Monday, March 29, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- A New Baby Arrives

A New Baby Arrives by Nicola Barber. Part of the Big Day! series from PowerKids Press an imprint of Rosen Publishing, 2009. (just arrived in our library)

Every library needs a variety of 'new baby' books, especially ones that can easily be read by young readers. In this one, there are only one or two sentences on each page printed in large typeface, along with an illustration of the action.

It's illustrated by a photographs of families of different faiths and different countries of origin. Most are satisfactory, but some don't show the thing they are talking about.
page 16 -- "The baby has a special small bath."
We see mom looking on while a five-year old holds a dripping washcloth over the baby, but no sign of the baby bathtub. Probably because the photograph has been put into a cutsie circle which cuts it off.

Back matter includes an index, words you might use about babies, a few suggested books -- none of them later than 2005, and a website that the publisher promises to keep up to date.

More Nonfiction Monday links may be found at the Miss Rumphius Effect blog, today.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pine Grove El School visit

Friday, I talked to four groups of 4th and 5th graders at Pine Grove Elementary in Maryland about my adventures researching my books. Since it was the last day before spring break, the last group of the day reminded me of the class in High School Musical, waiting for school to get out for summer break. I felt like bursting into that song -- if only I could have remembered the words, I probably would have.

This is the school my oldest grandchild attends, so I didn't charge them my usual fee. It's only a block or two from my home. All of my children have attended school here. But since they had budgeted for my visit, I asked them to donate whatever they had planned to pay me to the school library. As I was setting up for the talks, the school librarian, Mrs. Ambridge, told me that not only had she been given the money, but she'd already spent it!

Good! I'm glad.
This is one of the best schools in Baltimore County, Maryland, (in my opinion) and I'm glad to be able to pay them back in this minor way for all the wonderful advantages they've given all my children. My oldest went on from here to become a pharmacist. The next child was encouraged to develop her artistic talent here, and my 10-year-old grandchild is excelling in music.

Besides, it was fun to see the neighborhood children, who have grown up with the 10-year-old, interacting in a school setting.
Thank you Mrs. Lauren Moore for inviting me to visit Pine Grove.
-wendie old

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Novel Writing Workshop

Oh my, this past weekend at Vermont College of Fine Arts was a wonderful writing experience and definitely worthwhile.
Wonderfully organized and run by the experienced writers and teachers of writing, Sarah Aronson and Cindy Faughnan.
Ten minutes into the first session on Friday, I knew we were in the hands of master organizers and runner of conferences so I just sat back to enjoy the ride.

Here's the description from the website:
"The Vermont Retreat is limited to 25 serious writers of middle-grade or young adult fiction. Each participant will choose between a critique track or a writing track. Critique track includes informal small critique groups where participants read and critique other members’ work. Critique track participants will receive a one-on-one critique with either Uma Krishnaswami or Emily Lockhart. (Emily Jenkins) The writing track will give participants the stimulation of lectures, chunks of time to use for writing, and the opportunity to network. All participants are welcome to take part in scheduled sessions with the three presenters. Evenings will include a Q&A session and an open mike session."

What fun!
(I was on the critique track because I felt I needed critique help. On the other hand, I didn't need to travel 12 hours by train for a quiet writing weekend, because my local SCBWI offers those weekends much closer and cheaper.)

I paid extra to have the visiting editor, Nancy Mercado from Roaring Brook Press, examine my story. Among other things, she told me that my submitted dog story read like a picturebook. Which could easily be true because I was expanding a picturebook to early chapter book. Editorial Anonymous has told us readers (on her blog) that there's a difference between picture book writing and novel writing and now I have the same advice from another editor. I guess I need to re-write the whole thing, this time keeping an older reader in mind.

The author, Emily Lockhart (YA writer), better known to me as Emily Jenkins (younger middle grade and picturebook writer) helped me find the desire line of the book which was something I had been struggling with. Between the two, and the critique group session, I may figure out where I'm going with this story.

Funny thing -- both the author and some people in the critique group seemed to want my story to be a non-fiction book about rescue dogs, or at least have more information about them -- when what I was trying to do was to tell a 'story' about one dog's experience. Which proves that my tale sparked interest and a desire to know more. Which is what I aim at with all my books.
(I agree with Tanya Lee Stone -- you gotta have passion about your subject.)

For the open mike session, I read the opening of Tony's Fire, a story about the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904, which got a good response. I had taken time off from Tony's Fire to write my Halloween and Groundhog books, but it looks like I should go do another revision run through it.

Yes, I certainly would attend for this March Novel Writing Retreat, again.

Weather report:
Lovely Vermont spring weather with show showers on the last day.
Rain on the way home.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nonfiction Monday

I"m on a train coming home from a great Novel Workshop in Vermont.
However, Nonfiction Monday goes on without me over on the Books Together blog.
Click on over and enjoy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Writer's Weekend -- Yea!

