Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Looking ahead to a bright New Year - full of possibilities

Monday, December 29, 2014

Nonfiction Monday - Stripes of All Types

Darned if I know where the rest of the Nonfiction Monday's links are, but here's my Nonfiction Monday book:  Stripes of All Types, written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale (that's her in the picture), in English and Spanish. Peachtree Publishers, 2014. Available now.

Click here for a great article by her at the Peachtree Publisher's blog talking about how she got the idea to create this book.

And below you can see two illustrations from the book.
Look -- some jelly fish have stripes!  I already knew that garter snakes, sometimes called green grass snakes, have stripes because my brother collected them when we lived in northern Illinois.  (Mom made him stop collecting snakes when we moved to the Ohio Valley of West Virginia because some of the local snakes there were poisonous.)

Everyone knows that skunks and zebras and tigers have stripes. But this book includes lots of unexpected stripes in the animal world.

As you can see in the pictures, this is set up so that young readers can figure out the words, with a  phrase in both English and Spanish on each page. (hmm. this picture only shows the English) By the time they have read the whole sentence - on several pages - it becomes apparent that this is also a poetry book. (at least in English; not so sure about the Spanish part.)
There's a fun quiz to identify the animals near the end of the book. (answers upside down). And finally a section with paragraphs containing more information about each animal (again in English and Spanish).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Green Christmas

"I'm dreaming of a green Christmas…."

No White Christmases here in Southern California.
But it certainly is nice to see green, again.

On the east coast (which gets 40 inches of rain a year, by the way, and So Cal gets less than 4 or 5) the hillsides are green from late spring until early fall. Then the leaves turn and fall off and the hillsides are brown, brown, brown.

However, here the hillsides are brown from late spring until December.
Yes, I said - December.
That's when it finally rains.
And within a few days, those brown hillsides turn GREEN.
It's an amazing thing and quite shocking to a new resident.

And it's not the off-green/ sage green of some summertime plants here.
It's GREEN.  Christmas green. (and just in time for Christmas)

And, by the way, my Camellias are blooming, again.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Solstice!

It was still a shock when darkness fell today.
Dinner time already?
But I just ate lunch!

That's what happens on the shortest day of the year --
the longest night.

Monday, December 15, 2014

SANTA CAT Book Trailer

Remember the book called, Here comes the Easter Cat?

Well, Deborah Underwood has another cat adventure and here's the trailer:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

So you're writing a picture book

If you are,
Here are the 10 Commandments of Picture Book Writing.
Or not.

Yes, you have to click the link to understand this cryptic sentence.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Someone just now wondered = what was so wonderful about sliced bread that created this saying:
"The best thing since sliced bread."

It occurred to me that almost everyone living today has ONLY known sliced bread.  And that they think that unsliced, whole loaves of bread are something special.


Bread used to be sold as a chunk of bread and you had to slice it. It was kept in a bread box to keep insects and animals away, but it soon dried out and became very hard. (which is why bread pudding was invented -- to use up that rock-hard bread.)  

When Pre-sliced bread was invented, (plus wax-coated wrappers to keep it fresh), it was wonderful.

Have you ever tried slicing bread for a large group -- trying to make every slice even and the same as the others? 

Before I was married, I was handed a bread slicing knife (these had special edges to cut through tough crusts) and I had to prove I could slice bread properly in order to prove that I knew housewifely skills. 

I managed to pass that test only because our family loved Italian bread with our spaghetti and I had learned how to slice it evenly. (my brother and sisters would complain if one of them got a slice thicker than the other.) 

Pre-sliced bread was a Wonderful improvement. So, if something is the best thing since sliced bread -- It's got to be pretty wonderful.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Looking toward December

Well, this is a first.
No blog posts in November?

I don't know what happened. Where did November go?
I have a question for you --

Thanksgiving is over. Have you put your tree Up, yet?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Facts

Did you know?

The world's largest one was made on Sept. 25, 2010 at the New Bremen, Ohio Pumpkinfest consisting of 
1,212 pounds canned pumpkin, 
109 gallons evaporated milk, 
2,796 eggs, 
7 pounds salt, 
14 1/2 pounds cinnamon,
 AND 525 pounds of sugar. 

