Thursday, December 27, 2007

When I won the Boston Globe/ Horn Book Award

Susan Kusel, over at her blog,, is going to host the January Carnival of Children's Literature and asked us to write about Children's Book Awards. I picked this to write about:

For authors, illustrators, editors and publishers:
If you've had the experience of winning an award,
what was it like?
What awards have your books won that have meant
the most to you?
What award would you most like to win?

The time I won the Boston Globe/ Horn Book Award was the most fun ever. Okay, I didn't WIN it -- my book, TO FLY, THE STORY OF THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, published by Clarion, was one of the Non-fiction Honor books in 2003.

It won other awards that year, too. (I have to say awards, because it didn't win any prizes -- prizes actually give you money.) Most of the other awards were just citations or inclusion in a list here and there. Some of them actually gave you a paper saying you had won. But the Boston Globe/ Horn Book Award (for the honor book) gives you an engraved plate. Nice.

Oh the excitement! What should I wear? Consulting with my online writer friends. Should I wear a glittering outfit like Linda Sue Park did when she accepted the Newbery award? (Heck, I wanted to BE Linda Sue Park.) But I couldn't find one. The award ceremony was early October, so shopping for glitter is futile in August. The stores only have it closer to Christmas.

I ended up finding a black dress in Talbots. I hesitated to wear it, but my writer friends insisted that nothing beats the power of the "little black dress." (Well, it was a long dress and I'm a largish person, so I wasn't sure how it qualified as a "little black dress." But anywho...)

Clarion booked rooms at the Parker House in Boston! Wow! The place where Parker House rolls were invented. (okay -- my husband didn't get the connection, either. I guess you have to like to cook to get excited about this.)

The whole evening is a blur. I was excited about finally meeting my book's illustrator. (Robert Andrew Parker) But he was ill and could not come. Which meant that I collected TWO engraved plates, but had to give one up later to Clarion's wonderful Marketing Manager, Marjorie Naughton.

Many people had nice things to say to me, but the best was from the school librarian on the award committee. (whose name escapes me right now) She asked me if I worked with children. When I admitted I have been a Children's Librarian for 35 years, she said, "I knew it!" She told me that she had read every book about the Wright Brothers this year and that most of the others seemed to be written from an adult's viewpoint -- assuming the reader already knew a lot about the subject. But that mine was the only one that both adults and children could read AND understand.

Wow! Now that was high praise, indeed. And probably the high point of the evening.

On the other hand, maybe the high point of the evening was when Roger Sutton, the editor of Horn Book Magazine, gave me the two engraved plates and I made my speech holding both of them. And then having dinner with him after the award ceremony.

The next morning, I squeezed in a tour of Boston before I had to run and catch my plane back home. Because it was pouring rain, I didn't get out of the bus to see the McCloskey ducks in the park. (remember Make Way for Ducklings?)

What award would I most like to win? The Caldecott medal -- if only it were given for Writing the Words in addition to being given to the illustrator for creating wonderful art. The Golden Kite award would be nice, too. It's an award from fellow writers.

-Wendie Old

BUSY FINGERS, Charlesbridge, 2003
(many awards)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merrie Christmas

Well, was it a Merrie Christmas for you?   It was for us.
This was the year to have a red and gold, Angel tree.  (last year the trim was all silver)  We put up the tree on Sunday and much to my surprise, the 8-year old took the remaining decorations and "decorated" the house.  I only hope she can find everything she put up when we take it all down on Three Kings Day.  I'm finding pine cones and bells and angels everywhere.

Yesterday, I bought new lampshades for the living room (ones that light will shine through) to replace the old ones which were  opaque.  Amazing.  The rooms I had thought were too dark to use are now brightly lit and welcoming. 

Everyone received something for Christmas that was totally a surprise.   Nick and Chip got remote-controlled helicopters.  and immediately had them buzzing around the living room.  The 8-year old got the locket she had always (always?) wanted.  And my sister sent me a shawl she had knit herself, along with an old-fashioned wooden stick topped with a painted bead to keep it closed.  It's cozy to wear in the evenings when I sit at the computer.  Like wearing a warm hug.

Today for dinner, we had ham -- Silver Label Ham -- for the first time in years.  yum!   Usually we have roast beast and yorkshire pudding.

And now everyone is out in the back yard playing wiffle ball.  The 8-year old is getting pretty good at hitting it.  If only she wouldn't attempt to hit every ball that passes her -- high/ low/ and inbetween.  Oh well, it's exercise -- for her if not for us.

On the writing side -- I got an invitation from an agent to send a full manuscript to her.  (and the Lance, the Fire Dog story got rejected.  Gotta get that one back out in the mail.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Last minute shopping

Some people plan ahead.
They shop for Christmas presents in July, have them wrapped by October and mailed by the end of November.
Not me.
Not my family.
My husband is still trying to think what to get.
My daughters say our presents are "in the mail" but may arrive after Christmas.
I have bought some family presents -- but didn't get them wrapped and mailed until this week.

This evening I got most all the presents for the people in town out from their various hiding places and counted them.  In so doing, I discovered another present I should have mailed.  And -- that I had probably overbought for the 8-year old (but nowhere near the amount she would have liked to get)  and had underbought for everyone else.
I had thought I was done shopping -- but now I have to hit the stores this weekend with a new list of things that would be perfect for this or that person.  Crossing fingers and toes that they are still on the store shelves.

Are YOU done with your shopping and wrapping and mailing and decorating the house and....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm It

I've been tagged by Mary BK to tell 5 obscure things about me that you probably don't know.  (Thank heavens these things have changed -- it used to be we had to write 10 things.)

