Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why Professional Writers won't come to your school for free

You'd love to have an author come to your school to talk about research and writing. So you take the next step and write to a few of them, inviting them to come.

Why then does it surprise you that your chosen ones won't come for free? Shouldn't they do it as a gift for the children? (After all, they write children's books, don't they?)

Nikki Grimes has written an excellent blog post
listing some of the many reasons that authors and illustrators charge for speaking to schools and groups.

I agree with all of it.
Writing is our business.
Income from writing and speaking goes toward feeding and clothing our children/ paying our bills/ etc.
Would YOU take an unpaid day off from work, get up at 5 am to drive several hours to another school, give four presentations, plus socialization with the organizers, then drive back home again through rush hour traffic -- for free? Not to mention the preparation time and the recovery time from being exhausted. Writers lose several working days doing this.

Oh, you say, but so-and-so will come for free. They've self-published their book and only require us to sell X-many copies of it to the children.
My response is -- have you read this book? Is it even up to the writing quality that you require of your students? Compare it to the literary quality of books produced by real publishers -- publishers who pay the authors/ illustrators and spend a year helping the author make this book the best it can be.
(You do know that self-published authors pay someone to print their book and it gets very little editing, don't you?)

Which book would you rather your students read to encourage them to enjoy reading and to learn good writing skills?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nonfiction Monday is Here

Today is Monday and that means the bloggers are reviewing children's nonfiction books today. Here's a sampling. Click on the links and enjoy. And keep checking back because I'll be adding more links every few hours:

Jeanlittlelibrary has a review of Bug Zoo by Nick Baker.

Mary Ann Scheuer's blog at Great Kids Books this morning is a bit different from the usual. Instead of recommending a great book for kids, she is sharing a most useful resource for parents: Getting to Calm: Cool-headed strategies for parenting tweens and teens, by Laura Kastner and Jennifer Wyatt. She says, "It's been a great resource to me as I've entered the water of parenting a moody, temperamental tween!" Since I also have a tween in the house, I'd better check it out, myself.

Over at NCTEACHERSTUFF, Jeff Barger has reviewed Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light written by Tim Tingle; illustrated by Karen Clarkson.

Charlotte from Charlotte's Library is in with What Goes On In My Head? How your brain works and why you do what you do, by Robert Winston.

There's a real treat over at Shelf Employed -- an interactive interview with Janice Weaver, author of Hudson, a biography of Henry Hudson. Join in the interview and ask your own questions!

Sarah at In Need of Chocolate says she has reviewed two books on Egypt: Pharaoh's Boat and The Great Pyramid.

Anastasia Suen is enjoying Into the Deep: The Life of Naturalist and Explorer William Beebe by David Sheldon at Picture Book of the Day.

Angela Craft at Bookish Blather has a review of Russell Freedman's stunning The War to End All Wars.

Over at Playing by the Book, is a review of Where Does The Poo Go? by Caren Trafford, illustrated by Jade Oakley.

There's a review of Insects: Biggest! Littlest! written by Sandra Markle at the Wild About Nature blog.

Shirley at SimplyScience today discusses the classification of Protists by Steve Parker. What are Protists? You'll have to check out her blog to find out.

This is Banned Book Week and MsMac over at MacLibrary talks about her experience with book banning.

Margo at the Fourth Musketeer reviews a new edition of the picture book, Old Abe, Eagle Hero: The Civil War's Most Famous Mascot, by Patrick Young.

The Allen County Public Library (in Indiana)will be holding their Mock Sibert discussion and Election on December 11. All sorts of great books are on the discussion list. Mandy invites all of you to please click here to add your voice to the discussion in the comment section of the ACPL Mock Sibert blog.

Carol Hinz points out that today at the Lerner books blog, she is kicking off a week focused on Rebecca L. Johnson's new book Journey into the Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures.

Wow, Becky has reviewed two books at two different blogs:
At Becky's Book Reviews, she has Liberty or Death by Margaret Whitman Blair.
And at Young Readers she reviews Lost Boy by Jane Yolen.

Lynne Marie on My Word Playground features a a spark of inspiration for nonfiction writers. It's a writing prompt from nonfiction author, Lori Mortensen, whose nonfiction book, COME SEE THE EARTH TURN: The Story of Foucault's Pendulum, just came out. The interview also features another of her non-fiction books,In the Trees, Honey Bees!

Tammy Flanders at Apples with Many Seeds looks at the book Kakapo Rescue: saving the world’ strangest parrot by Sy Montgomery.

At The Cat & The Fiddle, Michelle Markel explores the many possibilities of picture book biographies.

Middle-school librarian, Cindy Dobrez at the Booklist blog, "Bookends," is reviewing Young Zeus by G. Brian Karas this week.

Jennie at Biblio File analyzed a book for adults who work with children's literature, From the Beast to the Blonde: on Fairy Tales and their Tellers by Marina Warner.

