Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Words -- Writers need words

About 10 years ago I was complaining to some online writer friends that I was going to have to cut several chapters out of my book-in-progress to meet the required word count. In return I got this message from author, Dian Curtis Regan:

"You're running long and I'm running short.
I need another 9,000 words to complete my novel.
We can help each other.
Please send words.
Good words.
Descriptive words.
Meaningful and heartfelt.
The kind of words one finds in Newbery Novels.
And, if you can send them in complete sentences -- all the better.
No Adverbs, please.
Also, include punctuatioin.
No exclamation points unless there is a fire.
I hadn't planned on a fire, but at this point, I'm open to anything.

Be sure to enclose an SASE if you want any leftover words returned.
----Dian Curtis Regan, feeling like she's onto something. (or, perhaps, just ON something.)"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

When will the caterpillars become butterflies?

This past week I returned to the library to find that the Summer Reading Program was being run very smoothly by the rest of the staff. I returned just in time to get caought up in our huge Games day/ Summer Celebration on Tuesday where the teen volunteers run various stations. (put the dot on the -huge- ladybug/ temporary tattoos/ caterpillar race/ etc.) Kids got prizes at almost every station. The Baltimore Ravens football team mascot, POE, also showed up.

The only disaster that happened while I was gone (that they told me about) was when the butterfly cage arrived -- with no caterpillars. Which were quickly ordered and arrived on one of our hottest days. (over 95 degrees) The instructions said the caterpillars could not be kept in a cold place -- which means nowhere in the public areas of the library. We freeze out there. So we're keeping the caterpillars in the librarian's office (which has little to no air-conditioning) while they turn into butterflies.

We had wanted to let the families who come to the library watch the Painted Lady butterflies develop -- but not possible. They'll just have to take our word for it that butterflies are hatching back in the office. Still -- we'll go ahead with our guessing contest. 'Guess when the butterflies will hatch?' The people coming the closest will win a prize.

Do you want to enter the contest too?
Put your guess as to when you think they'll hatch into the comments section and leave your e-mail address. I'll let you know if you've won. Will it be July 31, 2008? August 16th? You have 4 chances to win, because there are four caterpillars in our caterpillar house.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Welcome back to work

Well, this is what happens when you go to ALA for 5 days in June and then to a 10 day writing class in Vermont during July.

A mother and very worried boy asked the circ department people at my library: "When did Mrs. Old pass away?"
This flustered the circ people.
THEY knew where I was.
But the child and parent were concerned.
If Mrs. Old wasn't in the library, running the Summer Reading Program -- she must have died -- because she's ALWAYS here during the summer.

It's nice to know you're missed.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vermont College Residency is over

Vermont College was overwhelming. The picture book certificate group was separate from, and yet part of the whole experience. We went to the same lectures, but met as a separate group for our workshop session -- where it was picture books all the time. (The people in the four semester program had people doing all types of writing in their workshops.)

Now to digest what I've heard and try to apply it. I've already discovered that the other people in the regular program are learning more literary techniques than we picture book people are, but we'll have enough trouble just producing the number of picture books we are assigned -- 20 to 25. We send in five packets -- one each month. They include annotated list of 25 books we have read. 3-5 picture books we wrote. Parts of a research essay we are working on (and will give a lecture on in the Winter residency) and a cover letter talking about what we've done and some of what we are thinking. There may be more. I have to check my notes.

My family is hoping this series of over 95 degree days here in Maryland will break soon. (although it is making the swimming pool warm enough for me to consider swimming in it.)

During my 10 days in Vermont, the temps were in the 70s and low 80s, but it could also be sticky when the humidity rose, so it had some rotten days, too. (because very few places had air conditioning -- and those that did have it, turned off the air conditioning during the lectures because nobody could hear over the roar of the window airconditioner.) The best days were when we simply opened the windows and let the breeze blow through.

I hear that the winter session has minus 5 degrees. Yikes!

Now to finish doing the wash and then to try to organize a Vermont College corner in my office. hmm, that means I have to organize the piles that are already here -- right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Obama on Writing

Pam Coughlan over at Motherreader was at an Obama event in Fairfax, VA, where he was asked what he would say to young writers.

He was surprised by the question, which he admitted was one he hadn't heard before, but didn't hesitate to answer. He referenced his two books, and specifically mentioned how he wrote them himself, along with many of his speeches.

With a light inflection, he said, "In terms of getting a job, knowing how to write is a good thing." He talked about how he kept a journal, and how it was important for teaching him not only how to write, but also how to think.

But (Pam said), my favorite part was when he said, "Over the course of four years I made time to read all of the Harry Potter books out loud to my daughters. If I can do that and run for president, then you can find time to read to your kids. That's some of the most special time you have with your children."

According to MSNBC he also said "these days kids know how to text message... but when you are applying for a job they will not be asking if you know how to text message."

-wendieO (still here, studying at the Vermont College MFA program -- I'll report on this when I have time to digest some of what I've learned.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday in Vermont

Why has there been no blogging this week?
I've been immersed in an intense writing program at the Vermont College Master of Fine Arts in Children's picturebooks.

