Saturday, November 29, 2008

Birthday party

Today the 8-year old had her 9th birthday party. Okay, that sounds weird, but when your actual birthday is on a school day, you have to have the party on the weekend. She liked painting pottery so much last year that we did it again this year, at Hot Pots. (they have stores all over. I'm sure you can find one near you.)

Every child got to choose a piece and painted it to the best of their ability. Take home treats for today were simple things -- glow necklaces (even for the boys) and the ball in the maze puzzle games. Next week everyone will come back to pick up their painted pieces. I keep telling myself that I'll come back another day with the now-9-year old and do some painting of pottery, myself.

The cake was an Ice cream/ cake from Baskin-Robbins and was delish! As far as I can tell I remembered to bring most everything, except candles -- so we did without candles.

Now there are two girls in our living room watching the Hannah Montana concert video (okay, it's a DVD. I don't think we'll ever stop calling them videos.) Supposedly having a sleep-over, although I'm not sure how much sleeping will go on.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope your Thanksgiving was stress-free.

Me? I have to make more pumpkin pies -- we are out and the family is clamoring for more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pilgrim Party -- Writing a Picture Book Part 3

Hmmm, I seem to be giving you a blow by blow account of the process I'm going through with this story.

Part 3 --
Yesterday (Tuesday) I did a program for families at my library called Pilgrim Children. I used that wonderful series of books illustrated by photographs that were taken of reenactors at the Plymoth Plantation:

Sarah Morton's day : a day in the life of a Pilgrim girl
Samuel Eaton's day : a day in the life of a Pilgrim boy
Tapenum's day : a day in the life of a Wampanoag Indian boy

all by Kate Waters, published by Scholastic Press.

While I was talking about life way back then, the kids were passing around a square sided quart jar partially filled with heavy whipping cream, each taking turns shaking it. (I had promised them that they would make butter.) I also insisted that the adults help with the shaking, so that it would turn faster.

Eventually, I read them my new Gather 'Round the Table story.
I learned a lot doing this.
Yesterday afternoon, I had let my branch manager read the story and I could tell that there still were some confusing spots that needed to be made clearer. (She was confused and I had to explain -- not a good sign. The story should be able to stand on its own and then be expanded by the illustrations.)
As I read the story at the evening program, I discovered other words that needed to be replaced, phrases that needed to be changed.

After 45 minutes we had heavy whipped cream filling the jar and the whole jar looked sorta yellow. While I opened the jar and removed some of the whipped cream to make space for more shaking, I instructed the kids about the craft they would work on while the parents finished shaking the butter jar. Suddenly -- the whipped cream in the jar turned to butter! (surprising the heck out of the man shaking the jar at the time.) I showed everyone the huge chunk of butter in the jar/ we talked about the liquid now being called buttermilk/ and then I poured off the buttermilk and removed the butter from the jar. After I pressed more liquid out of the butter, we ate.

That morning I had made biscuits and corn pone for everyone. (Did you know that corn pone is actually a sort-of corn meal pancake which tastes like cornbread?) There was enough for everyone to have double helpings with butter on it. About half the kids were brave enough to try a small amount of buttermilk.

A yummy time was had by all.
And on Wednesday morning (today) I made those changes/ improvements in the manuscript that I had discovered on Tuesday.
-wendie old

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Noodling -- a Writing Term?

Someone asked about a word I used in yesterday's post.

Is this an 'official' writing term?
I have NO idea. But it's a word I use a lot when I'm not sure what I'm going to write.

When I noodle my way into a story, I sit down at the computer, open a word processing document, and begin writing. But what I'm writing is not the story I'll end up with. I'm writing conversations with myself. (part of which I actually transferred to yesterday's blog entry.

I began with the words Kill the Turkeys. Mentioned where the idea came from. (remember Sarah's video?) Why I wanted to write this. La-de-dah-de-dah. Why I was disturbed with 'save the turkeys' stories. Which led to what does happen on Thanksgiving? We're thankful for the harvest, which includes the beasts we kill to eat. What do we eat? What's served for Thanksgiving dinner? Who comes to this dinner -- relatives.

