Sunday, January 31, 2010

Writing Week? Maybe

When I scheduled a week's vacation for the first week in February, simply to write, I didn't expect so much of the time to be eaten away with other things.

1. Because of the snowstorm on Saturday, I was not able to finish up the planning of the library's Summer Reading Programs. Therefore I have to go back to work on Monday and get them input into the programming database before the 5 pm deadline. (one day gone)

2. So far, Tuesday looks looks like the one day I can concentrate on writing projects.

3. Wednesday? I'll be meeting another writer to work on a joint project. (I'll probably be preparing this on Tuesday.)

4. Thursday -- The January library branch meeting was postponed to this Thursday. I'll be going into work to attend.

5. Friday -- School visit to my granddaughter's school where I will talk about doing research to the 4th and 5th graders. (I'll be preparing for this off and on during my 'writing' week.)

So much for having a week off dedicated to writing.
(I've put a request in to the branch scheduler for a week sometime in April. Maybe I can dedicate that week to writing -- and Spring Cleaning.) -wendieO

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Carnival of Children's Literature is UP!

For all you Writers AND Readers out there --
Click on over to the Carnival of Children's Literature.

What's that? you say.
It's a gathering of many, many links to blog posts about Children's Literature.
-- First comes links to book reviews on a Winter theme.
-- Then writers talking about wonderful visits to schools.
-- Interviews with authors, illustrators and publishers that you can find around the Kidlitosphere.
-- Poets and illustrators share their works with their admirers all over the 'net. (The interesting thing is that she put my entries under 'poets and illustrators.' Who knew?)
-- And some posts on the importance of literacy and reading to children
-- Ending with a Reading Challenge

Go. Enjoy. -wendie old

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guest Blogger -- Title suggestions

Today we have some writing suggestions (writing prompts?) from my 10-year-old. She took some time to make a list of titles for possible stories for me to write. Since I won't be able to use them all -- I offer them free to the rest of you:

--A Girl's Life (clue, the 10-year-old is a girl)
--Winkie's Adventures (Winkie is her hamster, but feel free to substitute any animal -- or even a person)
--A Build-A-Bear Halloween (Hmmm, Build-a-Bear is a licensed trademark, so you'll have to get permission from them to write this.)
--The last good Pirate (I can't convince her that pirates are criminals)
--The dog queen
--I, Mr. Num Nums
--When Aliens Came
--I once saw Five (This one is wide open. Five what? Five years? Five dogs? Five ???)
--The California Girl (This is wistful thinking. We have relatives in California.)
--Nuget to the Crime Seane! (your guess is as good as mine as to what a 'seane' is.)
--Come Back, Jack!
--My Friend
--Crazy Fun

There you are.
When you're stuck for something to write, just check this list out and your writing juices will begin pumping again. -wendieO

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Manuscript mailed

One thing writers (and other creative people) have to learn is when to stop writing. (creating)
Me- I had a deadline of January 29th to get my manuscript to the organizers of the Vermont College Novel Writing workshop. (held in March) Which meant that I had to count backwards for MY deadline.

Count backwards? Yes.
Guessing how many days it might take the Post Office to get a manuscript packet from Baltimore to Montpelier, VT. If I mail it on this or that day, will it get there in time? Which means the last minute I can revise the thing will be???

Someone once said (and many have repeated it) that creative work isn't ever 'finished.' It's abandoned.
Soooo, I've spent the last week or so re-reading my submission and revising it. Adding to make things more clear. Which means, on the next re-read, I realize that places earlier in the manuscript need tweaking in order to forshadow the change/ additions/ improvements/ revisions that I had made.

Revising the synopsis.
Even rewriting the cover letter.
re-reading the instructions. Do I have everything?
Synopsis -- check
10 to 20 pages for the critique workshop booklet -- check
10 pages plus synopsis for the author/ advisor of the critique workshop -- check
10 pages plus synopsis for the visiting editor -- check
Am I sending more copies than I need to send? (probably)
And on Tuesday, I mailed the thing. (Had to FedEX it because I cut it too close to depend on the Post Office to get it there in time.

Whew! That's done.
(Oh dear, I just thought of something to add to the synopsis.... Too late.)

I'm taking vacation time off for a writing week next week. What piece of writing will I work on then?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Diggers at Work

Diggers at Work by D.R. Addison. NY: Rosen Publishing Group, Power Kids Press, 2009. Available now.

