * * * * 

What inspired you to sign up for my 2004 Spring Picture Book Workshop at Ragdale?
I had written what I thought was a picture book manuscript that was receiving its share of rejections, so I knew I wanted someone with a great critical eye to tell me what I could do to revise it. I learned a ton from your workshop, and I ended up deciding that what I had written was not actually a picture book but rather a short story. It didn’t quite have that re-readability factor, and there weren’t enough different moments to illustrate. I could have revised it to try to make it more “picture booky,” but instead, I decided to send it to Ladybug magazine, and they bought it! That story, “A Cheer for Charlie,” was the first thing I ever published.

Do you recall any specific ways the class helped you?
I remember you telling us to study a picture book thoroughly, not just the words and pictures, but also the end papers, the flap copy, everything. Since then, I always look at the Library of Congress description on the copyright page, I always check out the author and illustrator bios, I always read the flap copy, and I always take note of end papers. Not only do beautiful endpapers (as opposed to just a solid sheet of color) indicate that the publisher has put extra care into the book, but they also set the reader up for what’s inside. I have to say that I was so pleased with the end papers for The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever. The candy hearts set the perfect tone for what’s to come when you turn the page.

You eventually went on to publish, but first the middle grade novel, Julia’s Kitchen (FSG), which won the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers , then Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinare (Farrar Straus & Giroux).  Why and how did you move from writing picture books to writing middle grade fiction?
The truth is, I always wanted to write children’s novels, but I thought that picture books would be easier. Silly me! I had this crazy fantasy that I’d whip out a few picture books, develop a relationship with an editor, and then easily write and sell novels. Not one part of that fantasy was accurate! First of all, writing picture books is way harder than writing novels (for me anyway), and even though I wrote this picture book before I wrote my novel, I wasn’t able to sell it until after I had sold two novels, and even then it wasn’t to the same editor. Second of all, no matter how many books I write and sell, it never gets any easier. But I have to admit, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the challenge.

The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever has remained in your heart despite years of rejection.  What kept you on task and what kept you believing, in this story as well as in yourself as a picture book writer?
Yes, I collected around 70 rejection letters over the course of five years for this book! The thing that kept me believing in this particular story was that I truly loved it, and I could imagine it finding a large audience. Right after college, I worked at the Leo Burnett advertising agency, and I learned there the importance of Big Ideas – specifically how to recognize when you have one and when you don’t. I believed Yuckiest Stinkiest was a Big Idea, and I knew I just had to find the right editor to see it that way. Happily, Kathy Dawson ended up being that person! Meanwhile, two things kept me believing in myself as a writer while collecting all those rejection letters. First, I’m sort of insanely optimistic, and I saw each rejection as getting one step closer to acceptance. Second, I absolutely love to revise, and I used any and all personal comments on the rejection letters as fuel for my revision. Just about everything except the initial concept changed in those five years, and the story is so much richer, funnier, and heartfelt, thanks to rejection.

You’re not only a Student Success Story – you’re a Teacher Success Story!  What insights that you gleaned from the learning process do you make sure you share with your learning writers?
When I was revising my first novel, Julia’s Kitchen, with my wonderful editor at FSG (Beverly Reingold), I learned the most important thing I’ve ever learned as a writer, and I try to pass that on to every student I have the privilege of coaching: Be authentic. It sounds simple, but it’s not. You’re making up a story. It’s pretend. But when a reader comes to it, it has to be 100% truthful, 100% believable. Every thought, every description, every action, every emotion, it all has to be real. So I tell my students (and myself) to imagine that you’re writing a true story. It’s a story that happened to a friend of yours, and you’re telling your best friend about it over coffee. If there are any places in the story where your best friend would say, “What? No way? I don’t believe you. That couldn’t have happened!” or, “That doesn’t make sense. What are you talking about?” then you are not being authentic, and you’ve got some revising to do. Even with a picture book like Yuckiest, Stinkiest, where a valentine comes to life, the emotions and actions need to be authentic. The valentine needs to act like a real person who is terrified of expressing emotions, and Leon needs to be a believable boy who wants nothing more than to share his love with the girl of his dreams.

How do you balance your full-time writing job with not only marketing and teaching but also mothering three adolescents?!
I just make the commitment to do it. I try to write every day. Of course some days and weeks are harder to find the time than others, and I get frustrated when I don’t write as much as I want. But I remind myself that being a mom is my first priority, my first love, and such a privilege. In a minute, my kids will all be in college, so I might as well appreciate the chaos, laughter, and very full schedule in my life right now.

