Monday, March 31, 2008

Poetry Monday

Why a Poetry Monday?
Because April is National Poetry Month.

(Yes, I know that today is the last day of MARCH, but tomorrow is April. And I'm all geared up to do something for Nonfiction Monday. Besides, Poetry books are filed in the nonfiction area of public libraries. Nuff said.)

What a great picture book story of a dog out for a romp, gets caught in a rainstorm, has to share shelter with a CAT!
Wait a minute.
Take a closer look.
Every object either is made up of words or contains words describing itself.

You could take hours "reading" each page.
Page one = one crow/ one butterfly/ one wisp of cloud/ and on the bottom of the page is SIDEWALK POURED ROCK FLAT GRAY FOOT WAY TRAMPED-ON NOT-LAWN PARKING LOT HOT SPOT,BLACK TAR MULTICAR, HARD FLAT WELCOME MAT.

Whew! Lots more reading there than expected.

Dog appears. Cloud gets larger. Cat appears. Two crows, cawing. And each object is made up of words describing itself. Along the bottom of the two-page spread, grass describes itself. (and on later pages, complains about getting wet)

Watch that cloud turn into a thunderstorm, describing itself as it forms. (I refused to read every word/drop of rain to my child, sorry.)

You would think the tree would stay the same throughout the story, so you could skip reading it, but no. Trees react to storms, too.

Watch the ladybugs.
Watch the ants.

Looks like an easy picture book story, but isn't.
It's Concrete Poetry. J 811.54
You and a child can spend hours with this book.

For more Nonfiction Monday links, click here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Editor gives writing advice

Some of the best writing advice I've seen lately is on Cheryl Klein's Blog right here.

Among the articles about writing she has posted is this:
Finding a Publisher and Falling in Love: A Convivial Comparison

Many of her gems of advice are copies of speeches she has made at various writer's conventions.
(Check out the "Picture Book Cookie" one.)

And if you're not sure just who she is -- she was the continuity editor for Harry Potter books, and also edits other books in her job as assistant to Arthur Levine at Scholastic.


Monday, March 24, 2008


Workshop, written by Andrew Clements and Illustrated by David Wisniewski (winner of the Caldecott Medal for Golem), published by Clarion, 1999.

Why talk about a book as old as this one?
Because the Illustrator was a Maryland guy and because I keep forgetting that Andrew Clements does picture books as well as very funny middle grade fiction. (Be sure to read his newest -- No Talking.)

Also, because I'm planning a Handyman storytime and just remembered what fun this book is.

You would think that a description of tools and what they do would be boring.
Each tool is described and pictured making -- something. The illustrations become so close-up that you are totally surprised when you discover just what all these tools created.

Beginning with RULER --
"Ruler knows how long and wide and deep and high.
Ruler never guesses.
Ruler knows."
And ending with TOOLBOX.
With the last page showing the carpenter's helper (a young boy) gleefully riding the -- aw, okay I'll tell you -- a Merry-go-Round horse.


Friday, March 21, 2008

The benefits of having an online journal

One of the benefits (handicaps?) of writing in your online journal that you will do something -- is that you feel obligated to do it.

Yesterday I mumbled to myself (see previous post) that I really should get the Leprechaun story back into the mail. Which made me feel guilty enough that I sat down today and did it. I revised it one more time. (It's still not as short as I feel it needs to be.) And by 5:00pm, as the Post Office was closing its doors, I skooted in and mailed it. To three places.

Yes, all three places will take multiple submissions -- I researched that on the 2007 SCBWI list of Children's Book Publishers to make sure. Then I jumped over to Harold Underdown's website to make sure that the editors listed in the Fall list of Publishers were actually still at that publisher. He tracks this on his "Who's Moving Where" page.