I began singing the hymn, We Gather Together ....
Then I typed it as my title
Changed it to "Gather 'round the table"
and I was off and running with what became the picture book manuscript.

All the above was the noodling I did as I worked my way into the story.
-wendie old

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kill the Turkeys (writing a picture book)

I sat down today to write another picture book for my December Vermont College packet. (Packet 5 -- the last one. Yea!)

First I noodled.

Then I began thinking about Sara Palin going to an Alaskan turkey slaughterhouse to "pardon" one turkey -- as, right behind her on this video, other turkeys are killed to become Thanksgiving Turkeys. And how horrified people were to see this happening in the background of her Photo Opp. On the other hand, one person made a comment that I fully agree with -- Where do you think Thanksgiving Turkeys come from?

Which kicked off thoughts about writing a story about killing turkeys.
I am so tired of the “save the turkeys” picture books. I really wanted to write a “Kill the Turkeys” book. (The Night Before Thanksgiving was funny. After that, I soon became tired of the trend. Didn't you?)

My husband told me that I probably wouldn't be able to sell "Kill the Turkeys" as a picture book.
But I knew that.

What I ended up with this afternoon, was a family holiday dinner which could be any in-gathering of family. I call it, Gather ‘Round the Table, but it’s actually kind of an Un-Gathering story. Just for fun, most of the names are family names.

I went back to it several times today, trying to get the rhythm better, cutting one stanza, changing names and activities, until it read pretty well. I'll check it again before I send it to my advisor

Now to figure out what the other two picture book manuscripts for the December Packet will be.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's snowing

It's snowing in Maryland. A week before Thanksgiving. This is the earliest I remember snow happening here. Whatever happened to global warming? Not only is it snowing, but it's sticking to the tree leaves and on the grass.

The Weather service predicts a wetter than normal winter. Combined with cold means that middle states like Maryland could be in for a series of ice storms. Oh goodie. My least favorite weather. At least this year I'm working at a library near a major highway. When we had ice storms in the 1990s, I was working at a country library and was terrified driving those winding roads curving down to the two rivers I had to cross and then back up the hills, again.

The first snow storm of the year was last Tuesday. (Okay, they were snow showers.)
I drove through snow showers as I was returning home after having given a program at one of the Enoch Pratt Free Library branches about my adventures while researching the various books I wrote. (I was shot at when on an Air Force Base. I raced through a bad section of a town, taking pictures of buildings. I stood for hours taking pictures in 20 degree F. weather. (that's below freezing for those of you who only know Celcius ) And I was stalked at the Jefferson Memorial -- by a photographer for a cable program.

As I arranged the transparencies spread out all over my bed preparing for this program, I kept mumbling to myself that pretty soon I was gonna need to put all this stuff on powerpoint. Which means buying the software, the projector, and taking the time to learn the program and putting it together.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards

Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards by Serge Block. New York: Sterling, 2008.

My Nonfiction Monday book for today is actually filed in the picture book section of our library -- although you might find it in the 400s in yours. It is a book of idioms. (We have smart catalogers -- people will find and enjoy it in the picture book section whereas they might not if it were in the 400s.)

"On my first day of school, my mother said I got up on the wrong side of the bed."
And so it goes. Simple line drawings of people are placed against photographs of real things as this child goes through the day, real butterflies in her stomach/ the principal (the Big Cheese) made out of swiss cheese/ a pile of bananas showing the 'top banana.' etc., etc., etc.

The book ends with a simile: "I was as happy as a puppy with two tails!" Hmmm, does this mean his next book will feature similies? Hmmm. Available now.

This could be read by a second grader, but teachers might bring this into their Middle School writing classes when discussing metaphors, similes, and idioms.

More Nonfiction Monday reviews can be found here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to find interesting BLOGS

Every so often people ask me what blogs I would recommend that they read. (There are so many out there.)

