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Today’s Wednesday Writing Workout comes to us courtesy of my fellow Newberry Library writing instructor, Chicago author and memoirist Carol LaChapelle. When it comes to teaching Memoir Writing, Carol is “it”!And so is her book, FINDING YOUR VOICE AND TELLING YOUR STORIES: 167 WAYS TO TELL YOUR LIFE STORIES (Marion Street Press). Carol believes each life contains the makings of a memoir. In FINDING YOUR VOICE, she shares writing tools, tricks of the trade, exercises and prompts to help any writer access and explore memories and turn them into stories. Carol also includes contributions from real students who have been using her methods to show readers how productive the writing exercises can be. You can read Carol’s most recent essays in Next Avenue and in American Magazine.Carol invites TeachingAuthors readers to visit her blog ForBoomersandBeyonders - Dispatches From the(New) Middle Ages and/or to “friend” her on Facebook. You can email her directly for information about her online writing workshops at Madmoon55@aol.com Thank you, Carol, for sharing one of your 167 ways for our TeachingAuthors readers to find their voice and tell their stories.Esther Hershenhorn
Finding Your Voice
In addition to writing and teaching workshops, I also consult with private clients on their various writing projects. Recently, one of them, a woman in her late 70s who is writing a series of family stories, sent me a remembrance of her beloved grandmother to read and critique. In the piece, Joan writes about her many experiences with her grandmother from when she was a young girl. As I read it, I realized that I didn’t really understand what was so special about “Gram,” though I knew Joan felt there were many things, else why commit this woman to paper? And so after marking up the draft—mostly with questions—I summed up my comments at the end, including suggestions for the next revision, then sent it back to Joan along with this note.
I definitely like this idea for a family story; it’s important for future generations to know the people who went before them.
I hope my notes, especially on the last page, will help in your revision. The major thing when starting to revise is to list for yourself those 2-4 most important characteristics/personality traits of your grandmother, as you experienced them.
You don’t necessarily have to then list these traits in the actual revision, but you want the story—the specific experiences/details/scenes—to illustrate those. In other words, here’s the evidence that supports why you believe Gram is someone worth writing about.
I also referred Joan to my book, particularly Chapter Two, “Four Really Helpful Writing Techniques.” The fourth technique, the Character Sketch, describes how I came to write one particular memory of a high school teacher, including the process by which that memory emerged on the blank page. I felt this might be helpful to Joan as she attempted to more specifically capture what was essential about her grandmother.Following is that technique, which I have copied directly from my book’s initial manuscript. I hope it will serve as a good reminder for all of us—new and practicing writers alike—when we come to write about the very special people in our own lives.
4. Character Sketch: When you use the character sketch technique, you do more than simply describe someone physically. That’s important of course as s/he will come more alive on the page the better that you—and your intended reader—can see what that person looks like, sounds like, moves like.
But a character sketch becomes more interesting when you add the person’s relevant personality traits and significant biographical information.
For instance, if I were to do a character sketch of one of my favorite high school teachers, I’d include her height (short), athletic skill (she was our phys ed teacher), and coloring (her small, olive-dark face). I’d also mention how young she was, and how demanding she was of us. I’d describe how she looked while bouncing down the school halls (even when not wearing tennis shoes), gesticulating wildly alongside her friend and colleague, a much taller, paler, and mellower teacher. Oh, and I guess I would mention that she was a nun who dressed in the black and white habit of her religious community—both in the gym and out.
I’d include relevant biographical information—a matter of keen interest among her former students, especially her decision to leave the convent after 20 years, marry a much younger man, sail around the world with him for a year, then return home and open a pizza parlor. As I sit here now and write about the former Sister Joseph, more images of her come to mind, each small detail leading to another, and another, and then finally to a specific scene:
It is 1958 and our girls volleyball team has gathered in the gym after school for volleyball practice. As we fumble our way around the court, Sr. Joe paces up and down the sidelines, barking orders at us, her black veil tied behind her back with a fat rubber band, the dour nun shoes exchanged for bright white tennies. Her diminishing patience at our ineptitude now exhausted, she charges onto the court and to the spike position of my team. Pushing aside Loretta, our best player, she yells “Set me up!” to the quaking girl next to her. The rest of us stand there still as stones, and watch as Sr. Joe rises like some fiery rocket and hammers that ball over the net.
Not long after my book was published in July 2008, I received a very surprising email from one of its readers. Here’s how it begins:I am the "much younger man" to whom you refer on page 33 of your new book who married your former volleyball coach. I want to tell you that I (and she) nearly fell on the floor reading that recollection. While some of the details were slightly off, the essence of Sr. Joseph was right on.
Fortunately, when it comes to the act of physically writing, I have MANY tools at my disposal.
For example, and gratefully, my iPhone.
Should my laptop refuse to reboot due to a software problem and require a 4-day repair visit to my local Best Buy's Geek Squad the Sunday before my Monday TeachingAuthors post is due, no problemo!
I simply create an email addressing the topic, request my TA administrator Carmela post it for me, along with an evidentiary photo, and remain grateful for the many and varied Tools of my Trade...as well as for Carmela. ☺️
|Esther's laptop on Geek Squad counter|
So, here are a few of the salient points I fully intended to post in the traditional manner via my laptop had it successfully rebooted this morning:
(1) To date my writing tools have included #2 pencils, pens of all sorts, manual and electric typewriters, a word processor, stack and laptop computers and one trusty iPhone.
(2) Thinking on this topic, examining my modus operandi when writing creatively, I surprisingly realized my multi-sensory learning style that enables me to READ must also be executed when I WRITE!