Can you describe your elation and sense of satisfaction when you first held the f & g’s (folded and gathered pages) of The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever?
That was amazing, but the biggest thrill came before that when I saw a pdf of the whole book. I was blown away by Tedd Arnold’s hilarious and heartwarming illustrations. I’d been a fan of his since my kids were young and we had all fallen in love with his book, Parts. I could hardly believe he was illustrating my story! When I opened that pdf and saw his vibrant illustrations and Sunday-comic-style approach, tears sprung to my eyes because his art exceeded all my expectations, and I knew that the book would find the audience I had dreamed of all those years ago. 

Book Giveaway
Win an autographed copy of Brenda Ferber’s The Yuckiest, Stinkiest Best Valentine Ever! (Dial)

To enter our drawing, you must follow the TeachingAuthors blog. (If you’re not already a follower, you can sign up now in our sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network 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) give us your first and last name  AND
2) tell us how you follow us (via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs) .
3) If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.  And JUST FOR Fun, share your favorite Candy Hearts Valentine inscription!
This contest is open only to followers who can provide a mailing address in the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. The entry deadline is 11 p.m. (CST) next Monday, January 21, 2013. We'll announce the winner on Wednesday, January 23. Good luck!

11 Comments on Talent, Pluck and Love, Oh, My! PLUS a Book Giveaway for Valentine's Day!, last added: 1/24/2013
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Mystery Guest Wednesday Writing Workout: Five Tips for Tightening Your Manuscript

Today’s Wednesday Writing Workout comes to you courtesy of an award-winning author whose talent, pluck and love define her.  Her titles include the tween novels Julia’s Kitchen and Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire (both Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Her newest book, The Yuckiest, Stinkiest Best Valentine Ever (Dial), tells the story of Leon who’s hopelessly in love with Zoey Maloney. But the valentine he creates for her wants nothing to do with Leon’s mushy sentiments. The valentine thinks this holiday is all about candy, and he runs away rather than suffer the embarrassment of saying "I love you." As Leon follows the valentine through town, boys, girls, and teens join the chase and chime in on their perspectives of love until finally, the conflict comes to a heart-pounding, sweaty-palm conclusion in of all places – a candy shop.  Our Mystery Guest lives in Deerfield, Illinois, sharing her days, nights and writing time with her husband and three teenagers.

Have you identified our Mystery Guest Author yet?  She’s a true Student Success Story!
The Wednesday Writing Workout:  Five Tips for Tightening Your Manuscript

Once you’ve finished your manuscript and revised the story so that the characters are authentic, the setting comes to life, and the plot makes sense and is filled with tension, before you submit it to an editor or agent, you should turn to the writing itself and see how you can make it tighter and more effective. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years. Give them a try:

1.       Circle all your verbs. Make sure each one is powerful and specific. Then delete as many adverbs as possible. If you’ve chosen the best verbs, you won’t need them anyway.

2.      Look for rhetorical questions in your manuscript and delete them. Chances are you don’t need them and they’re slowing your story down. In the rare event that you do need them, change the question to a direct sentence. And in the even rarer case that you absolutely must have a rhetorical question, keep it. Just be conscious about it.

3.      Watch out for word echoes. Don’t use the same word more than once on the same page or even on consecutive pages.

4.      Read the first and last sentence of each chapter and make sure you are varying them and starting and finishing with a bang.

5.      Find twenty words to cut on each page. I promise, you won’t miss them.

Why bother with all this cutting and tightening? Simply put, it makes for a better reading experience, and that’s the whole point.

                                                                     * * * * * * *
So, in the wild chance you didn’t identify Brenda Ferber, click here to read my last week’s January 14 Student Success Story Interview with this award-winning author.

Click here to learn more about her newest book – The Yuckiest, Stinkiest Best Valentine Ever.

And, finally, congratulations, Karen Casale of Connecticut, this week's TeachingAuthor Book Giveaway Winner!  You won an autographed copy of Brenda’s newest book.

Thank you, Brenda, from the bottoms of our TeachingAuthors’ hearts, for sharing yourself, your Writing Life, a copy of your book – and – today’s Wednesday Writing Workout with our TeachingAuthors readers, writers and teachers.