This is the preschooler's favorite type of construction book -- full bleed photographs of the machine at work. Also the favorite of parent and early readers because of the few words in simple sentences on the opposite page. (I didn't say the words were easy. 'Excavator,' for example. But little ones just love rolling these words around their mouth and showing off to their friends and adult relations.)

This book doesn't just focus on one 'digger.' No, each double page spread either shows a different type of digger or a close-up of their tools.

I can't wait to add this new book to a pile of construction books, tie them with a ribbon, and add them to my groups of book bundles. Book bundles make it easy for parents to Grab and Go with a pile of their kid's favorite books.

This also is availble as an e-Book from the Publisher.
What the heck?
The strong point of this book is the photographs of the diggers. How does that come over in an e-book? Have they invented video e-books, yet?

This is part of the Big Trucks series which include:
Bulldozers at Work
Cement Mixers at Work
Cranes at Work
Garbage Trucks at Work
Tractors at Work

More Nonfiction Monday reviews can be found at Playing by the Book. Click on over and enjoy.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fun with legos

Can you guess what this picture is?

The College Park Aviation Museum, located just outside of Washington, DC, had a "make a legos airplane" program at their site on Saturday. Since the 10-year-old and her best friend, an almost-10-year-old, love creating things with legos -- I took them both down there after the 10-year-old had finished her gymnastics lesson.

College Park Airfield (next to the Museum) was the first airfield in the United States. The Wright Brothers flew there and sold planes to the army --which flew out of there. These days it's a small grass airport for small planes, like piper airplanes. I visited the museum several times while I was writing the Wright brothers books a decade ago.

The girls didn't create an airplane -- they created the airplane cabin with people seated, working on computers, eating, and such. Up front they created the cockpit with lots of instruments. (since neither one of them have ever flown first class, they didn't bother to put a first class section.) Yes, the photo at the top of this post is their airplane cabin.

It wasn't a contest -- it was a mob of kids grabbing for lego pieces. Then the kids took turns having their 'official' picture taken with their newly created planes. The pictures will be on display at the museum. Most of the lego airplanes were then taken apart and the pieces put back on the tables for others to use. A select few were kept for a special display this month, and maybe next. Our girls' airplane cabin was among those chosen.

I sat there knitting and talking to kids who came over to show me what they had made. (one girl wanted me to show her how to knit. I explained that there wasn't time to do that today.)

After the event closed, we roamed through the history of aviation display of old planes -- even a Wright B military plane. The girls had fun dressing up as aviatrixes (complete with Amelia Earhart leather cap), experimenting with engines and aerodynamics, and even 'flying' a small plane. We passed modern small planes on the airfield to and from the museum.

They even managed to purchase science experiments from the gift store one minute before the building closed. (We were the last people out.) A fun time was had by all. -wendieO

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Write the best email you can

Rachelle Gardner, literary agent whose helpful blog is called 'Rants & Ramblings,' has some very good advice about writing the most effective emails. Since a lot of the writing business (contacting publishers or agents, communicating with your editor, etc.) is now conducted by email, it's not only important that we come off looking professional, but that we communicate the purpose of our email well, too.

Click through to check it out.

I have to agree with her point about using a subject line that tells what's in the email. Some years ago I was preparing to travel to a midwest state to give a talk to students about the Wright brothers and writing. I deleted an important email that was sent to tell me what airport would be the closest to their event -- because their subject line only said YOU. Naturally, I thought that it was a strange SPAM email and deleted it.

I'm sure you'll see how her advice applies to almost every email we send. -wendieO

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What do editors?

One of the advantages of reading blogs written by other writers is the variety of writing advice you can pick up.
We all have mourned the loss of Miss Snark. (although she did promise that her blog messages would remain up and available for everyone to read -- which I recommend you do. Click on over right now.)

Recently another useful tidbit is being passed around the blogs. I found it on The Longstockings, a blog written by a group of writers. Oh dear, they're using an older version of blogger, so I can't give you the direct link to that post. All I can do is advise you to scroll on down to the January 6, 2010 post (How Editors Think) where they list everything Dutton editors are supposed to consider while they are reading a submission.
Read it carefully.
Will YOUR manuscript make the cut?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weekend Goals reviewed

Well, Time to review my weekend goals.
I said that that during the long weekend I would:

-- to work on the dog story so I can send it to Vermont College in time for the Novel workshop deadline. I'm currently reading other dog stories to see how other writers have handled some of the problems I'm running into.