I'm here this weekend at the novel workshop here at Vermont College. It was GREAT!
I've been working on several things and really needed a professional eye to take a look at them.

Since I don't have a critique group to correct my thinking when I think my work can't be improved anymore, this weekend is exactly what I needed. A novel workshop run by people who know what they're doing and can zero in on major problems.
Yes, they sliced and diced what I brought.
However, I also got new insights about the manuscript.

Besides the fact that working full time makes it practically impossible for me to attend a critique group, I had advanced to the point where I was the person giving most of the advice in local writing groups. (SCBWI, etc.) and that wasn't letting me grow my own writing skills.

The editor critique showed me where things weren't working and the critique with the writer (Emily Jenkins who writes middle grade under this name and YA under a pen name) gave me suggestions that solved some writing problems I had been struggling with. I'm glad I paid extra for these things.

The warm weather earlier in the weekend (plus gobs of pollen in the air) ended today here at Vermont -- with a snow storm. (they called it a snow shower .)
That pollen really affected a lot of us, causing our eyes and noses to run.
It's very embarrasing to walk on campus after having a critique done on your ms. by an editor / author/ or advisor -- and there you are crying buckets of tears. You want to say, NO, I AM NOT CRYING about the critique. REALLY!

The college food, which I have liked in the last 2 residencies, was NOT that good this time. Not enough variety. If it was fish -- it was several versions of fish, plus liguini with clam sauce. (no thanks/ where's the beef?) If it was pasta -- it was both rigitoni which had absorbed its red sauce and Mac & cheese. Broccoli in a variety of ways -- all good but some with too much garlic.
We ate a lot of the salad bar stuff.

My roomate is watching a TV show with streaming video. I'm missing the Amazing Race, but I can't watch the video of it until tomorrow. For some reason they don't want it available until after you guys on the west coast have seen it. (g)
hmmmm. I think I saw a TV set in the dorm lounge. I'll see if I can get it to work by 8 pm.

Monday we get on the train for the 12 hour trip back to Maryland. This time we'll be able to see the Vermont scenery. It was dark when the train began traveling that part of the route.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Nonfiction Monday

I fell over the weekend and am still in a bit of pain, so I'm not going to be posting a Nonfiction Monday book review this week.

However, hop on over to the Nonfiction Monday roundup on the In Need of Chocolate blog and enjoy others.
-wendie old

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Check List

Read the books assigned for the Vermont Novel Workshop -- check!
Made a pass or two through the critique booklet -- check.
Ordered bookmarks -- check.
Got suitcases out of attic -- check.
Began planning what to pack -- check.

I seem to be in a "Going on a Trip" mode.
Making lists -- check

(We leave Thursday on the train to Vermont.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

You have to be GOOD (at what you do) part 2

Ah, another great discussion is beginning over at the Blue Rose Girls blog.
First there was a discussion sparked off by Meghan McCarthy's post about needing talent to succeed in the publishing world. Meghan is an illustrator who also writes.

This time Libby Koponen discusses the important things a Writer must have to have a successful career.
She calls her post: What does it take to succeed as a novelist?

Interestingly enough, many of their items are the same, with some differences.
Again, they've invited everyone to chime in with comments about their own experiences in the publishing world.
Do you believe it's BIC?
Is it talent?

I'd advise you to keep checking back to that post to see what others have contributed.
-wendie O

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Fever

Such a change in the weather from snow, snow, snow just two weeks ago. A welcome change, but still a shock to the system.

We went from running the woodstove and multiple electric heaters 24/7 to turning everything off and 'thinking about' opening up the windows. Only thinking. We're not foolish enough to actually do it.

On the other hand, teens are walking into our library in shorts and tank tops. You have to wonder -- what are they thinking? 50 degrees still isn't shorts weather. (do I sound like a mother?)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Super Simple Art to Wear

I'm an artsy-crafty person. My granddaughter is an artsy-crafty person. (Gee, I wonder where she got that from?) Her mother is more artsy than crafty. I guess you can understand why my eyes gravitated to a new book that just came into our library called: Super Simple Art to Wear -- Fun and Easy-to-Make Crafts for Kids by Karen Latchana Kenney. Illustrated by photographer Colleen Dolphin and something called Shutterstock. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing Co., 2010. Available now.

This is part of the Super Simple Crafts series from the Super Sandcastle imprint at ABDO Publishing. (Hmmmm, a name change. It used to be called ABDO and Daughters, a name I loved!)

The fact that it is heavily illustrated with color photographs just begins the attraction for this craft book. Other pluses are the fact that the lettering is NOT huge. Huge lettering implies the book is for Kindergarten students. This is only a smidge larger than regular typeface -- just perfect for first and second graders.

And the sentences are short, but not babyish. Words that the author or publisher thought might be new or hard to understand are in boldface and explanations can be found in the Glossary at the back.

The directions are not only stated in words, they are also illustrated with step-by-step photographs. Very handy. It really helps to see what your project is supposed to look like at various stages in its production.