Esther Hershenhorn

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21. My Writer's Bookshelf Favorite: The Small Blue Book That Says It All

My Writer’s Bookshelf consumes just about every inch of my writing room’s cleverly-extended window sill.  While I peck away at my laptop’s keyboard, wandering and wondering, each book sits there, winking and waving.

Books on Craft, the Writing Process and Children’s Literature,
books on Elements of Narrative,
books on Storytelling.
How To’s, handbooks, manuals, Dummies Guides,
dictionaries (abridged and unabridged),
my trusty Roget’s.

Smack dab in the middle of the line-up, though, rests my very favorite writer’s book - M.B. Goffstein’s A Writer (Harper & Row, 1984).  Its sky-blue book spine short and slight brilliantly shines as my writer’s North Star.

I’m almost hoping you’ve never ever heard of this title, so this post can gift you the way the book first gifted me.

I came upon it at Florence Shay’s antiquarian bookstore Titles, in Highland Park,
Illinois while out and about on my Writer’s Journey sometime in the late 80’s.
I was figuratively lost, unsure of my path.
Opening this small treasure of a book, I was instantly found.
Everything was okay.
Really and truly.
Days spent daydreaming, imagining, probing my heart…
According to A Writer, that’s what writers do.

A writer
sits on her couch,
holding an idea,
until it’s time
to set words
upon paper,
to cut, prune,
plan, and shape them.

Thoughts that open
in her heart,
and weather every mood
and change of mind,
she will care for.

Back then, I was seeding and feeding my own stories as well as my writer self.
Marilyn Brooke Goffstein’s simplicity in words and lines spoke to the gardener in me.
Today I still grow my own stories but I also spend my days seeding and feeding other writers – Young Authors and authors young-at-heart.
Goffstein’s A Writer speaks even more loudly.

But, don’t take my word for it. See for yourself! 

Come to know this Minnesota-born writer, illustrator, children’s book creator, Parsons School of Design faculty member.
Visit her website.   
Read about her books, including the 1977 Caldecott Honored Fish for Supper.

Be sure to check her Tips for Picture Book Writers and Illustrators.
  • Write something you don't know but long to know.
  • It is tiresome to read a text that the author hasn't fought for, lost, and by some miracle when all hope is gone, found.
  • Do them (your readers) the honor of reaching for something far beyond you.
And, while Florence Shay and Titles, Inc. are sadly no longer with us, search other antiquarian bookstores for Goffstein’s one-of-a-kind books.

Lucky you should you come upon A Writer for sale so it can shine on your Writer’s Bookshelf!

Esther Hershenhorn

I especially love that Goffstein dedicated A Writer to Charlotte Zolotow, beloved children’s book author and award-winning Ursula-Nordstrom-trained editor whose Admiring Declines I still treasure as much as my first edition copy of M.B. Goffstein’s A Writer


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22. Mystery Guest Wednesday Writing Workout: Exercising Your Imagination!

Today’s Wednesday Writing Workout comes to you courtesy of a TeachingAuthor I so admire and respect, an award-winning picture book author, poet and UCLA instructor whose hands-on text Writing Picture Books (Hint! Hint!) I recommend at least once a week to writers and students.  She could truly be M.B. Goffstein’s “writer,” seated on her living room couch, cutting, pruning, shaping and planning the words she wishes to set upon paper.  Her picture books include Word Builder (Simon & Schuster) and Tortuga in Trouble (Holiday House).

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 The Wednesday Writing Workout: Exercising Your Imagination!

 One of the challenges of a writer is to create something new—a story, poem, an essay—that hasn’t been done before. That sounds like a tall order, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Putting yourself into an inanimate object is a fun and easy way to write uniquely.

Have you ever wondered how a book feels if you close it before the end?
Have you ever pondered how a tree endures a thunderstorm?
Can you guess what a snowman’s last words might be?

This exercise will give you an opportunity to answer those questions.

To show you how, let’s take a pencil. Imagine that you are the pencil. What might you say to the person holding it? Then write without stopping or revising.

For example, here’s what I wrote:

“You think you have complete control of me. It’s true you do and I hate it. I have to write what you insist, but if I could write my own story, if I could swirl my words across the paper, here’s what I’d say. Inside me lurk words more beautiful than you could ever express. I long to spill my soul, to stand up and shout gray silver words. Then you would know that I too, have thoughts. And I am sure, then, that you would never chew on me. . . how I hate the way you bite down my eraser and your saliva slivers down my yellow. You wouldn’t like it if I did that to you. How I hate the way you fling me into box with other pencils, not knowing, not caring how special I am.”