Weighing in at a colossal 3,699 pounds, this tasty dessert measured 20 feet in diameter. 

It's time to make the PIE!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

So you wrote a book, and self-published it.

And now you are wondering why no libraries are buying it or bookstores not in your neighborhood will carry it. And when you find out that libraries (and bookstores) depend on book reviews, you wonder why you can't get your book reviewed?

Well, Roger Sutton, editor of the highly respected Horn Book Magazine, has written a letter of explanation:

Dear self-published author:
I can imagine how frustrating it is to have your book refused possible review coverage by the Horn Book simply because it is self-published. But here is why that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.
If we met at a party or something, I, and I think my colleagues at the other review rags, would tell you that we don’t review self-published books because there are too many of them. More than half a million such titles are published every year in this country, and I’m guessing children’s books account for at least 100,000 of those. Right now, I’m dealing with about 8,000 titles a year of traditionally published children’s books, of which we review approximately 5,000. If we were to commit to giving self-published books the same level of scrutiny we give to what we already cover, I would need to increase our staff exponentially, which is not going to happen.
But that is only a portion of the answer. The real problem is that most self-published books for children are pretty terrible. Ten years ago, I would have said that “most self-published books are pretty terrible” without feeling the need to specify children’s books in particular, but self-publishing for adults these days is demonstrating considerably greater skill and sense of audience than it used to, especially when it comes to niche topics and genre fiction. Why has the same maturity not come to self-published books for young people?
I think it has to do with the way people approach writing books “for children.” If a gardening enthusiast or a paranormal fan self-publishes a guide to lilacs or a vampire novel respectively he is likely to be imagining a reader like himself. But people writing “for children” tend to have set themselves up as Lady Bountifuls, handing down stories from above like plates of healthy vegetables. They perceive virtue in what they are doing–and virtue is no place from which to begin a book. Just about every adult I  ever met has “a great idea for a children’s book” that is always an AWFUL idea for a children’s book, and, thanks to the greater ease of self-publishing, those books are coming to light. Quick, Henry, the Flit!
A related problem is that while many, many people want to self-publish their children’s books, far fewer actually want to read them. I know librarians and booksellers who have had self-published books pressed upon them by the author, but they have searched in vain for an audience. This is mostly because a) the books are pretty terrible and b) the books aren’t filling any kind of need that isn’t already being met by established publishers. This hasn’t always been true: back in the 1960s through the ’80s, there was a demand for counterculture-friendly children’s books that was not being met by publishers, thus very tiny publishers sprang up with books like Heather Has Two Mommies. While we did recently see a pro-pot picture book, I’m finding it difficult to otherwise think of subjects that scare the mainstream off. Did you really think your anti-bullying book was giving us something we didn’t already have?
Thus my final point. Self-published children’s books seem remarkably ignorant of the great history and scope of children’s literature. You don’t need this awareness to write a good or even great book for children (I know several  worthy children’s book authors who pay no attention to the field or its heritage) but you do need it to publish a good or great book for children. (Or even a terrible one. Trade publishers publish bad books all the time, but they publish them for good reasons.)  An editor isn’t there to “fix mistakes.” His or her most important job is to understand what contribution your story makes–or doesn’t–to the big world of books and readers. That’s what is most missing from self-published books for children today.

Found on the Horn Book website.  More good information about books can be found there.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You gotta practice in order to become good at something

How do you get to Carnege Hall?

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 10,000 hour rule, which basically states that in order to become a successful professional it takes 10,000 hours of practice. He uses examples, like how The Beatles played in Hamburg non-stop for two years honing their skill before they even recorded their first track.
So the best advice anyone can give to any young person, no matter what their pursuit: 
I'm approaching the 10,000 hours.  
How about YOU?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Attend KidLitCon

You have till next Friday, Sept. 26th to register for Kidlitcon 2014  (Sacramento, Oct 10th and 11th)!
If both days are too much, there's the option of registering for just Friday or Saturday....

