Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Guest author at Literary luncheon adventures

If you are invited to an author's luncheon as guest author and you find your table because of your name perched on a display holder, Do not remove the sign. Even it it gets in the way of people seeing who you are and you seeing other people. 
I once sat at 'my' table at a conference and removed the sign so that I could talk to everyone -- and everyone assumed I was a rude conference goer taking the author's place. (but they didn't say anything, just were a little cold to me.)
It wasn't until the end of the luncheon (after I had had nice conversations with the people from either side of me) and the head table read our names and asked us to stand up, that the table realized that they really did have an author at their table. hmmmm.
I still did the 'whose birthday is closest to mine" contest to determine the winner of the books I had brought as table gifts.
Which reminds me - one time they asked us to put our gift books on display on the table. As soon as I did, four people left the table. (one was a halloween book and the others had people of color on the cover) After our shock, I simply told the remaining three people that it looked as if they each got one of my books. (lemonade out of lemons.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Who should run this country? Children's book authors and illustrators!

Why children's authors and illustrators should be running the country:
1) Empathy is one of our job requirements. Every book, every character we write or draw requires us to walk in another's shoes. We don't always do it perfectly, but we often know when we're not succeeding. And then we try harder.
2) We understand kids' widely varying circumstances. One day we might visit a school that charges $20,000 tuition for kindergartners. The next, a broken-down school where a kid goes to the office because her outgrown shoes are making her feet hurt. (And we see the secretary who goes into the back to try to find bigger shoes for that kid. We know about unsung heroes.) We visit schools where, if not for subsidized school meals, the kids would go hungry. We know you can't learn when you're hungry.
3) Money is not our first priority. (If it is, we're in the wrong field.) We do what we do because we love it, and because we know kids deserve the very best.
4) We see connections. We know a single act of kindness can change the course of a child's life. We know a single caring adult can be a lifeline. We've written these things. We've lived them. We remember.
5) We know art and music and dance and theater are not expendable. They save lives. Indeed, they have saved some of ours.
6) We're good at waiting. The book we're working on now may not sell for five years. It may not come out for ten. That doesn't mean it's not worth doing. We're not looking for quick payoffs. Quick payoffs often come at the expense of one's soul. (Congress, please note.)
7) We take the long view. It's great when a child says she loves our books. But it's even better if the child, through reading our books, develops her own empathy and grows up to walk through life understanding others' points of view, looking beyond stereotypes, and treating others with kindness and compassion. And thus makes the world better.
8) We understand cooperation. We understand synergy. We know we're stronger together.
9) We live in a world of imagination and magic and possibilities. Hate and fear exist, but they're obstacles to be overcome, not operating instructions.
10) We're nice.

Friday, March 17, 2017

No Snow here in Southern California

Did I ever mention how much I LOVE my little condo in southern California? 
Minuses - close enough to the 5 ( I-5 for the east coasters) so that the traffic sound is always there. But when I close my double-pane windows, I pretend the waves of sound are the sound of the ocean. 
Positives: I love seeing gre
en all the time even if it's palm trees and bamboo, ice plant and other strange growth (instead of grass). 
Flowers all the time - different ones for every season but always there. (no snow to shovel. I've had enough of snow shoveling for a lifetime. If I want to see snow, I can see snow on the 6,000 feet high mountains just an hour away.) 
I love being near my grown children and able to see them and their spouses (spice?) often. 
I love my one-level condo with no stairs and its walk-in shower.
Hurricanes (Cyclones over here in the west) never hit this area.
Of course we also don't have much rain, and when we do the inhabitants panic because all the oil deposited on the roads during the dry weather lifts and causes hydroplaning.
My oldest daughter kept encouraging us to move here and we're glad we did.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Maryland was actually a Confederate State

A bit of history that you might not know:
Maryland was a Confederate state that wasn't not allowed to join the Confederacy because of Federal Military occupation. Very much needed because of Washington, DC being SOUTH of Maryland.

The famous Federal Hill looking over Baltimore's Harbor used to have a federal fort on it with its guns aimed right across the harbor at the Maryland Club - a hotbed of Confederate sympathizers. 