Okay, a rambling paragraph of unedited raw spillage, but rereading, I was surprised by several things here. The phrases “shout gray silver words” and “how I hate the way you bite down on my eraser” and “your saliva slivers down my yellow,” they gave me a niggle that I took as a sign to explore them further. I thought and thought about those phrases and after much revising came up with this poem in the form of a cinquain.

Don’t bite
My eraser. Don’t
Gnaw my stub. Treat me right
Or I will refuse to record
Your words.

So here’s your writing workout for this week: Go up to those questions I asked
earlier. Then be a book, a tree or a snowman, or all three if you’re feeling ambitious, and let your words flow.
I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself.
You may not get a story, a poem or an essay out of it, but you’ll be exercising your imagination, something all writers need to do regularly.

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So, did you guess our Mystery Guest Author, Ann Whitford Paul?

You might recall the Thumbs Up review I gave Writing Picture Books when our TeachingAuthors blog began.

For more Writer Tips from Ann, click here.

Ann Whitford Paul gets - and loves - the picture book.
Even better,

Ann Whitford Paul gets - and loves – writers and writing.

Thanks, Ann, for keeping my writing muscles, and those of our TeachingAuthors readers, burning.
Esther Hershenhorn

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23. Someone(s) You Should Know: Mrs. Duray's Fervent Learners

There I was, out and about at the 2013 Colorado Chapter IRA Heroes in Literacy Conference in Denver, sharing with teachers proven ways to seed and feed their Young Authors, when a workshop presenter shared a proven way with me I knew I’d quickly share with you.

Please meet Deanna Duray’s Little School Third Graders, digital citizens with the handle Fervent Learners!
Their classroom was one of seven (out of 127 applicants!) in Jefferson County, Colorado to receive on January 14th an iPad 1:1 Grant from the local  Karl Friedman Family Foundation.


I emailed Deanna Duray to ask what she loves best about her third graders blogging.
Having an authentic audience was on the top of her list. 
“It gives us the opportunity to reach outside of our classroom walls and show our families and others how we are growing as writers. Just this last week our class blogged about the upcoming state testing and what it takes to be a FERVENT test taker. I shared our blog link with one of our 6th grade teachers and her students replied back. I love how blogging gives students a wider audience!"

As for her fervent bloggers and what they love best?
“I love that you can comment on other people's blogs!” wrote Micaela.
“I love how I can blog from home!” commented Jovanni.
Kayla loved how “you can express your feelings to all the people that will be reading your blog.”
Kyle loved how “you can change font and write what you want to write.”

Click on Fervent Learners.
Explore the Blogroll.
Scroll the Blog Directory.
Choose a post and share your comments!

If you’re a classroom teacher, consider introducing this opportunity to your students.
If you’re a writer, especially of children’s books, consider each Fervent Learner post a mini-lesson on Voice.

And, thank you, Deanna Duray and Fervent Learners, for sharing your experience and expertise.

Esther Hershenhorn



3 Comments on Someone(s) You Should Know: Mrs. Duray's Fervent Learners, last added: 2/26/2013
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24. Just CLICK and CONNECT!

When it comes to celebrating Teen Technology, I feel Mary Ann’s and Jill’s pain.
I don’t exactly qualify as a Teen. 
(Click HERE to see just which high school Reunion I’m attending this May.) 
And, this is the book I’m currently reading.
I also boldly revealed my Inner Luddite in a post last March.  (Click HERE.)


I sure do love to CLICK, then follow the links to CONNECT with all sorts of wondrous People, Places and Things.
Oh, the Possibilities!
Ah, the Opportunities!

For instance, there I was,
letting my fingers stroll the Internet on behalf of a writer with a UK-suited book,
and what did I come upon but

That’s why I’m wishing you a belated Happy World Book Day!
This site is ripe with new books, authors and curriculum connections for readers, writers, teachers and librarians.
(And yes, I found three, count ’em, three publishing possibilities for my writer.)

Booklist Editor Gillian Engberg sent me a lovely Quick Tips email, calling my attention
to Writing Resources for the Common Core Classroom.
Clicking and connecting I came upon a terrific timely opportunity for Kiddos co-sponsored by DC Comics and Capstone – The “Be a Super Hero, Read!” Writing Contest.  Running through April 15, the Contest encourages kids in grades 3 through 6 to write about a real-life superhero in their lives. 
Click HERE for the Rules.