(I completed the first draft and did some revision. One more time through and then I'll cross my fingers and ship it to the critique workshop.)

-- to work more on the Pie story.
(yes. It's almost there.)

-- to get some things in the mail to agents and editors.
(Failure! I had planned to do this Monday, but life and family obligations intervened.)

-- and to mail more late Christmas presents to my relatives.
(done. Mailed. yea!)

-- oh, and to pay bills.
(That's done, but more bills arrived. Grrrrr.)

-- to check out the sale at Talbots.
(Did -- bought some things that actually fit me.)

-- and buy ice cream from the good ice cream place.
(there goes my January diet)
(Darn it! They were out of my favorite flavor. I'll try again next weekend.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Roundup is here

The Roundup of all the Nonfiction Monday reviews is right here at Wendie's Wanderings today.

First -- I just this minute heard that Tanya Lee Stone was awarded the ALA Nonfiction 2010 Sibert award for her wonderful book, Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream! Hurrah! I Love that book!

Here is the official ALA announcement of the Sibert Nonfiction Awards:
Robert F. Sibert Medal for most distinguished informational book for children:
“Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream,” written by Tanya Lee Stone, is the Sibert Award winner. The book is published by Candlewick Press.

Three Sibert Honor Books were named:
--“The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors,” written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Tony Persiani and published by Charlesbridge;
--“Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca, and published by Richard Jackson/Atheneum Books for Young Readers;
-- and “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” written by Phillip Hoose and published by Melanie Kroupa/Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

And the YALSA Nonfiction 2010 (for teen readers) is Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman. Excellent research. Excellent book.

The Coretta Scott King Author 2010: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, author of Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal.

One of the Newbery Honor Books is also a Nonfiction book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. (Yea! Two awards in one day -- plus the National Book Award. WOW!)

A nonfiction author got the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:
Jim Murphy is the 2010 Edwards Award winner.
His books include: “An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793,” published by Clarion Books; (Yea, Clarion!) I think this is the one that also won the James Madison Award in addition to a Sibert.
“Blizzard! The Storm That Changed America,” published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic;
“The Great Fire,” published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic;
“The Long Road to Gettysburg,” published by Clarion Books;
and “A Young Patriot: The American Revolution as Experienced by One Boy,” published by Clarion Books.
-- Hey, Jim is young yet. He'll be producing many more books.
I"m already registered for ALA and neglected to sign up for the Margaret A Edwards banquet. Gotta go change that.

A Caldecott Nonfiction honor book is Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman. The Caldecott goes to the Illustrator. There is no ALA award for the writer of a picture book. (I'm just saying.)

(I'll post the other winners as I learn them. Please point out any nonfiction ALA winners that I've missed -- they're all winners to me -- in the comments section of this blog and I'll add them to this post.)

And here are the other blogs you gotta go read today:
This week Kim Hutmacher at the Wild About Nature blog, has a review of Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart.

Sarah at In Need of Chocolate has reviewed Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters.

Amanda Snow at A Patchwork of Books has a review of The Wonders Inside Bugs & Spiders.

Lori Calabrese at at Lori Calabrese Writes! highlights a few nonfiction Martin Luther King, Jr. titles in celebration of the federal holiday honoring his birthday.

Roberta at Wrapped in Foil has a review of the fun nonficton book, Animal Tongues by Dawn Cusick.

Shirley Smith Duke at SimplyScience has a review of Arctic Foxes. By Carri Stuhr.

Anna is finding out Who Was First? Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman on her Lost Between The Pages blog.

Susan has an overview of the Orbis Pictus winners at Chicken Spaghetti.

 The Orbis Pictus awards are given by the National Council of Teachers of English.

Becky Laney at Young Readers (zero to eight) reviewed The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak. By Tomek Bogacki.

Jone at Check It Out discovered that two of the Sibert winners were also chosen as Cybils nonfiction picturebook finalists.

Over at Shelf Employed is a review of Years of Dust by Albert Marrin.

Bri over at Bri Meets Books reviewed Animal Rights: How You Can Make a Difference.

-wendie Old

Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing Weekend -- Yea!

Hmmm. I've always wondered -- when you want to cheer, is it -- Yea! or Yeah! ?

I'm taking a few days off to write. (and am cheating because libraries are closed on the federal Martin Luther King,Jr.'s birthday on Monday. A free day off with the kid at day care. Goodie!)