Note: Picture here the Five Senses Chart I'd planned to share.
Using my penmanship that combines both printing and cursive, because my 6th grade teacher Miss Peterson allowed us to choose and I couldn't decide, I write by hand in notebooks, on legal pads, on sticky notes, on napkins, on match books and menus and torn newspaper items when I am rolling out and exploring a story idea.
When I'm ready to roll everything up, though, and begin an actual story draft?
I'm seated at my laptop, ready to keyboard.
(3) In my Google search to learn more about multi-sensory learners, one link led to another and there I was learning all about BIC Fight for Your Write -www.bicfightforyourwrite.com
BIC is on a mission to save handwriting.
Clicking on the Facts page at this website, I read that handwriting engages 14 different abilities, one if which is Inner Expressive Language.
No surprise there, at least for me.
Long live the Writer's Notebook!
Visit the website to learn more and maybe even sign the petition.
Hopefully my laptop and I will be back in business by Friday.
Meanwhile, I have my iPhone ....and should that require service, my Seven-year Pen.
Happy Writing, no matter your chosen tool!
Don't forget to enter our Book Giveaway
P.S.S. from Carmela: I couldn't resist leaving in Esther's signature line from her email, just as she sent it:
iPhone compozed - sry 4 eny typoze=
I’ve been chomping at the bit while I awaited my scheduled posting time, that’s how eager I am to share Dani Shapiro’s STILL WRITING: THE PERILS AND PLEASURES OF A CREATIVE LIFE (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013) with our TeachingAuthors readers.
How did I ever miss this book when it released last November! It’s a MUST book for every writer’s bookshelf that beautifully delivers the front flap copy’s promise: “Shapiro offers a gift to writers everywhere: an elegant guide of hard-won wisdom and encouragement for staying the course.” Part personal memoir, part meditation on the artistic process and part advice on craft gleaned from a twenty-year writing and teaching career, STILL WRITING inspires, encourages, informs and delights, and much like a children’s book, leaves the writer with hope. When it comes to writing, Dani Shapiro bares both the good and the not-so-good. As a result, I closed the book and was once again reminded that – at least when it comes to my writing, I am normal. I’m NOT alone. I’m not the odd-woman out. I’m not the only one struggling here. Much like Anne LaMott did in her BIRD BY BIRD instructions on writing and on life, Dani Shaprio gave me permission to do what I cannot not do, i.e. write. I like how Shapiro divided the book and the creative process into Beginnings, Middles and Ends. Her insightful and instructive bon mots within each section never fail to speak the truth whether addressing topics such as Riding the Wave, our Inner Censor, a Corner (start small) or Building the Boat, Courage, Rhythm and Distance or Exposure, Risk, Tribe and Envy. My three favorite quotes from STILL WRITING? “The only reason to be a writer is because you have to.” “My words are my pickax, and with them I chip away at the rough surface of whatever it is I still need to know.” And, finally, these words Shapiro shared about approaching her Writing Workshops, which had the writing teacher inside of me weeping:“We – this ragtag group of ten or twelve – are going to become a single organism. A collective unconscious. We are going to set aside our petty concerns and focus, instead, on the sentences in front of us. We will train our best selves – our empathic understanding, our optimism, our critical eye – to understand what each of us is trying to do. We are going to laugh, possibly cry, argue, roll our eyes. But we’re going to do it with respect, and even with love.” I can’t wait to begin each of my Summer Newberry Library Workshop sessions with relevant readings from this life-affirming/writer-affirming book. As an aside, I openly confess: I have a writer’s crush on Dani Shapiro. I’m taken with her smarts, her raw courage, her honesty, her talent, and most of all, her generosity in sharing all she’s come to live and know first-hand, as a writer, as a teacher, as a daughter, as a wife, as a mother, as a friend, all in the service of keeping her writers keeping on. I’ve now read her poignant, beautifully-written memoir SLOW MOTION: A Memoir of a Life Rescued by Tragedy. Her memoir DEVOTION: A Memoir and the novel FAMILY HISTORY top my book pile. I’ve also sent on links to Dani Shapiro’s blog to several of my students and writers. "There is only this moment,” Shapiro writes, “when we put pen to page.”STILL WRITING will help you do just that. Enjoy! And do share your thoughts once you lose yourself as I did in Shapiro’s book and writing.Esther Hershenhorn
Kudos and Thanks to my courageously-honest fellow TeachingAuthors JoAnn, Carmela and Laura - and to our TeachingAuthors readers as well - for sharing their understandable publishing and marketability concerns once they begin writing a story.
My filing cabinet too overflows with as-yet-sold manuscripts.
The adjective as-yet-sold speaks volumes about my optimism and Faith.
I’ve always believed that my Writer’s Story – and any story in which I’ve invested – would eventually bring that “inevitable yet surprising satisfactory resolution” required of all stories.
I truly am the Susan Lucci of Children’s Books.
I fortunately have what editor Ted Solotoroff once called endurability, as referenced in Dani Shapiro’s STILL WRITING: THE PERILS AND PLEASURES OF A CREATIVE LIFE.