The most interesting thing I discovered in this new list of Children's Book Publishers was the change in how to send out manuscripts.
--Several Publishers want picture books simply e-mailed to them.
--Others said we were to send it by mail -- but that they would only respond if they wanted to publish. We would know it had been rejected if they never heard from us again. DO NOT send a SASE. (To which I made a note to self to consider it rejected if I hadn't heard back within 4 to 6 months.)
--And a few publishers requested the traditional type of submission. Please enclose a SASE for our us to send our response back to you.

How do I keep track of what is where?

Next I record what I had done/ who I had sent copies of the manuscript to on both a computer file in the leprechaun folder and on the 4X6 Leprechaun file card in my paper card file. Actually I use two cards. A yellow card is a master card of every manuscript that is out, and where to, and when I should expect a response. In another spot I have separate white cards for each separate manuscript. On these cards I have a record of every place I have sent this ms.

In the front of the file box are the white cards of all the manuscripts that are NOT out in the mail. To remind me to revise them and get them back out, again.

How do you keep track of your submissions?

Oh, and in addition to this frenzied manuscript business, today the 8-year old went to two egg hunts. Actually, one was a "Kiss" hunt where there were a few plastic eggs with prizes and thousands of Hershey kisses to scoop up off the ground. The other was a neighborhood hunt and evening cookout. What can I say. Sometimes I think Marylanders are a little bit crazy. Yes, it was 45 degrees, but cookout it was.

Tomorrow she'll attend another egg hunt (if it doesn't rain or snow) and then decorate real eggs for her indoor Easter Egg hunt Sunday morning. Whew!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

My week off to write

I gave myself several vacation days to write this week. But wouldn't you know it -- life got in the way.

Friday I have to juggle things around the 8-year old because not only are public schools closed, but so is her day care.
(and there's an egg hunt in a nearby park she wants to go to.)

Thursday was my day to run around doing errands. Picking up my new glasses was one of the more important things.

Don't ask me what I did Wednesday and Tuesday, because I couldn't tell you. I thought a lot about what my next project would be. I began writing a couple of things. I noodled around revising a couple of other things. I did the wash. I did manage to get one manuscript in the mail on Thursday. I hope to have more in the mail by the weekend.

(In case you are wondering, Monday I was at the library. I had two programs to do and book replacements to work on.)

Being that this is March, one thing I probably need to get back in the mail is my Leprechaun story. There are so few short stories preschool and early elementary teachers can use for St. Patrick's Day. The one I use all the time in storytime is long out of print. So I need to do my bit to get another one published.

The author Patricia Wrede says, "Editors don't make house calls -- You gotta send those manuscripts out."


Monday, March 17, 2008

Lightship by Brian Floca. (writer and illustrator) Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. 2007. On shelves now.

Here is a ship that holds her place.
Everyone knows about lighthouses. Standing tall to shine a becon of warning of dangers on the coastline to ships. Or to mark the opening of a safe harbor. But did you know that there are places where lighthouses cannot be buil? These danger spots were marked by lightships.

These ships anchored in one spot. Day in and day out, they stay there. Summer or winter, they stay there. And when fog rolls in and ships cannot see the danger, that's when the lightships light their light and blow their foghorn.

Brian Floca does a wonderful job showing normal shiplife going on in his illustrations, complete with the ship's cat, while the lyrical easy words describes their action. (or lack of action) Is that a sailor getting seasick?

I think it's great that although the words say, "The higher the waves,...the harder it is to (do this or do that) ... to visit the head. The picture itself is of the bathroom. Oh. Head = bathroom. No long explainations -- just using the word "head" as the last word of the sentence. Then the reader's eye has to look at the illustration before reaching the next sentence, which is positioned below the illustration.

Lovers of detailed cutaway illustrations will love the endpapers which show all the parts of the ship, inside and out. Librarians will love the fact that the endpapers look alike -- but the ship is positioned off center with seabirds to the left or right of the ship, allowing us to tape down the bookcover over the birds in the picture, leaving the complete ship in view both in front and in back.