Kidlitcon is awesome-  it is the most kindred spirit filled conference possible for us introverted children's book readers and writers.  Plus there will be great authors to meet, and scads of books and swag to go home with -- for instance, Chronicle Books  just wrote in asking "how many of each title should we send...."  And there will be tasty eats and drinks (thank you, Lee and Low for sponsoring refreshments for Friday afternoon's Author Meet and Mingle!).

Even if you can't yourself go, please feel free to spread the word to any book bloggers, or any other sort of people who love reading and talking about children's books, who are in the Sacramento area (loosely defined as the whole western part of the country)!
And if you are going, any mention of Kidlitcon in your own social media would be swell.

And you don"t have to be in the western part of the country to go!   Many people are flying in from other parts of the country.

If you blog about kidlit, work with kidlit, write PB, middle grade, or YA books or just love it, this is a can't miss conference. The program looks great, and since the theme is Diversity, it's a great chance to continue the conversations we've been having online about how to bring greater diversity to children's books.

And --  if you work with children's books, if you're an author, or even if you make money blogging about children's or YA books, you should be able to deduct the cost from your taxes!" (check with your accountant.  I deducted it, myself.)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 ALA Speeches are online

Did you miss this June's American Library Association conference. If so you missed the Newbery/ Caldecott banquet .  Well videos of the speeches of the award winners at the banquet are now online on the Association for Library Service to Children's webpage.

Click and enjoy.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nonfiction Monday has moved

Happy September 1st.

In case you were a Nonfiction Monday fan, this roundup of multiple blog posts about fantastic Nonfiction books for preschool and Elementary school readers that appears every Monday has moved to Facebook.  What does this mean?  It means that you can discover these links all week long, not just on Monday.  It's just that we try to put the links up on Mondays.

If you are not presently a Facebook member, it's easy to join just to read messages like these. You don't have to establish and keep posting on your home page/ your wall. You CAN just pop on to check out these reviews and then log off again.  (Facebook doesn't care)  On the other hand, you might just discover that some of your favorite authors are on Facebook and, if you are doing an author unit, this would be one place to find lots of information about them.

Please check this out. You'll be glad you did.  You can either follow the above link, or type in Nonfiction Monday in the search block to quickly jump to it.

Edited to say, it's been moved again.
It's back onto WordPress at this address:

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Seven Principles to guide your life

I believe that --
-Each person is important

1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person 

-Be kind in all you do

2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations

-We're free to learn together

3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth

-And search for what is true

4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

-All people need a voice

5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process

-Build a fair and peaceful world

6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

-We care for our Earth

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Don't you agree? 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nonfiction Monday - The Port Chicago 50

I'm going to restart posting occasional reviews for Nonfiction Monday again.

First up:
Sheinkin, Steve. The Port Chicago 50, Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2014.   (available now)

           (Boston Globe/ Horn Book 2014 nonfiction award winner)

                        Sheinkin continues his excellent nonfiction technique of detailed research and storytelling that captures the reader’s interest from page one with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the awarding of the highest Naval award for the first time to a negro sailor. The plight of negroes (this is the term used at this time period and Sheinkin keeps his language firmly in that time period) in the navy is emphasized by the final sentences of the chapter when this hero then returns to the only position allowed for negroes in the navy – working with the laundry as a mess attendant.  

The meat of this book explores one of the other few jobs allowed to negroes at this time – loading explosives onto ships, with no training plus the poor leadership by the white officers.  Sheinkin’s storytelling piles example upon example contrasting the differences of treatment and assumptions about white and black sailors without ever making the reader feel that these are data dumps, all of which culminates with the trial and imprisonment of the men who refused to return to load explosives after a disastrous explosion.  
(Diversity factor –  about African Americans in the Navy.)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What is normal?

Thought for today.

After I retired from being a children's librarian in a public library, I happened to be getting books for my own reading and ran into a child, a 'slow' reader that I had helped for many years find books that he would could read and enjoy  

He wondered where I had been. When I told him that I had retired he looked so sad and said,  "nobody else treats me like I'm normal -- like you do."

Made me feel like I'd been successful with at least one person there.