I write stories that grab my heart and won’t let go. Period. I write them one at a time, for however long it takes, in between teaching and coaching and speaking since I bring home the bacon, ’til each is ready for editorial submission. I also revise them, again, and then again, for however long it takes, ’til each is ready for yet another editorial submission.Prolific I am not. Do I creatively envision the manuscript as a published book while I write and revise, listing likely publishers when I come upon them?Of course.Do I imagine an editor’s offer or a stellar review or the look of surprise on a Doubting Thomas’ face.You bet.And when Reality arrives, when my story still fails to see the light of day? I tuck it away...for another day. In other words, for whatever reasons, sane, sound or not, once I’m invested in a story and begin writing, I keep on going, no matter the current market place. Period. (Morgue Files/lightfoot)I first wrote my first published picture book THERE GOES LOWELL’S PARTY! some ten years earlier as an easy-to-read titled CALLING 'ROUND ABOUT THE RAIN. I couldn’t give up on either Lowell or the Vance Randolph Ozark tales I’d studied in college.I wrote and revised THE CONFE$$ION$ AND $ECRET$ OF HOWARD J. FINGERHUT for at least 7 editors over 12 years before Holiday House published it. I believed in Howie and his story whole-heartedly. A year came and went while an agent worked unsuccessfully to place my newest baby board book TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY with a publisher. I withdrew the book and lo and behold, my Sleeping Bear Press editor phoned to tell me of their new ownership and yes, they were looking for a first-time baby book! Times change; markets change; publishers’ needs change; editorial staffs change. My filing cabinets hold three of my favorite picture books: LOOP-DE-LOOP LEO, about a little boy who’s afraid to go out-and-about on his nursery school teacher’s looped rope; SING A SONG OF YITZY, about a little boy who longs to travel with his Papa’s Klezmer band; and my first book ever, CATCH A PATCH OF FOG, about a little boy who always has a piece of him hanging out when he plays Hide-and-Seek. Wouldn’t a patch of fog be the perfect solution? The Truth is: I found my own courage writing Leo’s story; I learned each of us has a song to sing writing Yitzy’s tale; and my fog catcher’s wondering proved to be mine: Maybe I was someone worth finding? In other words, writing my stories helped and helps me see the light. Period. And those Aha! Moments sustain me and keep me keeping on.I’ve always known: the right story at the right time helps the reader discover, uncover, recover his own story.My writing has taught me: the same is true for the writer too.Each of my stories, whether sold or not, has proved to be for me the right story at the right time. Maybe, like Laura, I’ll soon consider epublishing, or better yet, independently publishing one or two of my tucked-away stories. I’ve helped several of my writers successfully do both. I know that like JoAnn, I can’t help but return to several of my much-loved unsold picture book texts and restructure them, reshape them, turn them on their sides, to see if there’s a better story-telling way to draw editorial interest.Like Carmela, I’ll always keep my eyes and ears open for homes for my stories.Meanwhile, I’ll continue to share my unsold manuscripts and their publishing histories with my students, so they can see the light, and Cubs Fan that I am, keep believing in my stories.Yet another perspective (minus Morgue Files photos of filing cabinets and light bulbs I couldn't upload!)Esther Hershenhorn
But I’m happy to report: she’s one of my long-ago Ragdale Picture Book Workshop students too. J Though she now lives in Vero Beach, Florida, I will always consider her my SCBWI-Illinois kin.
As recent posts noted, most writers’ drawers are crammed full with manuscripts that somehow haven’t found the light of day.So Tamera’s WWW is more than timely, helping us mine the gold in those left-behind stories.
THIS OLD BAND features a ragtag band of cowboys counting and hollering from ten to one, making music with their jugs, combs, boots and whatever else they can find. In its upcoming July 2014 review, School Library Journal commended THIS OLD BAND for the “clever use of alliteration and rhyme, as well as laugh-out-loud funny tongue-twisters, that complement the singsong nature of the story, making the book ideal for both story-times and one-on-one sharing.”
Thanks, Tamera, for sharing your book and your know-how!
As always, I'm cheering you on!
* * * * * * *
Mining for Nuggets of Gold in Stories Left Behind
Do you have any stories or poems that you’ve trunked, shelved, iced, buried, torpedoed, or locked in the vault? Work that was once your reason for showing up to write every day, but then at some point stopped being fun or interesting enough to continue? I do. Each piece’s end comes differently – sometimes I move on after barely starting, and other times I write through the end only to find that it didn’t turn out the way that I had intended. After the huge investments of time and energy, it can be disappointing, even heartbreaking.
My first picture book, THIS OLD BAND, has its genesis in in the demise of another rhyming concept book that will probably never be published because I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out how to write it. While I was creating it, though, in my mind it had such potential, such flair! There was going to be a duel! I wrote two (what I thought were) really terrific opening stanzas:West, out near the great divide Where bison roam and ranchers ride Above the town of Twisted Pine,Lived number one through number nine. I outlined the rest of the story. I knew where I wanted this poem-story to go and I wrote and rewrote, but it didn’t go where I had planned and eventually I had to concede. I placed the manuscript in a drawer and moved on to something else.Over the months and years, though, the heart of that story kept tugging at me. I loved that western setting, the idea of cowboys and cowgirls, the bison, the numbers. I had already acknowledged that the story didn’t work as it was, but I began to think in “what ifs” and “maybes”:
Sifting through that old manuscript to mine those nuggets of gold was fun. Leaving behind the rest of the pieces that hadn't worked felt liberating. Equally satisfying was starting anew with my gold pieces of setting, characters, action, and new rhyme and rhythm. I began to uncover a different looking and sounding story that eventually became This Old Band.
- What if I kept the southwest setting and the element of counting?
- Maybe these characters didn’t want to duel. What if I didn’t make them?
- What if, instead, the main characters were cowboy/cowgirl friends who played simple instruments and made silly noises? Maybe they could perform as a band.
- What if I threw out those “terrific” stanzas that were getting me nowhere and chose an entirely different rhythm and rhyme pattern?