1)  Well, first I have to tell you about Mary BK.  You might not know that Mary and I and another friend wrote two books together.  We decided to have them published under a pen name because putting all three of our names would be too long for the spine of the book.  (Mary Bowman-Kruhm, Wendie Old, Claudine Wirths -- can you just picture it?)
          We combined the names and shortened Mary's last name and came up with this pen name -- C.W. Bowie.  Eventually I'll get the covers of these picture books up along the right hand side of this blog.

2)  My husband and I have adopted the most wonderful (and smartest) grandchild in the world.  (no favoritism here)  This now makes me a "mom" to three girls and makes our grandchild a sister to her aunt and her mommy.  She thinks it's funny.

3)  This "smart" grandchild decorated a four-foot Christmas tree with her best friend yesterday.  It only took us a little more than an hour to find and pick up all the tinsel that had, strangely enough, scattered all over the room.   Did you know that four packs of tinsel can almost fill a trash can?   (I know, I know -- it only takes one pack to trim a tree.  It's just that THEY didn't know.)

4)  I love taking trips.  Driving? Flying? makes no matter to me.  So taking trips to research things for my books is a pleasurable vacation for me.   Luckily the 8-year-old likes to travel with me, so I am assured of having a companion.  

5)  Finally,  I live in a stone farmhouse built in 1740 -- which is heated by a woodstove.  Okay, yes, we do use electric baseboard heat for part of the house.   I just think it's funny that it's the computer room (living room) that has the old-fashioned heat source.  And boy does it keep us warm.  The walls are 23 inches of stone, which radiates cold when it's freezing and below outside, so the radiant heat from the woodstove is the only thing that can combat it successfully.

-wendieO  (hmmm, looking for someone else to tag)

Friday, December 14, 2007


One thing I need to do better -- is to learn to love revising my writing.
Darcy Pattison, who writes marvelous books and teaches novel workshops, posted this writing advice recently that I think may help:


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Brunch with Santa

Saturday, the Joppa Branch of our library system held their annual "Brunch with Santa."  The actual work of setting up the table settings and serving the brunch (sticks of french toast and syrup) is done by the Joppatowne Woman's Club.

When I first came to the branch X-many years ago, the previous librarian told me that I didn't have to do anything -- the Woman's Club did everything.  Well, that was only a partial truth.  Gradually I learned that:   I planned the publicity, I reserved the room, I did the registration and gave out the tickets, and I was responsible for doing a program before Santa arrived.

(Originally it was called Breakfast with Santa  with a seating at 10 am and another one at noon -- but people objected to the idea of having 'breakfast' at noon.  So several years ago we changed it to 'brunch.')

I've developed three (or more ) programs that I alternate.
1)  The Night before Christmoose  -- using a relative of the famous moose and a tape of him telling the story.   Along with the guest moose speaker, I use an illustrated version of the traditional Night before Christmas poem along with Robert Sabuda's wonderful cut-paper version.

2)  The 12 Days of Christmas -- using a serious version of the song, then a silly version, then Robert Sabuda's cut-paper one.   I also pass out card-stock with the 12 numbers on them and ask the children to wave them when their number comes up.   This year I used the Southwestern version of a pinata on a pinion tree.  And had the kids say the numbers in Spanish.

3)  Miscellaneous Christmas tales -- featuring my flannel board version of The Tree that Stayed up All Year and a variety of other new and well-loved stories.   Plus, of course, a Robert Sabuda cut-paper something.  (Christmas Alphabet, or Christmas Pop-up, or Cookie Count.)

Earlier -- near the beginning of December, our branch holds a Holiday Open-house where we play Dreidels, make holiday cards and crafts, and eat festive foods.

What do you do at your Holiday programs?
-wendie O

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Snowflakes for sale

This is the last chance to bid on snowflakes made by artists for Robert's Snow. The third group is now available.   
Bidding ends on Friday, December 7th at 5:00 Eastern time.  
Bids start at $150 and can only be raised by adding $25.   
Good Luck!

Monday, December 3, 2007

December at last

Wow, it's December.
The 7-year-old is now 8-years-old.
Everyone seemed to like the paint-your-own-pottery birthday party and some want to go again.  (ME! Me!   I saw a butterfly that I really, really want to own.)

Editors seem to be clearing off their desks.  I've received several rejections in the past few days -- some for manuscripts I sent out last January and one for a manuscript I mailed out two weeks ago.

But I won't lose heart.  I've been kick-started into sending out manuscripts and will continue to do so.  I have two things almost ready to go which will probably go out Tuesday or Wednesday.

  Plus I think I've done as much as I can with my task of cutting Francis Scott Key in half.
Hmmm.  That does need some explanation, doesn't it.

I've been sending out a 4800 word picture book biography of Francis Scott Key, based on the design of TO FLY.  (see cover over there to the right?  The one that won all those awards?)

  One editor tried to gently tell me she wanted shorter. (We only do 32 page...)  I was determined to sell another 48 page book.  But it didn't happen.  So, when the critiquer at SCBWI-LA told me flat out that nobody was publishing 48 page books and that I needed to make it either longer or shorter, I decided that they were really trying to give me good advice.

Ever since then, I've been slashing and burning.  And now F.S. Key is almost half the size of what it once was -- and I can't figure out what more to take out.  So I'm going to bite the bullet and send it out.  Sometime this week.   Really.  Truly.

A friend once said that a work of art was never finished -- just abandoned.  And that's how I feel about this manuscript.  I think it is now the best I can do at this time, and I should stop fiddling with it and simply float it out there into publishing land.

If you are an artist (writer or something) and happen to be reading this blog -- do you feel this way when you send something out to be considered for publication?