Monday, August 11, 2014

ALA in June

I just found the information I had meant to post about my adventures in Las Vegas with the American Library Association last June.  (I tend not to post about vacations while they are happening)

I ran into Soooooo many Vermont College of Fine Arts people at ALA that weekend (last June). Some at banquets, some at presentations, and so many more seen in the exhibits aisles and at events! This is one of the reasons I love going to ALA -- besides all the books, books, books, and masses of book people.

And here I was thinking that Las Vegas was so huge that I wouldn't see anyone I knew.  But before I even got onto the bus that would take me to the convention center, I ran into retired school librarian and book speechifier extrodinaire --Judy Freeman!  Hugs! She was so excited because her brother was in one of the Cirque du Soleil shows in town and that I MUST go see it. 

Walked a little bit of exhibits then returned to my room at Caesar's Palace. Unfortunately the early show of "O" was sold out, so I went to Judy Freeman's Brother's show -- Zarkana.   I arrived late. I apologized to the ticket person and explained that my friend's brother was in the show and that my friend had insisted that I Must See the Show, and could I possibly still get into the show?  No problem.  He sold me the cheapest seats, then printed out tickets for the most expensive area of the theatre !!!  Yes, the show was great.


These casino hotels are huge. I must have walked 10 miles today, in the Exhibits,  in Caeser's, and to and from the publishers party (Holiday House)  in the Bellagio.   I very foolishly walked home from it.  (It's only a block -- how far can that be?  Pretty far, it turns out.)
I'm tired.   


Attended the Corretta Scott King breakfast this morning and got to sit at a publisher's table. That was fun.  One of the Vermont College faculty, Rita Williams-Garcia, had been awarded the Coretta Scott King Medal. It was fun to see her dance her way to the podium to receive it and give her speech. (you=all know how she is when she gets excited.)
Both Coe Booth and Trent Reedy were great at their Reader's Theatre. 

Sunday evening I attended the Newbery/ Caldecott Banquet at the Paris Hotel and accidentally got to sit with the Calkins Creek/ Boyds' Mills Publisher's table.  How did this happen?  I was looking for a seat and was amazed at how many tables were Marked Reserved for publishers and groups. I had just about given up finding a seat anywhere close to the front when people in a table in the third row invited me to join them -- only to discover it was an unmarked publisher's table!

The two authors at the table were excited to learn that I wrote under the pen name of C. W. Bowie. (a pen name for three authors writing together.)  One of them, Anna McQuin, had talked about our two picture books -- Busy Toes, and the companion book, Busy Fingers -- during her speech that afternoon as the best example of an outstanding book using Diversity showing a universal subject that will never go out of style-- or hopefully out of print..  Of course I was thrilled to hear this.  Here is a link to a picture of her speaking.  Of course I had to TEXT this information to my co-author.


In the morning I had breakfast with two other authors --   Christine Rhodeback Kohler and Alexis O'Neill and then (so sad) had to fly back home.   It had been lovely to enjoy the over 100 degree heat compared to the usual 60 and 70 degrees here in San Diego.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Do you remember the Card Catalogue?

This was me in the 1960s, complete with the long hair.

The only way we underclassmen could access the ten story tall college library was to use the card catalog, write a request slip, and send a page to find the book.  No browsing allowed.
But when I took some library science courses I was allowed in the inner domain -- and could browse.
As a grad student I was allowed in, no question.
And then I took a part-time job at the archives. What fun, spending all day working with Civil War Documents and running up and down the different levels of the stacks.

When I finally graduated with a masters in library science, Baltimore County public library was on the cutting edge --they had Book Catalogs. (but they kept the card catalogue as back-up.) What a pain. It was out of date the minute it was printed and we ended up searching through the main book and three supplements before the next year's catalogue was printed.

Then Microfische catalogues -- in a long strip a foot wide, instead of individual microfiche cards. Suddenly there was this huge machine between us and the person needing help. We turned a huge handle and they could see that we were working hard to find what they wanted.
That quickly morphed into reel to reel microfiche. To move the microfiche to find the catalog information, all we needed to do was press a little button. Less work than the larger machine, but the patrons couldn't see that we were searching and complained that we were sitting there doing nothing to help them.
 (and the teens would sit at the public catalogs, racing each other to see who could get to the end of the reel faster -- making it jump off the reel and we had to call for repairs.