I believe that every shelved story or poem has valuable nuggets to mine if we’re willing to push past the gate of sorrow and frustration to search for them. Here are ideas for ways to approach a buried manuscript:
I wish you good luck as you consider mining for your own gold nuggets. Maybe your real story is just waiting to be unearthed.
- Which one speaks most loudly to your heart and your brain? Maybe that’s the one to consider first.
- Do you need to actually read it to know what’s in there that is of value to you? Maybe there’s a gem of a conflict that you know by heart. Or a setting that is exceptional. Maybe it’s a secondary character – or an endearing character trait. With poetry it could be any detail that you found particularly charming. Maybe it’s a wonderful metaphor, a delightful image, or a single rhyming couplet.
- If you do reread the manuscript – after all this time is it more clear to you what was working and what wasn’t? Go in and grab those nuggets that work; they are gold, and they are yours!
- Consider what you have – it may not seem like much at first, but no story or poem does in the beginning.
- Based on what you have, allow yourself to wonder. Say “maybe”…ask “what if?” Follow your beacons of gold and see where they lead you.
What have I been reading, and in some cases re-reading, these delicious summer days in Chicago?Part memoir, part meditation on the creative process, part advice on craft, Dani Shapiro’s words enabled, empowered and equipped me to return to my writing and keep on keepin’ on.In sharing those words weekly with my summer Newberry Library Writing Workshop students, I watched them do the same.
Anything written by Dani Shapiro!
I hope that name rings a bell.
I declared her book STILL WRITING: THE PERILS AND PLEASURES OF WRITING a must-have for every writer’s shelf in my June 2 post.
I knew instantly from her confession early on in STILL WRITING that I wanted and needed to read Dani Shapiro’s body of work, both fiction and nonfiction. “My words are my pickax, and with them I chip away at the rough surface of whatever it is I still need to know.”I began with SLOW MOTION: A MEMOIR OF A LIFE RESCUED BY TRAGEDY, Dani Shapiro’s honest, heartfelt telling of her true story, “a life turned around – not by miracles or happy endings, but by unexpected personal catastrophe.” Next I read DEVOTION: A MEMOIR, the story of her ongoing three-tiered inner journey to discover what makes a life meaningful. The novel FAMILY HISTORY followed. Living up to its flap copy, it was indeed a “stunning and brutally honest novel about one family’s harrowing recovery from devastation.” Rachel Jensen’s story of the family crisis brought about by her adolescent daughter’s pain grabbed me from the get-go and wouldn’t let go. I can say the same about BLACK & WHITE’s Clara Brodeur and her story which explores the stuff and limits of the mother-daughter relationship. All of the books mentioned, whether memoir or fiction, totally absorbed me. I adore reading stories about families, about creative souls, about the human condition. I worried. I cared. Each book spoke to me - the mother, grandmother and former wife, the daughter and sister, the human being, but also, the writer and teacher. Each book was literally un-put-downable. Dani Shapiro writes elegantly, truthfully, her camera lens focused on only what’s important to the characters and their internal and external actions. Her superb craft in seamlessly weaving important back story details into the forward-moving story is to be envied, as well as studied.
And study it I did, because that’s how I learned my craft long ago, when I knew zippo about how to write for children: I read the bodies of work of Charlotte Zolotow and James Marshall and MarjorieWeinman Sharmat, when I longed to write picture books, of Betsy Byars and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Lois Lowry, when I longed to write a novel. I read them first as a reader, second as a writer. And I spent time learning their writer’s stories too.
I now subscribe to Dani Shapiro’s blog - which is how I first discovered STILL WRITING, thanks to Carmela’s Facebook sharing of Bruce Black’s April 18 sharing of the blog post “On the Long Haul” on his blog Wordswimmer.
Fortunately, the summer’s not over and neither is my reading. Dani Shapiro’s novels PICTURING THE WRECK, FUGITIVE BLUE and PLAYING WITH FIRE are currently on hold for me at my local Chicago Public Library branch.
I clipped these words by Barbara Kingsolver from my Sunday Chicago Tribune.
“I learned to write by reading the kind of books I wished I’d written.”
How true, how true.
Happy (Summer) Reading - and - Writing!If you’re in the Los Angeles area and want to write picture books, check out my fellow TeachingAuthor April Halprin Wayland’s upcoming class – Writing Picture Books for Children. It's Wednesday nights from August 6 through September 10.
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.
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
my terrific City of Chicago on a gorgeous August Saturday,
what I could write today to meaningfully follow my colleagues’ posts about Real
Life sparking fiction,
what do I come upon,
the northeast corner of the Chicago Cultural Center,
the StoryCorps Chicago StoryBooth!
is THE perfect vehicle to help us turn Real Life stories into well-told,
thus the PERFECT subject to punctuate
our past weeks' discussion.
love how good ol’ Serendipity works.
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
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.
Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guidelines are free and easy to follow.
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.
StoryCorps’ Story Questions – and Question Generator - that first grabbed my
writing teacher’s eye.
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.
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.
the StoryCorps questions also make for rich additions to Jeanne Marie’s WWW – “Where I’m From…” exercise.
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.
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.
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? :)
forget to enter our Book Giveaway to win a copy of Sonya Sones’ newest novel in
verse To Be Perfectly Honest.
HERE for the Details.
I am unabashedly a Big Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford Fan.
Like our readers and my fellow TA’s, I shall sorely miss her
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?
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.
that the truth!” I sighed.
just so happens, speaking of soap operas, I am the Susan Lucci of Children’s Books.
know all about Middles.
Children’s Book Writing Quest had a Middle so vast, four American Presidents came
and went, and two were re-elections.