Janet Squires at All about the Books with Janet Squires selected I Spy Shapes in Art by Lucy Micklethwait.

Tina Nichols Coury ­ at Tales From the Rushmore Kid interviews author Vicki Oransky Wittenstein, where she describes what
inspired her to write about astronomer Geoff Macy. The title of her book is Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths.

And, there's even a PODcast.

Children's NF author Mary Kay Carson talked about her new Scientists in the Field book, The Bat Scientists, on a local NPR radio show over the weekend called Field Notes with Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo.
Click here for The Bat Scientists author, Mary Kay Carson's interview. (I hope these links work.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why invite an author to your school or group?

With the much tighter school budgets these days, parents and teachers sometimes wonder if their slim programming money would be better spent on an entertainer who might have a 'message' to convey to their students (Don't do drugs, etc.) or on bringing an author to the school. Which one will help the students more? (Which one can they justify best to the administration?)

Why spend the money on a published author, when there are self-published authors who will do the job for free. (provided, of course, that you allow them to sell their self-published book to the kids. How could you lose? You get a free speaker. What a deal?)

Members of CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers) have created a list of Frequently Asked Questions that address that very conundrum.

Use it the next time a school asks, "why they should invite YOU/ what's in it for the students?"
Also be sure to use the information you gather on Alexis O'Neill's blog, school visits which offers you even more ideas about doing school visits.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Spider in the car -- found

I found that invisible spider that had been living in my car.
in the dark
After work.

I was sitting at a stoplight when a brown/grey spider with very skinny legs crawled into my sight on the car windshield. It's like it didn't know I was there.
I grabbed my iPhone and squashed that spider. (with the back of the iPhone, natch.)
I had time to clean my iPhone and partially clean the window before the light turned green.

Crossing fingers and toes that there are no more 'visitors' planning to live in my car this fall.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nonfiction Monday

To satisfy your Nonfiction needs for today, click on over to the wrapped in foil blog.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Newbery/ Caldecott 2011 predictions (so far)

Time to think about the big awards.
What? (you say)
But the fall books haven't come out yet.

So true.
And how many times have we been sideswiped by winners that we haven't even read yet, because they came out late in the fall and only the committee knew about them.

But still...
There's a great discussion going on over at Fuse #8's blog. Betsy Bird (the Fuse #8, herself) has laid out her predictions for these awards on her blog for all to see, discuss, and object to if they wish.
She's waving the flag for some of my favorite books of the year.

What are your favorites?

Friday, September 17, 2010

September is Spider Month

I seem to remember having said this before.
Yup. I said it here. And here. And here.

I'm convinced I have a spider in my car.
How do I know?
Well, every day I get into my car, I break through a spider traveling line. Not a whole web, thank heavens, just the line. Then, while I'm driving, the sun makes more spider lines glisten across the front windshield. I flap my hand at them and they break.

No, I've never seen the spider. And since I don't think it can get any food and water, I don't expect it to last long. But it's been about three days now with me discovering spider travel lines in the morning. IN MY CAR!

I'll have to admit, an invisible spider is less scary than the one I found last year.
I was driving up I-95, going to work. To move into the right hand lane I check my windshield mirror, then the side mirror, then I turn my head to the check the view out of the side and then the back passenger window.
Your friendly neighborhood spider had made a huge web back there -- and was sitting right in the middle of it.
I'm lucky I didn't cause an accident right there with my reaction.

You can believe that I pulled off at the next exit (my exit, actually), stopped the car and whapped that spider good.

It's probably not cold enough yet for the spiders to come out in droves and invade home and library.
I can't wait for October, when they do.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dialogue advice from a literary agent

Every so often literary agent, Nathan Bransford, posts advice on his blog that is just what you needed in your writing life. Last week he wrote about dialogue. In fact, that blog entry is called, Seven Keys to Writing Good Dialogue.
Click on the link and take notes. This stuff is good.

Every Friday he posts current news from the publishing world. If you only have time to read one of his blog entries, Friday is the one you should pick. It may take several hours to follow all the links.
Have fun.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nonfiction Monday -- Weird Ocean

Weird Ocean, Pop-ups, pull tabs, flaps, and flip books by Kathryn Smith. Illustrated by Robin Boutell. Kingfisher Books, 2010.

An easy reading pop-up book for the nonfiction section.
The flip books inside the book work fine and so do the pop-ups.
(It's discouraging when pop-ups won't close down smoothly -- Mo Willems, I'm talking about your Big Frog Can't Fit In. (It just won't fold neatly back into the book.)

But the pull-tabs are a bit difficult to use, showing only on one side of the page and thus being difficult to pick up and pull.

Since Kingfisher and DK Eyewitness books specialize in short blurbs of information combined with good picture representations of the topic under discussion, this is typical of that type of book.

Each doublepage spread contains many similar beasts -- travelers, predator and prey, etc., and discusses in a few sentences how they interact or what makes them part of this group. First and second graders should be able to read and enjoy the action on these pages.