Kudos to the art designer (or to the illustrator) who took this normal library problem (of bookcovers covering up parts of the endpapers) into account. Too many beautiful endpapers have been lost under library secured bookcovers. This one is perfect.

To read other Nonfiction Monday book reviews, click here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where I'd rather be

I'm supposed to be doing my taxes.
So, what am I really doing? Thinking of places I'd like to go -- if only I had the time and the money.

My friend, Mary Bowman-Kruhm, just came back from another research trip to Africa. She's writing a book about people in Africa and also writing about the process of creating that book on her blog which you can read right here.

Africa? Do I want to go to Africa?
Maybe later,
I really don't suppose I'll never get there.

First I'd like to see places in the United States.
--My sister says that I should forget the Grand Canyon and go to Bryce canyon, instead. It's easier to reach those beautiful canyon walls. (You're looking up at them, instead of down, for one thing.)
--The Giant Redwoods.
--The Florida Keys.
--Definitely Hawaii -- to see my nephew at least. And to get up close and personal with a volcano.
--I've been to Maine. Believe me, you don't want to be there except in July, when it warms up to 75 or maybe 80 degrees. Warning, there is frost in August. brrrrr.

Other places I'd like to see?
--Places in England. Actually, Great Britain because I want to include Wales and Scotland and maybe Ireland.
--Some places in Europe.
--Perhaps China, but I don't know about the food. I'm not very brave about things I don't recognize and I am very much not fond of fish.
--Maybe Egypt, maybe not. Okay, yes I do know that is in Africa.
--I have no interest in going to Antarctica.

Sooo, where do YOU wish you could travel to?


Monday, March 10, 2008

Nonfiction Monday -- BUGS !

Many public librarians already know this, but the rest of you might be interested to learn that the National Summer Reading Program theme this year is BUGS!
"CATCH THE READING BUG" to be exact.

And these two books will be just perfect to hand out to young bug fans.

Giant Pop-out Bugs, a Pop-out Suprise Book -- has a laser-cut cover showing four bugs on the title page.
Inside the riddle on the left gives hints about the bug hidden on the right. To discover the bug the reader must lift the right hand page out to a double spread. Seems simple enough. Except when you do that, it's not a simple flap -- it's a giant fold out picture of the bug -- many times larger than life sized.
Great for using with groups.
I'm not so sure about its use as a lap book, because those giant sized bugs startled me. Heavens only knows what small children will think.
(Chronicle Books, 2008. Book design by Wendy Lui.)
On shelves now

Backyard Bugs, 6 Amazing Pop-up Scenes -- is a more traditional pop-up book featuring bugs. Each page has a bit of information about the bug popping off the page. For those who wish more scientific information, Each bug page has a large pocket with a pull out page of more information. This one could be useful for reports.
(DK Publishing, 2007. Still available for purchase. The cover says it is by richard Ferguson. However, the bib info says "written by Marie Greenwood. Who to believe? Our library cataloged it in the picture book section under Ferguson)

Another similar book by Richard Ferguson for your enjoyment is filed in our nonfiction section -- 591 -- and is called, On Safari, 6 Amazing Pop-up Scenes.

To read more blogs which talk about Nonfiction this Monday click here.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Saturday's SCBWI Conference

Today I attended a local SCBWI conference that focused on picture books.

Since all picture books are somewhat like poems -- few words, with each word being the best and strongest ones for the job -- we began with the poet, Dinah Johnson, discussing her work with historical African American books and her current published books of poems. Some of her books were published as collections of poems and some were published as picture books.

Interestingly enough, The rest of the morning was dedicated to two wonderful people who have created the Babymouse Graphic novel series. Jennifer Holm and her brother, Matthew. Besides the fact that both of them are wonderful storytellers, their work fills a real need for graphic novels for young children. (and besides which -- It features a GIRL mouse. Jeni kept saying, "Where are the Girl heroes?" So she created one.