Beginning was terrific. It got me going.
Ending was even better than I’d – continually and creatively - imagined.
it through my Middle, though, proved my mettle.
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.
prove our mettle, as in strength of character and spirited determination.
courage, bravery, guts, grit, nerve, pluck,
resolve, valor, vigor and cojones.
our Heroes and Heroines must do we must do too.
We keep on keepin' on.
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!”
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
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.
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.
a whole lot of sand (and snow and mud) through the hourglass!
you, Jeanne Marie, for grounding me in the Real World these past four years. You kept me keeping on.
Fan Esther Hershenhorn
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.
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.
perfect his Life would be if only his classmate George Hamel vanished!
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.
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.”
first engagingly-told novel was adapted into a successfully-touring play in
Australia and will begin its U.S. run in 2014.
second and third novels include ALWAYS JACK (which deals with cancer in
families) and SUPER JACK (which deals with blended families.)
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.)
it turns out, was based on Susanne’s real-life son Jack.
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.
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.”
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!”
the website for National Bullying Prevention Month, sponsored by Pacer, I was
taken with the Pacer Center tag – “Champions for Children with Disabilities.”
I said to myself. “That’s what bullying – in any form, does. It DIS-ables the victim.”
as Jack says in the KaneMiller book sticker that introduces this post,
stops a bully.
– the victim, the aggressor, the observer – to take action.
at least it can and should, with the right book.
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.
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.
read a book and stop a bully!
forget! The October 9 deadline looms for our Book Giveaway of Alexis O’Neill’s
newest book The Kite That Bridged Two Nations.
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.My fingers freeze.My North Star is elsewhere playing Hide-and-Seek.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.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)!P.S.The above Rx is a true-blue twofer; the 3-step ritual helps me REBOOT too!P.P.S.Let’s hear it for that hard-working second-chance prefix RE! Where would we be without it?
By: Carmela Martino and 5 other authors
Blog: Teaching Authors
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Blogiversary giveaway
, Book Giveaway
, Esther Hershenhorn
, favorite poem project
, National Poetry Month
, Poetry Foundation
, Add a tag
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.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. 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 BajramovicTo plan a (highly-recommended) visit, click here.
"The Order of Key West" by Wallace StevensNaomi Beckwith
"The Children of the Poor" by Gwendolyn BrooksMayor Rahm Emanuel
"Chicago" by Carl SandburgThank 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 StevensNaomi Beckwith
"The Children of the Poor" by Gwendolyn BrooksMayor 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 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.
I confess: I clip articles almost daily from printed newspapers and magazines delivered to my address.(Home-delivered newspapers? How about THAT for dating myself?!)
Article-clipping is a Family Thing.My mother clipped. My sister still clips.
My nieces and cousins do too. Recipes. Advice columns. Interviews. Book reviews. Movie write-ups. Funny cartoons. Touching quotes. Oh, and death notices and marriage announcements. In other words, anything and everything that when sent says, “I saw this and I thought of you!” I and my family’s current generation of women use – with great optimism, the U.S. Mails to share our clippings. The younger generation sends link-bearing emails or attached scans. For obvious reasons, many of the articles my family sends on to me pertain to writing, children's books and authors. Those clippings have a pile all their own, a pile I, the Happy Clipper add to often. I call it My Writer’s Pile and it’s totally separate from my Story Ideas Pile. Sometimes when I’m clipping an article, or truthfully, unevenly tearing out a section of a page, I have no idea WHY. The piece or item simply spoke to me and I think, “I bet I could use this someday.” Sometimes, though, I know the recipient instantly– a fellow writer, a former student, a school class I’m about to visit, or even my TeachingAuthors readers. Thinking Spring, I titled this post “A Writer's Potpourri of Clippings." In checking the correct spelling and definitions, however – “a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent” and “a miscellaneous collection,” my eyes slipped down the page to discover the word’s 1749 origin – the French words - “pot pourri” for “rotten pot.” I often liken the writing process and that of growing a story (as well as a career) to the process inherent in maintaining a compost pile and its clippings. Maybe magic of sorts is going on within My Writer’s Pile and I don’t even know it! Toss the following three clippings into your Writer’s (Compost) Pile and see what happens. HAS BECOME A BLOSSOMING TREND By Nara Schoenberg, Tribune Newspapers – March 4, 2014
“Plant-based baby names for girls overall are on the rise, and 10 previously low-profile botanicals – Lily, Violet, Willow, Hazel, Ivy, Olive, Dahlia, Juniper and Azalea – have risen rapidly.
These 10 fast-rising names were given to a total of 19,500 baby girls in 2012 – more babies than received the No. 3 girls’ name, Isabella (18,900), according to data from the Social Security Administration."
I sent the original of this article to Cousin Jane in New Jersey whose first-born granddaughter is named Violet – after - I scanned and filed the article on my computer’s Hard Drive. FYI: apparently there’s no parallel botanical trend in naming boys although the nature name “Canyon” has had recent traction (No. 1,462). Naming characters is any writer’s job!