Then the original first computer was placed in the library (300 baud)  It was meant only to be a check out system, but we librarians grabbed it, pointed out that it was perfect to help us find books and library material, and computers as search tools in the library was born.  The year later we got a faster computer catalog -- 900 baud. That was when we discovered that 300 baud was slow. (it had seem so speedy to us, compared to the microfiche.) Every year or two the computers became faster and faster.

Somewhere along in here the catalogue department decided that it would finally be okay to get rid of the card catalogue, which had been used as back up all this time.  Each library branch then used all those old cards as scrap cards -- to write the computer information down and carry with us to the shelves to help patrons find the material they needed.
What a shock 10 years later when we finally ran out of old catalogue cards and had to (oh no) cut sheets of paper into catalogue card size pieces for our scrap cards.

S0 -- do YOU remember the card catalogue?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writing a Synopsis

yes, I'm parking links here on my blog so that I can find them again when I need them. (no searching my whole computer for the file -- the file whose name I have forgotten.)

Here's How to Write A 1-Page Synopsis  by Susan Dennard.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thoughts about Fantasy from Lloyd Alexander

I'm working on a fantasy story and happened upon this article by Lloyd Alexander written for the Horn Book Magazine in 1965 when he was halfway through his five book tale of Taran, the assistant Pig-keeper who becomes King in the final book, The High King.  (Newbery Medal winner, 1969)

Alexander declares that his goddess of Fantasy is a Flat Heeled Muse.  
(I'm linking it here because it's true, and because I want to go back and read it again and again.

Monday, July 28, 2014

KidLitCon 2014

Jen Robinson, who blobs at Jen Robinson's Book Page,  invites you-all to come to the next KidLitCon to be held in Sacramento, CA. on October 10th and 11th.
General information about the conference is here.  Click on over to see why this is a must-see for blog readers/ blog writers/ and children's book writers.

If you'd like to present a lecture/ workshop/ or propose a panel discussion, those proposals are due by next Friday (August 1st).

Tanita Davis has written a great article today about what it is that we're looking for in proposals, and why people should consider participating in KidLitCon as speakers.  Or even just as attendees.

The theme this year is diversity.
Tanita also discusses the broadest of definitions of diversity at this same link.

Click here for the registration form for the conference.

Twitterites can follow the news on the KidLitCon Twitter feed.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

VCFA Class Names

I've been thinking lately about college. (probably because my teen is entering high school and we should begin looking at colleges -- eventually)

Recently, I've been attending a graduate school where I am studying writing.  The wonderful thing about this college is that the class groups become very close and have a tradition of adopting a name for themselves.

July 2008, I began a picture book certificate course at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the school of Writing for Children and Young Adults.  This is a correspondence course with the requirement that students spend 10 days on campus attending lectures and readings from 8:30 am to after 9:00 pm.  Then we go home and write (at least 25 hours a week, often more), sending our work to our advisor about every 4 weeks in an email packet.  At the next residency, in January 2009, our picture book group gave a lecture about what we had learned.

In 2010, I read One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.  Instantly, I realized that I needed to go back to Vermont College of Fine Arts and take the full course (4 semesters) that would result in an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Names of the classes I have been a part of are:
July 2010 - Thunder Badgers  (they began their study the semester I did the Picture Book Certificate program)
January 2013 - Dystropians
Then I had to take a break because of family events.  I came back and joined:
July 2014 - Allies in Wonderland
Another break in attendance
January 2015 - Darling Assassins 
July 2015 -  The Craftographers

I hope to graduate at the July 2015 Residency.

All these groups contain wonderful writers and it's been my privilege to have known them.
Look for their books coming out in the next few years.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Walter Dean Myers

Those of us who attended the Corretta Scott King breakfast at ALA in June wondered why Walter Dean Myers was not there to accept his award.  His editor accepted it in his name.  Early in July we discovered why. The Children's Book World was shocked by the information that one of our giants had died.