There are so few graphic novels for this age group. I can only think of two.
-- Owly -- which is practically wordless
-- and Babymouse -- your typical schoolkid who has to cope with mean schoolmates, and music concerts, and tests, and her own wild imagination. (a locker so over full that the contents fill the hallway when emptied? Including the dinosaur?)

The 8-year old, a big Babymouse fan, was disappointed that I did not take her today. But she's excited about going with me next month when Jennifer Holm puts on a program for children at the library.

They showed us how to set up the storyboards they use to create the panels in Babymouse. And talked about how much things change once the editor and art director see what they've done.

In the afternoon Molly O'Neill talked about the new imprint at Harper Collins, Bowen Press, and what they are looking for. It's a tiny imprint with a proposed output of 15 books a year at all levels. She showed us previews of the first books to be coming out from this press (they look delicious) and described their appeal. Mostly fiction. Some special nonfiction.
Her description of this first list:
Books about cultural trendds and global matters. (the nonfiction book)
--Literary fiction. (Virginia Wolff completes her series which began with Make Lemonade.)
--Popular fiction. (Dragons and a new Mary Rodgers book called Freaky Monday. Hurrah! Freaky Friday fans will be thrilled.)
--Bold and Arresting picture books. (a retelling of The Fisherman's Wife featuring a kid and a magical lion instead of the wife and magical fish, plus an utterly simple but charming book of friendship and love. It was passed around, but our side of the room never got to see it, so I can't describe it any better but you can betcha that I'll probably grab it to booktalk whenever it comes into my library.)
--Graphic material (beautifully done about the battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address.)
--First novel/ new talent (they'll try their darndest to discover new wonderful writers to feature.)

Unfortunately, the imprint is closed to over the transom submissions. The door was slightly cracked open to those of us who attended the conference -- we could submit ONE thing.
(And it had better be the best thing we've ever done. I'm sure all of us are sitting at home tonight, bonking our heads like Pooh and saying, "Think, think, think. What should I send?")

It ended with a panel discussion at the end answering multiple questions the audience had for the speakers.
No, I"m wrong.
It ended with us trying to make our way home under a thunderstorm with high winds, driving rain, hail, and complete road blockage by downed trees. What an ending!


What have I been doing?

It's been a week since I posted a message?
Well, it's been a busy one for me at work, at home, and with my writing.

Let's see...I revised the Lance and the Fire story.

That's Lance at the top of this post. Why is the sky red and the air sorta smokey? it's because this was taken when the fires were raging around San Diego last fall. I kinda had a problem with this picture. This is the way my daughter sent it to me -- sideways. Even tho I've tried several times to turn it upright, it always ends up sideways. No matter. You can still see how beautiful and friendly he is.

Did my second e-query to an agent.
Got an immediate response (wow) within 35 minutes to send it to her -- so I did.

This one asked that the story be included inside an e-mail. I can do that. The first agent that I e-quired asked me to send the story as an attachment. But her inflexible submission page would only upload files that ended in .txt. uuuhhhh. Appleworks can save in text format, but the files don't end in .txt. So, I simply added .txt to it and zoom, the submission page took it. Don't know if the reason she rejected it was because of the story -- or because she couldn't even read it. And I'm too shy around editors/ agents to ask.

I also wrote a new adventure for Lance.
If I ever sell the Fire story, I'll be all set with a sequel.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

And heeeerrrrrrrr's who?

Take a look to the right there. My Illustrator, Paige Billin-Frye is holding our latest book -- THE HALLOWEEN BOOK OF FACTS AND FUN. One of the chapters in it discusses other festivals celebrated around the time of Halloween. And one of those festivals is the Day of the Dead.

Where is this leading to?
The picture at the beginning of this blog message today is that of the person who gave me a lot of information about how the Day of the Dead is celebrated in California. He and his wife dressed as Day of the Dead figures for last year's Halloween party. Talk about mixing two cultures.