You can explore other Nonfiction Monday posts at Rasco from RIF.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Author, Lisa Yee, asked the question on Facebook:
Where were you on 9-11?
You don't even have to give the whole date -- everyone knows what you are talking about.

(except possibly small children. I wonder where the cut-off age is for this? I suppose I'm among a small number of people who also remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when President Kennedy was shot. But I digress...)

I responded that --
I was watching the TODAY show. Slowly getting ready for work. Taking my time because I didn't have to be at work this day until noon. Good, I said. I have time to watch the Today show.

Close to the end of the show, close to 9 am Eastern time, Matt Lauer said, "Something's happened."
In complete silence they replayed the crash of the first plane into one of the Twin Towers in NYC.
Then you heard him say, "Oh... My... G*d!"
And the camera showed the second plane hitting the second tower.
The TV station never went on to the next scheduled show -- It was the Today show for the rest of the day.

We were glued to the TV after that.
I e-mailed my editor, suggesting she leave her office. (her office was somewhat close to the event.) But she had already left.
I e-mailed NYC writer friends. Over the next few hours and days, various NYC writers e-mailed all their internet friends assuring them that they were okay.

We kept the TV on all day at the library in the public area.
Waiting for the other shoe to drop.
As another and then one more attack plane was discovered.

I still wait for the other shoe to drop.
Because of that day, for many years afterwards, I was a news addict.
How about you?

Friday nite concert fun at Pier 6

Friday evening, the 10-year-old and I had a great time at the Prairie Home Companion Summer of Love concert at Pier 6 on the Baltimore Inner Harbour. (sitting under a huge tent/ watching the sun set behind Orioles Park at Camden Station/ surrounded by water on three sides/ Great seats 14 rows from the stage)

And today they posted pictures and comments about Baltimore on the Prairie Home Companion blog. I was going to try to capture some of the pictures to decorate this blog entry, but you'd probably rather explore their complete scrapbook, so Click and enjoy their photo album from all the cities they visited over the past month.

Our favorite person on that show is the Sound Effects guy -- Fred Newman. He and Garrison had several skits together, much to the enjoyment of the 10-year-old. (and me) (and the rest of the audience)

If you muck around that website, you'll also find a wonderful recorded interview of Garrison keillor on MPR Day at the Minnasota State Fair. But you don't have to search for it. Just click on the link in the previous sentence.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nonfiction Monday - Parrots

Parrots by Margaret Fetty. Part of the Smart Animals series published by Bearport. Available now.

Do you have a parrot? If so, you already know that these animals are very smart.

Many parrots can learn words and repeat them back to people. But some parrots actually use human words in sentences that have meaning. Also, scientists are discovering that parrots are also smart enough to make simple choices.

Brilliant color photographs accompany the information.
Back matter includes: Facts about parrots, glossary, a short bibliography, more to read, an online places to learn more about parrots, plus an Index.

More Nonfiction Monday posts can be found at the Miss Rumphius Effect blog.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

They should have a test for Parenthood

At the State Fair this weekend, we saw another example of why, if it's important to take a driver's test to drive a car, they should have a parent's test before people have babies.

We took granddaughter and friend to the State Fair and bought 'Ride All Day' wristbands for them. While they were on the rides, we would find bench seats near the ride to sit and relax. At their favorite thing -- the tall, tall slide-- we sat near a woman jabbering on a telephone who was ignoring her two or three year old little girl. Our kids slid down the slide on burlap bags, got back in line, and slid down again-- over and over.

The two year old wandered over to the slide ride, pushed open the Exit gate and walked into the end of the slide area. The woman jabbered on, ignoring her. The child sat down and took off her sneakers. The woman kept talking into the cell phone. At this time a group of kids were beginning the long slide. The woman continued to talk in a foreign language. The child got up and wandered to the side of the slide, tripped over the edge and fell to the side, just as that group of children reached the end of the slide.

The woman -- seemed to still not notice. Grandchild and friend, not seeing anyone at the end of the slide, began their descent. The crying two year old wandered directly into their path. There was no way they could stop sliding.

Mom on the telephone? She finally noticed what was happening, rushed over, grabbed child, jerked her out of the path of the swiftly sliding children, ALL WHILE STILL ON THE PHONE! Dragged the child and shoes over to the bench and attempted to replace the shoes While Still On The Phone.

Poor Parenting?
Cell phone Addiction?
You tell me.

Friday, September 3, 2010

How do you use your Library Card?

Over at Teaching Authors, JoAnn Early Macken is talking about libraries. Libraries are a writers' best friend. But they do much more than help writers. You can find anything you need to know at libraries -- more than you can on the web. And if the library doesn't have the information, they know where to find it. (even if it means searching the web and finding what you couldn't find there)

And do follow her link to the ALA website for the article -- 52 Ways to Use Your Library Card.

Good Question.
How DO you use your library card?