(Photo courtesy of Morgue File/mirabbi249-37-0)
An eclectic blog uncovers the tales behind strangers’ tattoos By Lauren Morrow, O Magazine - April, 2013 I loved reading about and visiting illustrator Wendy MacNaughton’s and writer Isaac Fitzgerald’s blog Pen & Ink which reveals “the often hilarious, sometimes poignant stories behind these permanent remnants of our fleeting opinions, passions, and phases.” Apparently I wasn’t alone. I haven’t used the idea or passed it on – ’til now. Don’t you wonder sometimes, when you see an inked dolphin peeking out above a neighbor’s collar, “Why a dolphin?” Or just what tattoo you might choose, if you haven’t already, and you want to break loose? A character’s tattoos are a great way to come at knowing your Hero and knowing your Villain. Artists’ book celebrates the freedom and craft of art journaling By Heather Schroering, Tribune Newspapers – April 20, 2014 Another two-partner idea – this time by Jenny Heid and Aaron Nieradka: scrapbooking with more layers and textures. When speaking to Young Authors, I advocate Journaling every chance I get. I liked the fun idea this article suggested of adding Ephemera – such as handwritten letters, maps, vintage photos, fabric, movie and concert tickets, old game pieces, you-name-it. I bet kids would like it too! And instantly they’d SEE the value of concrete details. I also think it’s yet another way for writers, young and old, to come at knowing their characters – and that’s why I scanned this article and emailed it to two of my writers.
For the record, and though a Luddite at heart,
I do actually read newspapers, journals and magazines online daily and find myself more and more (sigh) cutting-and-pasting, copying and/or scanning and emailing myself links to fascinating articles.
I hate to waste an interesting idea!
Today’s Wednesday Writing Workout on how to turn an idea into a satisfying story was cooked up by Chicago debut novelist Kate Hannigan. The timing is perfect: Kate’s CUPCAKE COUSINS(Disney-Hyperion) releases this Friday, May 9, with an official 2:30 pm cupcakes-included launch at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park in Chicago, if anyone’s in the area (1301 E. 57th St.) J
Kate also blogs at Author Of, interviewing fellow authors of books for young readers of all ages. Illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes, CUPCAKE COUSINS tells the story of almost-10-year-old cousins Willow and Delia who have been asked to be flower girls and wear bright pink dresses for their aunt’s upcoming wedding. But the cousins would much rather don white aprons and be flour girls, whipping up some culinary magic to share with their entire family. Scrumptious recipes for whoopee pies, peach pancakes and other tasty treats are included.Kate’s next release is in April 2015: THE DETECTIVE’S ASSISTANT (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), an historical fiction middle grade novel. Kate also co-authored with Karen Duncan the community service book THE GOOD FUN! BOOK(Blue Marlin) which offers 12 months of parties kids can throw to help their communities and the world.
Thanks to Kate, for sharing her writer’s recipe for story-building with our TeachingAuthors readers. Her tips are write-on!
Finally I can say, what I knew I'd say some day,
having had the honor of working with Kate on earlier manuscripts:
Kate's on her way!
. . . . . . . . . . .
Whenever I’m just starting out with an idea, but it’s got no shape or clear direction, I call it a hot mess. It’s a bubbling stew of characters and plot twists and good intentions. But it’s definitely not a story yet. So how do we take a hot mess of a book idea and turn it into an actual manuscript? Lots of writers have ideas and techniques that work: You can find sites that offer up tools for outlining or worksheets or even fancy methods with clever names. But you also might benefit from a simpler, broad-based sketch. You’ll know what works best for you as you try them out. I have a few exercises that help me move from brain hiccups to first drafts, and I’ll share them here. They involve distilling ideas to their essence, literally sketching out the story arcs with little arrows and rainbow curves, and old-school outlining. When I came up with the idea for Cupcake Cousins, I was driving on the highway between Chicago and Western Michigan, where the book is set, and letting my mind wander. But it wasn’t until I had quiet time to put pencil to paper that I could begin to see an actual story take shape. You’ll hear plenty of naysayers who distrust the notion of outlining. “It’s too confining,” they complain. “I like to let my characters take me wherever they’re going,” they declare. Sure, but remember that those are the kind of people who run with scissors, who leave the house without a hat and eat high-cholesterol dinners. Let ’em partake in such risky behavior. Because as they’re enjoying the wind-in-the-hair rush of chasing their unruly characters, you’ll be too busy getting yours lovelies from Point A to Point Z to pay them any notice. And before long, you’ll have a solid first draft of a manuscript while they’re still lost on a literary back road. I’m a Type A person trapped in a Type B body, so you won’t hear me advocating for a rigid outlining regimen. But I will say that distilling, sketching, and outlining saved me and my stories. And I won’t begin a project without first coming up with the wire hanger on which to hang my story. Here’s a simple three-part exercise I do when I want to get my middle-grade story started, moving from hot mess of an idea to tangible first draft in hand. 1. Start with one sentence. Distill your book into one simple sentence. Two cousins are tired of being treated like babies, so they try to prove themselves through amazing feats of baking. This helps you focus in on the essence of your book. And simple language can be repeated: imagine your potential book editor walking down the hall to another cubicle and pitching your one-sentence summary to her neighbor. 2. Sketch out your story arcs. Seriously, grab a paper and pencil and start drawing curvy arcs. What does your main character learn over the long journey of your book? She starts out at Point A as what kind of person? And where is she at the story’s end? What about sub-characters? What do they want? How are they changed? If you’re a visual learner like me, you might benefit from seeing the way these story arcs rise and fall. And if you are setting up a lot of story threads, these sketches can help you make sure when and where you’re going to tie them off. 3. Flesh out your idea with an outline. Going from one-sentence summary to 30,000-word novel is an overwhelming notion. If you’re like me, you might get completely flummoxed at this point and bail on your project entirely. Don’t. Instead, create a simple outline of the book. And start by giving yourself some parameters, like word count. Early middle-grade books tend to hit about the same length. Let’s say you’re shooting for 28,000 words. Divide that total over 10 chapters, and you’re looking at writing 2, 800 words for each chapter. That’s a manageable target, right? Now you have a daily writing goal. But what do you want to say? Before you begin doing the writing, you have to do some heavy lifting – think of it as arranging the furniture. What are the 10 touch points you want to hit on in your book? Build your outline by writing down a quick one- or two-sentence summary of what needs to happen in each chapter as you move from the story’s beginning to end. Chapter 1: Willow stares at the ugly flower girl dress and determines she won’t wear it for the wedding. She and Delia can’t wait to get into the kitchen so they can cook their way out of these dreadful gowns. Chapter 2: Cat the new caterer appears in the kitchen, and she’s intimidating. But Willow and Delia aren’t convinced Cat knows how to make things as good as they do, so they “fix” her lemonade. The results are disastrous.Be flexible. Say you decide your chapters are too long for the pace you’re setting. So instead of 10 chapters of roughly 2,800 words each, you’re going to write about 20 chapters with 1,400 words per chapter and zip right along. Go back to your original outline and divide each chapter idea in half: Chapter 1: Willow stares at hideous pink dress and determines she won’t wear it for the wedding. Family heads off for vacation in Michigan with Willow feeling frustrated. Chapter 2: Willow and Delia meet up, extended family too. Aunt Rosie is crazy for the pink dresses while Willow and Delia are plotting NOT to wear them. They race off to the kitchen together, where they believe their true talents can flourish. Chapter 3: Inside the kitchen. The girls hear the screen door open, and they meet the new caterer, Cat. She poses a threat to their plan for cooking their way out of the ugly dresses.