Federal troops taking trains from the north could not travel straight through Baltimore (because the trains and train tracks didn't match) They had to march a mile or two from the end of the northern tracks to reach the beginning of the southern tracks. These troops were often fired upon by the citizens of Baltimore.
(Things my father-in-law told me about his home town.)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Nonfiction Monday - garbled library searches

Today's Google doodle is all about Komodo dragons. It's a quiz. (which I failed. How did you do?)
It reminded me of one library I worked at in the 1990s. A library where parents did the homework for their kids because their kids were "too busy to do it." A mom came in and demanded books on dragons. I took her to the Fairy tale section and showed her some dragon books.
"No, not that one. No not that one. Dragons! Can't you understand?"
So I dragged out some picture books about dragons. She was furious. Tongue lashed me up one side and down the other.
(Did I tell you that these homework-doing parents treated the library staff like very dumb servants? The men were often even worse because they thought they had the power to fire us.)
Eventually, through much discussion, I figured out that the lady was 1) doing a child's homework assignment that she herself didn't quite understand. And 2) that what she actually wanted was a nonfiction book on Komodo dragons. At that point the library didn't own any books all about that particular reptile but you can be sure that I immediately requested that we purchase some.
She was 'barely' satisfied when I found her subject in a general book about types of lizards.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

When your preschool child wants to write a book

What do you do when you are at your computer, writing, and your preschooler wants to 'write' on 'your' computer.  Let her pound away?
What we did when my preschool granddaughter wanted to do this was to get a used keyboard. Just the keyboard.
 Then she would sit on the floor by my desk and type away, clickity-click-click-click, happy as a clam, while I did my writing. We were together. and we both were busy.
My youngest child (before computers) saw me writing on notepads and then typing on my typewriter, so one day she wrote a story on her notepad and illustrated it. (small notepad. one page. one illustration.) Gave it to me and asked me to read HER story. 

Well, it was the usual preschool scribbles, carefully staying on the lines of the small notepad. I took a guess from the picture (It looked like a jack-o-lantern) and quickly made up a story about a pumpkin who wanted to be a jack-o-lantern. 
I was totally surprised when it turned out to completely satisfy her.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Things you might not know about me

Some things you might not know about me:


1. my age. I've never looked my age. When I turned 21, my family took me out to dinner - and I was CARDED and the restaurant refused to serve me drinks. On the other hand, at this same dinner, my younger sister was served without question! This kept happening to me until I reached my 30s. When I reached the age when everyone younger than me had hair turning white while my hair stayed brown, I decided that maybe this looking younger than I actually am is a GOOD thing. 
2. Mrs. Schroeder, the English teacher in my Junior year of high school was the first person who thought I was a good writer. I only wish I could have shown her my published books, the first of which happened 30 years later. 
3. I often say that I was a 10-year overnight success - between the time I began writing seriously and the publication of my first book. Which proves that you have to be stubborn and keep on writing. This obviously overlooks the fact that I was writing for magazines and the local newspaper during those 10 years.
4. Everyone in my family loves seafood - except me. So who married a guy who lived by the ocean? me. (My parents and my sister did manage to move close to the Gulf later, joining my brother who was stationed there. But my baby sister has always lived in the middle of the country, far from the ocean. Which is probably why she vacations at the ocean. My poor brother, however, now lives in the desert where everything is brown.)
5. I used to sew most of my children's clothes, up until they began school. Couldn't manage to sew jeans, though, so limited myself to tops and swimsuits after that.
6. I have no dining room in my house. The condo I bought only has 2 bedrooms and no extra rooms, so I took over the "dining room" space in the condo and turned it into my writing office.
7. I am not fond of dogs. Or spiders. (hmmm. people who really know me, already know this last fact.)

8. Although I wrote a book about the celebration and history (and riddles and a party plan) about Groundhog Day, I never managed to get to Punxsutawney to meed Punxsutawney Phill.  Nor did I meet the other famous groundhogs mentioned in that book.  But I did get great pleasure whenever people walked up to me at conventions where I was signing copies of this book who were convinced that I didn't have their groundhog in the book to be able to open the book and show them the page where their special groundhog was mentioned.   Oh, the benefits of doing extensive research when writing a book.