There have been many tributes to him. Here are links to a few:

Lyn Miller-Lachmann -- We've Lost a Library
Fuse #8 Production blog on the School Library Journal Website
And here's his biography on the Walter Dean Myers' website

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Praise for Women over 50

I had a birthday yesterday.
A little bit over 50.
Ahem -- a bit over 64, too.
(cue Beattles music, "Will you still need me/ Will you still feed me/  when I'm 64?")

Some of you reading this will remember Andy Rooney, who always had the last word on the news program -- 60 Minutes.  I've been going over my old email and discovered a quote from him that my sister sent me in 2004:

 What Andy Rooney says about women over 50

Andy Rooney says.... "As I grow in age, I value women who are over 50 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

An over 50 woman will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, "What are you thinking?" She doesn't care what you think.

If an over 50 woman doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And it's usually something more interesting.

An over 50 woman knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants, and from whom. Few women past the age of 50 give a darn what you might think about her or what she's doing.

An over 50 woman usually has had her fill of "meaningful relationships" and commitment." The last thing she wants in her life is another dopey, clingy, whiny, dependent lover.

Over 50 women are dignified. They seldom have screaming matches with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it.

Over 50 women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated.

An over 50 woman has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn't trust the guy with other women. A woman over 50 woman couldn't care less if you're attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won't betray her.

Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to an over 50 woman. They always know.

An over 50 woman looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women.

Over 50 women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off you are a jerk if you are acting like one. You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her.

Ladies, we praise over 50 women for a multitude of reasons.
Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. 
For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of 50+, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year-old waitress.

Ladies, I apologize.
Andy Rooney

Pass this on to other fabulous women over 50 that you know!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Five Rules of Writing Success

Robert A. Heinlein, the famous Science Fiction writer, always maintained that there are 5 rules for writing success.

1. You must write.
2. Finish what you start
3. Don't rewrite, except when an editor tells you to
4. You must put your story on the market
5. You must keep the story on the market until it sells

Science Fiction Writer, Robert J. Sawyer lists these rules on his blog, On Writing, and adds another rule of his own -- 6. Start working on something else.

He explains these rules in detail, plus points out why, out of 100 would-be-successful writers, only one will be successful. (for example, out of 100 writers, only 50 will actually write.  And less and less end up following the remaining rules to success.)
 Click on over to read his blog.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel

Friday the 13th.
Mercury in Retrograde.
PLUS, it's a Full Moon.

Any one of these could mean something bad to some people -- but all THREE of them on one day?

--One friend lost his whole book draft.  The file is GONE. Gone. Gone. Gone.
--One friend's dog has been condemned to solitary confinement at Doggy Day Care and has to wear a red collar to warn people that he doesn't get along with the other dogs.
-- Many, many parents had to burn up, sitting under the hot sun, to watch their children graduate.  (Okay, maybe that's not a disaster -- but it was very, very hot.)

Well --
Here's one thing that you can do right today.
You can get the beginning of your story right.  Or at least learn to avoid The Worst Ways to Begin Your Novel.  Literary agents give advice at Chuck Sambuchino's blog. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Word Count!

Writers always worry about word count. Do editors want picture books to be short, short, short these days? How long is too long?

Fret not, famous literary agent, Jennifer Laughran, otherwise known as Literiaticat when she writes in her blog, Jennifer Represents, to the rescue. Here she takes samples of all levels of children's literature and tells you how many words they have.  Compare your own writing to the masters and see if your story fits in the category you want to write for.  Click on over.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Dr. Who loves Libraries

As we wait (and wait) for the new Dr. Who to show up this August, here's a Dr. Who quote that I  love, love, love.

Jackie Parker, who writes on the Interactive Reader Blog, puts this message at the end of some of her emails -- and it's so good that I had to quote it:

"You want weapons?
We're in a library!
Books! The best weapons in the world!
This room is the greatest arsenal we could have -- arm yourselves!"

--The Doctor (#10) in Dr. Who "Tooth and Claw"

Friday, May 2, 2014

Famous painter is also my sister

My wonderful little sister, Marion Mayer, is a fine artist.

By that, I mean, she doesn't illustrate books (darn it!), but paints pictures to sell.