What is it like?
Remember when you were in school -- from 9am to 3pm
Or in college where you had a course in the morning, maybe two courses in the afternoon and a few more the next day.

No, it's not like that.
This is a low residency program. Which means I'll spend 10 days here at the college and 10 more days here in January. All the rest of the work will be done on my own during the Fall.

Today the lectures began at 8:15 am (breakfast at 7:30) and the last Reading session will end about 9:30 pm. In between are various lectures by faculty and graduating students about the art of writing. Not all are required, so eventually your body rebels and you collapse and take a nap, only to get up to attend another lecture.

And then there are the workshops -- where everyone in your group discusses the manuscripts you have submitted, giving advice and hopefully pointing out where you went astray in your writing.

On Saturday, the two of us who were "workshopped" found ourselves left with only the title -- of what we had thought were completed manuscripts that only needed a few tweeks. Ha! Were we surprised.

Also on Saturday, we had the great pleasure to have Janet Stevens and her sister Susan Stevens Crummel show us how they worked together. Then they had a panel discussion with their editor. Great stuff.

Even though it is a low residency program, it's real college. I get a full semester's college credit for this work.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Nonfiction Monday

Oh -- It's nonfiction Monday again? How time flies when you are going out of your mind.

I don't have a new book ready to review

So I suggest you wander over to the I.N.K blog (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) and see what that group of nonfiction writers is talking about today. Ah, Jennifer Armstrong is talking about nonfiction books that seem to be long lists of things -- like the Guinness Book of World Records. That's one of the most checked-out books in our library. She points out how lists of things are often the backbone of many nonfiction books. (just how many things do live under a rock or log?)

As for me, I'm busy packing for my trip to Vermont College tomorrow.
I'll try to post reports from there -- if I can find an internet connection and if I don't fall asleep too quickly after long days of classes and discussions. (I'm taking my bathing suit, but don't really expect to have time to use it.)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Monday at ALA

Again, I would have loved to attend the program called "Research fuels the Author's Fire" with Carol Gorman and Jackie Briggs Martin. But 8:00 am? not possible.

I had to skip the program about Read between the Lions join forces with Libraries to improve literacy, too. Why?
Because it conflicted with the ALSC award ceremony and I had to see several friends, and authors I respect but don't actually know, be honored with awards.

The Geisel award for early reader (easy reader?) books had several honor books. Among them was one (Vulture View) by online friend, April Pulley Sayre. The winner of the award was the wild and crazy MO Willems. His winning book was "There is a Bird on Your Head," part of his funny elephant and Piggy series. When his name was announced, the whole Geisel committee stood up -- with birds on their heads.

As Mo came up to accept his award, he swiped one of those headbands with birds attached and proceeded to wear it for the rest of the day. After a few thank-yous, he launched into his speech -- In easy reader, short words with repetitive sentences. Every time one of the sentences moved naturally into a longer word, he would begin it. Then stop. Then attempt to find a short, easy reader word to replace it. The audience went from quiet giggling to uproarious laughter by the end of his speech.

Naturally I had to, later that afternoon, get into the line at Hyperion's booth to get him to sign two titles from that series. I flew home with my almost 6-year old grandchild and she read it to me during the flight. We had a little fight over who was going to get the title with the nice gold seal on it.
hmmm. when I unpacked, I discovered it was NOT in my carryon bag. The little rascal had managed to scoop up both books to take to her house.

In the afternoon I had intended to attend "Celebrating Children's Book Week: A How-to for creating Innovative Youth Programs." Sounds good, right. Well, it may have become good, but I bailed out after the second speaker told more about the history of the week.

Instead, I went across the hall and enjoyed the remainder of "Handmade Tales: Stories to make and Take." Again I was not able to get any of the handouts, but I learned how to manipulate a bandana into "Bandana Man!" (variation on Gingerbread Man) and other neat things to use in storytime.

The handouts for all the programs I've mentioned in these ALA messages have been uploaded onto the ALSC website and YOU can download copies for yourself. (I certainly will, since I missed getting most of the few handouts available at the Conference.)

Sunday at ALA

As promised, a quick review of what happened on Sunday -- before the Newbery/ Caldecott banquet.

I really wanted to attend "The lady, the Tramp, and the Lion King. Mixed Messages about gender, race, and ethnicity in Disney's Magic Kingdom. But couldn't get myself going in time to get to an 8 am meeting. Too bad.

I did make it to the Random House Children's Fall Book review, but all the book handouts had been handed out before I got there. However, the nice people there said to just go to the Random House booth and ask -- so I did-- and was able to get a copy of a new Beverly Cleary about the Pain and the Great One. I hadn't seen a new Beverly Cleary in ages. How exciting. And just right for my 8-year old who will be entering 2nd grade soon. She'll be thrilled.

Stopped by the Clarion booth to talk to Susanna Reich who was signing her new book -- Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin. That's one large, but beautiful book. As an old history major, I couldn't resist getting one.

Sunday afternoon began with "Programming your way through Dewey." Great ideas about using nonfiction books as "great reads" in schools. Many applications for public libraries also.

Then back to the room to meet up with my family and get ready for the Newbery/ Caldecott banquet. The girls were busy getting them selves beautiful for a dinner with the Disney princesses.