And speaking of writing Kiddos, how could I not click on the Denver Post’s Next Gen, the online newspaper for youth-written stories.
I’d met several middle school reporters during my visit to the Colorado International Reading Association Conference in February.
Click HERE and connect to Collin Colaizzi and his write-up of author and Writing Guru Ralph Fletcher’s talk on the importance of a Writer’s Notebook.

It turns out that, despite my long-gone teenage years and my lack of Tech savvy, my  Inner Luddite and I have had One Swell Time CLICKING and CONNECTING this past week, occasioning numerous opportunities to showcase our gelasins.

(Click HERE if you’re eager to learn last week’s A.Word.A.Day.)

Who knows?
Maybe someday soon I’ll be CLICKING and MANUFACTURING, thanks to the opportunities and possibilities of  Tech’s newest child, 3-D Printing!


Happy Clicking and Connecting!
Esther Hershenhorn

Be sure to click HERE to enter to win Tamera Wissinger’s Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse. You only have until 11 pm, Wednesday, March 13.

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25. Pat Wroclawski: A Bookseller Extraordinaire to the 4th Power!

What better way to continue celebrating our 4 x 4 Blogiversary Celebration by introducing our readers to the incomparable Pat Wroclawski, Bookseller Extraordinaire to the 4th Power.

Sadly, Pat left the world way too soon in March of 2005 but her Spirit lives on in the countless individuals she touched – readers, writers, parents, teachers, me.
So many times I finish a novel, or page through a picture book, or wonder at a biography and think, “Oh, how Pat would have loved this book!”

I knew of Pat long before I – boldly – introduced myself to her. She’d managed the Chestnut Court Book Shop in Winnetka for 15 years, then headed the Children’s Department at Kroch’s and Brentano’s flagship store in Chicago before returning to the renamed Bookstall at Chestnut Court as a consultant.  (FYI: Kroch’s and Brentano’s was the largest bookstore in Chicago and at one time the largest privately-owned bookstore chain in the U.S.  It closed in 1995.)

Everything I’d heard about Pat proved true and then some.
Her never-ending knowledge of children’s literature.
Her impeccable taste in books.
Her love of reading.
Her respect for and interest in writers and illustrators.

Pat’s passion for All Things Children's Book glowed from within.

The Bookstall’s Children’s Book Section became an invaluable resource for me as I traveled my Writer’s Plotline.  The best of the best lined the section’s shelves.
Of course Pat herself proved the best resource of all.

She cheered me on as I made my way, introducing me to esteemed authors and illustrators, to books I should know, to opportunities that helped me grow as a writer, and to the Association of Booksellers for Children, which Pat helped found, now a part of ABA re-named the ABC Children’s Group and a most vital piece of the Children’s Book World.
I shall always remain grateful for how warmly Pat welcomed and embraced my fellow SCBWI-Illinois members.

Pat oversaw my very first Book Signing for my very first book, There Goes Lowell’s Party!
She personally decorated the store’s windows and greeted each and every guest.
And she was there in the audience of Northern Illinois University’s March 1999 Children’s Literature Conference keeping me strong in my first-time-ever speaking presentation to 500 educators and librarians (!)
Seeing Pat’s smile undid my buckling knees.

Bookseller, yes.
As well as mentor, teacher, advocate, friend.

Pat somehow made time too to help found in 1989 yet another important children’s book organization, Winnetka’s and Northfield’s Alliance for Early Childhood -  “a community collaboration that promotes the healthy growth and development of children from birth age to eight by providing resources, programs, and support for the parents and professionals who teach and care for them.”

For years Pat wrote the organization’s monthly column “At Home with Books.” In the Fall, 2005 issue, her daughter Margaret Wroclawski Griffen shared with readers what her mother taught her about children’s books. 
Titled “Everything I Know About Children’s Books I Learned From My Mother,” this beautiful tribute keeps Pat’s Spirit alive.
The Margaret Wroclawski Memorial Collection now holds some 100 titles at the Winnetka/Northfield Public Library.

Like the books they hand their readers, booksellers change lives too.
Especially extraordinary ones, like my Pat Wroclawski.

Esther Hershenhorn

Don’t forget to celebrate our 4th Blogiversary by entering our 4 x4 give-away!  You can win one of 4 $25 gift certificates to Anderson’s Bookshop!  All you need do is share the name of your favorite independent bookstore, and maybe even bookseller.
Click HERE for details.



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