I always give them Anastasia Suen's Blog Central e-address. She has gathered together so many writers, artists, editors, agents, book reviewer's, and publisher's blogs that you'll not be able to read them all.

I've found another gathering of good blogs, too.

(Just click on the links and enjoy. And, do join the conversations and leave comments. That way the blogger finds out that someone is actually reading their blog.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nonfiction Monday -- Look very Closely

Looking Closely Inside the Garden, text and photographs by Frank Serafini. Kids Can Press, 2008.

"Look very closely. What do you see?
These questions face a black page with a four-inch circle in the center. The circle shows a small portion of the picture on the next page. I had wondered just why the publisher had not simply cut a hole in the black page to show the next page. Then I noticed that the close-up portion in the four-inch circle does not come directly under the circle on the next page. The author/ photographer has made the decision that the most interesting close-up might be in the far corner of the actual photograph.

Opposite the large photograph (which bleeds onto the left hand page) is information about what you are seeing.
This could be used as a test of observation/ a guessing game/ lessons about who and what are in a garden. Appropriate for a wide range of ages.

Although this, and his other books in this series, are published by a Canadian publisher, Frank Serafini is Associate Professor of Children's Literature and Literacy Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He calls himself an educator and is an avid nature photographer. He previously worked as a primary schoolteacher. (That sounds Canadian to me. How about you? Perhaps he comes from Canada.)

Others in this series include: Looking Closely Across the Desert, Looking Closely Along the Shore, Looking Closely through the Forest, All Available now.

More Nonfiction Monday messages can be found here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Voting Day

Over in Vermont College's student Forum, there are several topic areas where people described their adventures on Tuesday. (For some reason I keep thinking of it as Voting Day instead of Election Day.)

I bet the rest of you have your own stories.

My husband got up early and was in line before the polls opened. He says there were some people who had already been there a while -- and who had brought lawn chairs to rest in while waiting. He was in and out in 15 minutes. But when he left the polling place, the line had grown to about 200 people and cars were parked all up and down the streets for blocks.

I voted mid-morning, during the lull between the opening crush and the lunch crowd. It also took less than 15 minutes for me. But it took me much longer to get back to my car because of just generally chatting with people going in and out. Our local Brownie Girl Scout troops sold cookies at the polls all day long -- even during the rainstorm in the afternoon. Now, that's dedication.

Almost everyone at work wore Red, White, and Blue on Tuesday. Actually, there was some discussion as to whether the flowers on my sweater were red -- or pink. Oh well. I tried.

Wednesday, I put up a display of books about Obama, which were quickly checked out. I'm going to have to get rid of that 2006 biography of him, because the information in it probably was collected in 04 or 05. And I'm sure that tons of new volumes about him will be showing up on our shelves, soon. All those publishers who do one volume per president probably had contracted with writers some time ago to have books already written except for the last chapter. Now it'll be a race to get them published.

I don't envy those writers. It's no fun to write about a person still alive and actively famous. Your research is never done. There's always a new event you would like to include before going to press.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote tomorrow!

Today my day has been just like your day -- busy, busy. Monthly reports due. Replacement orders. Removing signs of Halloween in the library branch and storing it. Putting up the Thanksgiving book display. Notifying the winner of the Count the Candy Corn contest.

And, on top of it all, kids are out of school -- and in the library.
Why are the kids out of school?

Monster machines have taken over their school buildings. By now they should be all set up and waiting. Waiting for people to come tomorrow. (Tuesday, November 4th) Hundreds of people. Thousands of people. Millions and billions and trillions of people.
(Sorry, got carried away on a Wanda Gag, Millions of Cats, sidetrip.)

Anywho -- Are you going to be among them?
Are you going to go VOTE?

I am.
For more blog messages about the importance of voting, click this link.

What's my reason?
I vote because I CAN. My grandmother marched with the suffragists. My mother taught school and believed that God was a woman. And I vote in every election. I better not hear that my daughters have not voted, because too many people in our own family fought so that they could have the right to vote.

You have that right, too. Go Vote, on Election day.