I find it's always good to make a list or to set goals.
My goals:
-- to work on the dog story so I can send it to Vermont College in time for the Novel workshop deadline. I'm currently reading other dog stories to see how other writers have handled some of the problems I'm running into.
-- to work more on the Pie story.
-- to get some things in the mail to agents and editors.
-- and to mail more late Christmas presents to my relatives. (done. Mailed. yea!)
-- oh, and to pay bills. (That's done, so I can cross it off already.)
-- to check out the sale at Talbots.
-- and buy ice cream from the good ice cream place. (there goes my January diet)

Yes, I'm bopping in and checking off things as I get them done.

Please suggest more dog stories for me to read. I need books for elementary students about real dogs, not talking dogs, and told from the dog's point of view. Do any exist? If not, why not? -wendieO

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kitten is now a cat

The new kitten (now a year old) is sitting on the floor, wondering if she could jump onto our bed.
Hmm Big Black cat (now smaller than the kitten) is there.
Kitten jumps; sniffs Big cat.
Big cat glares.
Kitten decides she doesn't want to be on the bed after all, jumps off and goes to explore my husband's closet, newly cleaned and arranged. Oh look -- new cubby holes to hide in (testing by sticking her head in one) -- if only she hadn't grown too big for them.

When I figure out how to do it, I'll put a picture of the Kitten Cat on this blog message.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Look Inside a Log Cabin

Look Inside a Log Cabin by Mari Schuh. Mankato, Mn: Capstone Press, a Pebble Plus book, 2009. Available now.

Now, I know that Capstone is a small press located in a northern state in the middle of the United States, but do they have to be so focused on Minnesota that they don't realize there are log cabins in other states? Why do I ask? Well -- the book starts right out declaring that Swedish pioneers built the first log cabins in America.

Oh, really? Minnesota does have a large settlement of people from Sweden, but not a lot of Swedes were among the early settlers in the Mid-Atlantic States, so how come there are so many old log cabins still standing here in the east? Some even have people living happily in them. Others are preserved in parks and museums. I live here and have seen many, myself. (I almost bought one, as a matter of fact.) Many of the eastern log cabins were built by German, Dutch, and English settlers before the War of Independence. There are log cabins up and down the east coast. Go visit Jamestown, or a reconstruction of the Pilgrim settlement in Massachusetts, or Valley Forge to see examples.

Same technique, though.
You find your tree and chop it down.
Trim the bark off, square the sides if you want, and notch the ends.
Here is where the book needs one more picture -- of men interlocking these notches together to build a strong wall. (I say 'mem' because those logs are darn heavy.) Modern kids probably have never built things with Lincoln Logs (TM of a toy), and probably have no idea how the house walls on the next page were put together. The Glossary in the back explains this a bit more, but it needs a picture.

This series is aimed at first graders with two sentences on the left and a photograph filling the page on the right out to the edges of the page.

Part of the' Look Inside' set which includes Look Inside an Igloo, Look Inside Pyramid, and Look Inside a Tepee as well as the Log Cabin book.

By now you should realize that I'm still digging through the box of sample books that Capstone Press sent me last fall. This particular one caught my eye because I've always been interested in early houses and have included pictures of them in my biographies of the first presidents. Plus, I learned how to build (and caulk) a log house at an early age.

No, we didn't buy the log cabin I mentioned above -- we bought a pre-Revolutionary War stone farmhouse, instead. Which also has a fireplace in every room. Now heated by a woodstove.

Click on over to Whispers of Dawn to read the other fantabulous nonfiction books being discussed today on blogs.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Writing news

What have I done lately?
Well, the Christmas holidays put quite a dent in my good intentions.
and then I had two grandkids visiting.

But now I'm getting excited about writing, again.
Today, besides taking the 10-year-old to her new gymnastics class of older girls, I:

1) Worked on that pie story that my Vermont College advisor challenged me to write. (and my VC roommate was kind enough to critique) It's getting into shape and so far I'm pleased with the results.

2) Bought train tickets for a March workshop at Vermont College. Yes, this nonfiction writer and writer of picture books is actually attempting a novel. And I'm going to a novel writing workshop there. (It's a short, lower elementary novel, but still.)