Chapter 4: The cousins tinker with Cat’s lemonade to disastrous results, getting them off on the wrong foot with her and ousted from her kitchen. And so on.
Outline as roadmap. Creating a reliable, functional outline doesn’t have to lock you in. There is still the freedom to let your creative voice take you places. But it does help you stay focused on your destination. While we might enjoy a Sunday drive in the country, we eventually need to get to where we’re going, right? Let the outline serve as your roadmap. Flesh out your ideas even more with each pass. As you refine your outline, flesh out the ideas for each chapter in greater and greater detail, making sure to pace out the tension and conflict as you go. With each pass, your outline details should grow from just a few sentences into a few longer paragraphs. Almost writing itself. When it comes time to sit down and begin writing your manuscript, you’ll might be surprised how clearly focused your story is. The book could almost right itself! Okay, that’s not true, but you are in good shape because of your outline. You can see where your action peaks and where you provide the reader a rest. You can see where you’ve laid in turning points and tension, and where you’ve set up and then resolved the conflict. Outline into manuscript. As you keep refining your outline and begin the writing process that makes the chapters hang together, you’ll see your great idea transform into a real story. And that story will soon take the shape of a solid, working draft. And from there, you can just imagine the book it will soon become. You’re off and running! But not with scissors; you’re too smart for that.
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.
It was obvious from the workshop’s
get-go: weekly blogging was proving to be a veritable Miracle Gro for Deanna Duray’s
students. They were writing, posting,
commenting, communicating, reading, learning and noticeably blooming.
Our concerns about security,
technical difficulties, school day opportunities and parent and administration
support proved unwarranted.
Using our own laptops and ipads,
we explored www.kidblog.org, set up accounts, wrote posts, inserted photos,
embedded web tools and even commented.
Her Principal Robert C. Lopez’
Vote of Confidence upped my eagerness to share Deanna Duray’s Fervent Learners
with my blog’s readers.
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!”
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
If you’re a classroom teacher,
consider introducing this opportunity to your
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.
it comes to celebrating Teen Technology, I feel Mary Ann’s and Jill’s pain.
don’t exactly qualify as a Teen.
HERE to see just which high school Reunion I’m attending this May.)
this is the book I’m currently reading.
also boldly revealed my Inner Luddite in a post last March. (Click HERE.)
sure do love to CLICK, then follow the links to CONNECT with all sorts of
wondrous People, Places and Things.
instance, there I was,
my fingers stroll the Internet on behalf of a writer with a UK-suited book,
what did I come upon but
why I’m wishing you a belated Happy World Book Day!
site is ripe with new books, authors and curriculum connections for readers,
writers, teachers and librarians.
yes, I found three, count ’em,
three publishing possibilities for my writer.)
Editor Gillian Engberg sent me a lovely Quick Tips email, calling my attention
Writing Resources for the Common Core Classroom.
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.
HERE for the Rules.
speaking of writing Kiddos, how could I not
click on the Denver Post’s Next Gen, the online newspaper for youth-written
met several middle school reporters during my visit to the Colorado International Reading
Association Conference in February.
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.
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.
HERE if you’re eager to learn last week’s A.Word.A.Day.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.)
I’d heard about Pat proved true and then some.
never-ending knowledge of children’s literature.
impeccable taste in books.
love of reading.
respect for and interest in writers and illustrators.
passion for All Things Children's Book glowed from within.
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.
course Pat herself proved the best resource of all.
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
She personally decorated the store’s windows and
greeted each and every guest.
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
Pat’s smile undid my buckling knees.
well as mentor, teacher, advocate, friend.
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 -
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.”
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.
“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.
the books they hand their readers, booksellers change lives too.
extraordinary ones, like my Pat Wroclawski.
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.
HERE for details.
Wednesday Writing Workout comes from Holly Thompson, a 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.’”
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.
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
Click here to
enter – if you haven’t already – the raffle to win one of 4 $25 Anderson’s
Bookshop Gift Certificates.
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 first time
a last time
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.
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.
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.
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.
and agents as well as writing kin agreed, offering the necessary encouragement,
revision suggestions and interest to keep Nancy keepin’ on.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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.