It is assumed that an adult is supervising these crafts and a HAND symbol indicates the places where an adult's help might be needed.

Decorate a ponytail holder or hairclip. Paint your shoelaces. Customize your t-shirt. Create a glitter bracelet or a skinny braided belt. All sorts of neat/ USEFUL crafts you can wear the minute you are done making them.

Even my 10-year-old isn't too old for the appeal of these crafts. (gotta go buy one of these books for her.)

What are Super SandCastle books? (quote from book)
They are "created by a team of professional educators, reading specialist, and content developers around five essential components -- phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, text comprehension, and fluency -- to assist young readers as they develop reading skills and strategies and increase their general knowledge." There's more, but you can read it all on the verso page in the books.

No where does it say that these books are FUN.
And yet, they certainly look fun do do.

Other titles in the series are:
Super Simple Clay Projects
Super Simple Glass Jar Art
Super Simple Jewelry
Super Simple Magnets
Super Simple Masks

The ABDO website shows another bookcover from this set of books, so I had to go to to find a copy of this cover to decorate this blog post. Nope, NO IMAGE AVAILABLE. Too bad. Go to the publisher's site to see the cover of the Magnet craft book in this series.

Other people writing Nonfiction Monday book reviews are listed at the blog, Lost Between the Pages.
Enjoy. -wendieO

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Things to remember when you write & what I've been doing recently

Jane Yolen was the main speaker at a SCBWI conference recently. (I don't care who else speaks -- Jane is always the main speaker to me.) The artist/ illustrator, Sarah David, was In the audience and sketched a portrait of her speaking, then added some of Jane's advice to writers to the portrait.

She sent it to Jane Yolen's's Facebook page. Jane loved it and posted it for all to see. (I have no idea how to link to a Facebook page, because you have to belong to Facebook to see these things. I think.)
Many people have printed it out to post on the wall of their writing place -- for inspiration.
I did too.

What were those words?

Sarah David wrote that Jane Yolen said:
1. Eschew the exclamation!
2. Go easy on adverbs.
3. Don't let your characters float -- Anchor them with action.
4. Have fun writing. Have fun illustrating.
5. Butt in Chair. Heart on Page.

Jane's been saying BIC (butt in chair) for years. And those of us who followed her advice have managed to get published. So, it works. Stick to it. Whatever you do, stick to it and get it done.

What have I done recently on the writing front?
-- Worked with the other half of C.W. Bowie (Mary Bowman-Kruhm) to smooth out the uneven places in our next book. The manuscript is now on the editor's desk.
-- I've printed out and will soon mail a companion manuscript the the new CW Bowie one, that Mary thinks should be under my own name, since she didn't work on it.
-- Came up with a new idea for the "Busy" series and e-mailed it to Mary for her to consider.

I've read all the readings assigned for the Novel Writing Workshop. One I loved and one I hated. One was plot-oriented and one was character oriented. I'll leave it to you to guess which one I liked best.

I went to the Railroad station in Baltimore yesterday and picked up my ticket. Holding that ticket makes it all seem REAL to me, now. I'm really going back to Vermont and I'm really going to have some serious critique of my attempt at a young novel.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Meet the Howlers!

Meet the Howlers! by April Pulley Sayre. Illustrated by Woody Miller. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2010. Available now.

I have to say that every book by April Pulley Sayre is a delight and this is no exception.

Meet the howlers!
Living life on the go.
Meet the Howlers! who-hoo-hoo!
(I probably would have put a couple of more exclamation marks after that last howl, just because I have heard Howler monkeys howl and the noise seems to echo everywhere.)

The double page spread continues, in smaller typeface, with facts about this howl -- only males can do it and they can be heard a mile away.

Each page uses this technique. Adults can simply read the rhythmic phrases to preschool children, treating this like a picture book story. Or adults and early readers can include the informational part before they turn the page. (Two types of books for the price of one.)

Because the monkeys spend most of their time in the treetop canopy, the illustrator has made the background for each illustration multi-shades of green, with an occasional glimpse of tree trunk or sky. Nicely done. It keeps your eyes focused on the Howler family's life.

The last pages have a map showing the monkey's range in Central America including parts of Mexico and Colombia and Ecuador. Another page has more nonfiction facts about howler monkeys.

This is what the publisher says about this book:
Meet the bad boys (and girls) of the primate world. Playful, poetic text and vibrant art introduce young readers to howler monkeys. Extra facts within the text give readers the low-down on these loud, sloppy, and rude rain forest dwellers.
This book is good for your brain because:
Habitats, Poetry, Emergent Reader, Life Science

And there you have it. Another fun presentation of animal life by the marvelous April Pulley Sayre.
You can read more about how this naturalist researches her books by reading the I.N.K (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) blog. (click on the link) The blog is run by a group of nonfiction writers and April posts once a month.

More Nonfiction Monday can be found at the SimplyScience Blog.