--Vermont is a two hour flight from here, but my usual direct flight plane isn't flying there anymore. I'd have to take several planes -- and then ride a one hour shuttle to the college. So I"m not flying this time.
--And it's a 9 hour car drive. I'm good for a three or four hour drive, but nine hours? Not hardly.
--Which leaves an 11 hour train ride.

But I won't be bored. I'm traveling with a writer friend (who HAS had a novel published) and my handy, dandy computer. It will give us lots of time for good conversation and writing.

Can you tell I'm getting excited about writing again? -wendieO

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

As you know, Jon Scieszka formally hands over his duties as National Ambassador for Young People's Literature on January 5th. His replacement is another well-known and highly respected writer -- Katherine Paterson.

Learn more about this Newbery Award/ multi-award winning author by clicking on her name above.

After the morning ceremony at the Library of Congress, a special event will be held 4:30 pm today (Tuesday) at the Washington bookstore Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NWWashington, D.C. 20008, where ex-Ambassador Jon Scieszka will introduce the next Ambassador of Children’s Literature. The store's newsletter says that "His advice to his successor will ensure his continued stamp on the world of children’s books while graciously paving the way for new Ambassador’s reign. As the first Ambassador, Scieszka defined the role of Chief Promoter of children’s literature."

Reactions of other bloggers are here and here and here and here. I'm sure you'll find lots more today as the news spreads.
-wendie old

Monday, January 4, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Cybils NF picture Information Finalists

Today for Nonfiction Monday I'm going to cheat a little.
This past week, the finalists for the various Cybils awards were announced and today I want to feature those dear to my heart -- the Nonfiction Picture Information finalists.

Here is one that caught my eye.
The following review was written by Debbie Nance. You can see it and others on the Cybils link above:

Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia Created by Teruyuki Komiya with photographs by Toyofumi Fukuda. Seven Footer Press, 2009. Available now.
Nominated by: Anastasia Suen

There are those who claim that bigger is better. If that’s so, then we can stop here: Life-Size Zoo is definitely bigger. Life-Size Zoo is so big that the tiptop will always peek out of your backpack.

But bigger isn’t the only thing Life-Size Zoo has going for it. A table of contents that any teacher would die to teach with in her classroom and that any kid would happily, almost unknowingly, utilize, a table of contents shaped like a zoo map, no less (and oh-so-clever). An information sheet about the animals on the front end papers. Brilliant photographs of zoo animals, amazing close-ups. Lists of details to look for on the photographs. Fun fold-out pages. Oodles and oodles of cool facts about the animals.

And what great choices of animals: a panda, zebra, tiger (those scary teeth), gorilla, rhino (with a horn made of hair?), anteater (what a nose!), koala (much smaller than I would have expected). And more. Much, much more. Kids line up to check out this book. And they don’t just check it out. You can see them everywhere, reading it with their friends. Life-Size Zoo is bigger, yes, and better, too.

More about the team that chose these 7 finalists out of 73 possible books can be found at Check It Out.

Other Nonfiction Monday reviews can be located by clicking on Anastasia Suen's Picture book of the Day. -wendieO

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thank you Jon Scieszka

On January 5th (this Tuesday), a new Ambassador for Children's Books will be announced by the Library of Congress and the current one, Jon Scieszka, will retire. It's been wonderful having him represent all children's book writers these past two years.
Mary Bowman-Kruhm has written a tribute to him that speaks for all of us. Follow her links to see what Jon has been up to.

A roundup of the many, many bloggers posting messages about the wonderfulness of Jon is located at A Year of Reading Click on through and explore these links.
-wendie O

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Woke up today after an ice storm -- Ice coated tree branches glittering in the early morning sunshine. It all will melt soon, leaving us with the usual winter bare brown branches. Already I'm looking forward to spring.

The 10-year-old went to a friend's New Year's Eve party. She wasn't happy when we arrived early to take her home. But I wanted to get her home before the roads got too icy. We played Othello and then she made friendship bracelets out of embroidery floss until midnight.

She was disappointed with the crystal ball in Times Square.
"I thought you said it was going to drop!"
It did go down the pole and then was hidden behind the numbers 2010 -- on TOP of the building. I guess she took the expression literally and thought it was going to drop onto the people below. Eeuuu.

Come to think of it, before they had that huge crystal ball (circa 2yK?), I seem to remember that there was a smaller ball that dropped along the side of the building. Maybe not down to street level, but still. Anybody else remember that?

Plans for the New Year?
I plan to do more writing and to send more ms. out.
How about you? -wendie O