Let’s hear it for that prefix “re”!
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
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
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.
# # #
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
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
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.
French jargon, from Italian giargone, from Persian zargun (golden). Earliest
documented use: 1769.
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.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
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!
to my bi-lingual Brazilian-born grandson, Brazilian Portuguese is my Transparent language of choice.
I still don’t speak this language well – and my sweet, sweet lindo namerado (little boyfriend) recently turned three.
I do understand his words and conversation.
especially love the ability to hear a
native speak the word, not only by itself but in a sentence.
like A.Word.A.Day, I can always return to previous words that – somehow –
refused to stick. J
of speech: Adverb
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.
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?
post not only officially restarts our
TeachingAuthors blog after a brief Summer Hiatus.
jump-starts our writers’ engines with
a winning opportunity: Lee & Low’s New Voices Contest.
a Writing Contest serves as the perfect external battery to get any writer goinggoinggoing and moving forward.
Motivation – i.e. publication, prize money, a publisher’s attention, for
Focus – i.e. a specific format, theme or subject matter.
Opportunity – i.e. a guaranteed reading and audience!
don’t forget DEADLINE – in this case, September 30, 2013.
excel at keeping writers writing.)
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.
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.
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.
that has been published in any format published online or independently is not
eligible for this award.
click on the previous years’ winners and learn more about embracing this winning
opportunity, click HERE.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
is up and running again!
tuned for more Contests to jump-start
And be sure to check out our newest Writing Contests Links
keep us in the Loop.)
M Byond :)
the day I shout to the World:
week Sleeping Bear Press
my baby board book
Txtng Mama Txtng Baby!
read that title right:
Txtng Mama Txtng Baby.
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.
fun I had bringing this newest of worlds to the sturdy pages of the ultimate
hand-held device: the baby board book.
fun it was adding that human touch to
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.
love the story- a playful through-the-day conversation between Mama and Baby that
love the telling – tunefully-ordered familiar text phrases, such as I C U and xxooo, that beg to be repeated.
love the illustrations – baby-friendly emoticons that instantly bring smiles.
love the smart-phone-look-alike design, so readers and listeners can turn (or
swipe) the pages.
I love so many things about this 4” x 6 ½” book, starting with the cheery cover and the ♥ key on the keyboard.
of all, I love the book’s dedication: “2
n 4 Gabriel.”
truth, my grandson gifted me with this book before he was born.
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
Texting Mamas, I said to myself.
was up with THAT?
time I read the handwriting on the wall and it was written in text!
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.
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.
|Cartoon ©2013 Harry Bliss; Used with permission.|
course, anyone who knows me, and not even well,
knows I am The Least Likely Person to Have Created This Book.
texted my very first message January 18, 2013, at 2:13 pm, three years after entertaining
the idea behind this book.)
uncovered my Techy ID - “digital immigrant.”
have the heart of a Luddite.
and I don’t play well together.
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.
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.
technology simply isn’t available,” one company executive told me, “to produce
this book and make a profit.”
knew what was coming down the pike?!
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.
here’s one more thing I love about Txtng
Mama Txtng Baby: 2day’s Techy-Techy World is my story!
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.
my message remains the same: Mama ♥ Baby.
Q 4 letting me share my Good News.
free to tweet it 2 and add it to your Facebook page. J
U Wednesday 4 a WWW!
And now, for the Book
again we’re using Rafflecopter to give away two signed copies of Txtng Mama Txtng Baby (Sleeping Bear Press)!
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
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.
giveaway will run from today, August 5, through August 13, 2013. Winners will be notified August 14, 2013.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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.
I wrote in Monday’s post, it is a
Techy-Techy World for 2day’s Babies.
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
texting’s been around a mighty long time and
(2) most popular beliefs about
texting are incorrect, or at least, debatable.
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
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.”
identifies several distinctive features of texting, many of which suggest novelty but children’s
literature proves otherwise.
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.”
b, 2, @, x for kiss.
William Steig’s C D B, first
published by Simon & Schuster in 1968!
And Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s WUMBERS (Chronicle Books, 2012).
especially Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld’s
dedic8 this book 2 William Steig, the cr8or of CDB! (cer10ly the inspiration for this book) and so many other cla6.”
logograms, the pronunciation is what matters, not the visual shape.
initialism is “the reduction of
words to their initial letters.
NATO and BBC. (They are often called acronyms.)
also think BFF, OMG, GF.
Lauren Myracle’s ttfn.
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).
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!
any 2 characters – real, imagined, animal, human, and get them talking, or
rather, TXTNG (!) on their smart phones and/or tablets.
the 2 characters Happy? Sad? Confused? Angry? Hopeful? Plotting? Nasty? Kind?
they young or old or middle-aged?
does each come at his or her hand-held device?
Word choice, expressions, phrasing, rhythms - and this case, spellings - connote VOICE!
about your beginning – the inciting incident of sorts that gets the conversation
rolling, your middle, your end.
what dialogue does for a story: i.e.
(1) informs the reader
(2) advances the story
(3) reveals character
don’t forget to use a variety of text features!
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:) TXTNG :(
that long ago
the Greeks gave us our vowels –
our A and E and I and O
and Y (that sometimes) howls?
How :( I M
2 c what txtng’s wrought!
When now I tweet
words short n sweet
I X the vowels
* * * * *
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.
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
I needed to know: just what is
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
Fortunately, I came
upon Columbia University linguist Dr. John McWhorter’s TED Talk – “Txtng is
killing language. JK!!”
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
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.
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.
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
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.