She just announced that her paintings are now on display at marion-corbinmayer.fineartamerica.  Do click on the link and check it out.  She does amazing stuff -- especially animal portraits, so if you want your own pet immortalized in paint, do contact her,

Thursday, May 1, 2014

We need more books featuring Diverse characters!

Today all over the Twitter world, the Facebook world, the Blog world, etc. writers, editors, publishers, bloggers, twitterers, and others are advocating for more Diversity in books.  If you feel bombarded by this message -- that's why.

Here's the Kindling Words West group, a group of writers of Children's Books who support the campaign for more diversity in books.
(can you find me somewhere in the picture?)

Join the diversity movement. Click on this link to find out more about it.
And feel free to take a Selfie with you holding a sign saying YOU also support Diversity and post it somewhere, today.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Writer's Retreats

I'm looking forward to going to a Writer's Retreat in a month or two.
Many reasons.

1. No Internet
Yes, there is internet in the lobby of the place we are staying, but supposedly not in the rooms. And probably not in some of the gathering places. (we like to compute/ wordprocess together, even tho we are not talking together.)  This means No Distractions.  Focus.  I will be able to focus on the work at hand.

2. Food.
Someone else will be doing the cooking.  I won't have to have that little voice in the back of my head nagging, "have you put out the meat to thaw, yet?  What is it you plan to serve, anyway? Do you think we are out of canned veggies?  Did you empty the dishwasher?"
and so on.

3. No family
Nobody to roust up and take to school. No need to stop writing and go pick the kid up from school.  And then keep reminding her to do her homework.  I can sleep when I want and get up when I want. (I know, if I want breakfast, I will have to get up at a certain time for that.)

4. A different place
Sometimes writing in a different place, different from my office (did you file those papers? What's in that box over there?) makes it easier to focus and write.  I wonder if that's why so many writers go to coffee shops to write?

All these things make my mind sharper, better able to focus.
What about you?
What helps you kick-start your writing -- or other projects you want to work on?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

No Easter Eggs?

The 14 year old had no desire to color eggs this year.  (yea. No mess in the kitchen. No colored fingers when we open the shells.)  I boiled some anyway yesterday so that we could have the traditional Saturday hot hard boiled egg breakfast.

Therefore, today I didn't hide any eggs.  But I did make up a basket and hid it.  She's been awake almost an hour and still has no urge to vacate her room and hunt for the basket.  Such a change from years ago when she couldn't wait to do all those things. Today, while she's off at a friend's house participating in their Easter Egg hunt, I'll turn the hard boiled eggs into traditional deviled eggs.  I know she loves those.

Oooooo.  Found another basket (online). Pretty:

(added later)
I did hide a basket with Reese's Cups Easter eggs -- her favorite candy. (not pictured above)
She complained during the whole the time she looked for it saying, "You're really getting a kick out of this, aren't you?"
Yes, I laughed to myself every time she passed the basket without seeing it.  I was a meanie and gave her no hints. Finally she collapsed in the living room chair, looking right at it.  Even so, it took her a moment to actually see it on the bookshelves.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Researching background for books

Here are a few thoughts about researching for both fiction and nonfiction:

There's nothing like actually going where your subject lived to observe the setting and walking in your subject's shoes.  I always do it.  
 (or to follow your living subject around at a convention she is running.)

While there I discover fascinating tidbits that help extend my knowledge of the people and the place.  Plus I take photographs to help me with describing the setting later.  (when books had black and white photos, I would put those photos into the books.)

Also, just talking about your research adventures on the internet pulls out lurkers who know somebody who know somebody.
--The man who was the paperboy of the Wright Brothers.  (he never saw them -- just the housekeeper)
--The man whose uncle saw the first flight.  (he didn't actually see it. He attempted to spy on the one that crashed several days before the first flight actually happened.  He and a group of boys climbed a sand dune to spy on the crazy men, but when the motor began to rumble and pop, they slid down the dune and ran like h*ll away from the devil sound.)  

I couldn't use either of these tales, but they certainly were fascinating, don't you agree?

That's the first thing I ask people who ask me to look over their nonfiction or fiction manuscript.  Have you ever been there?  What is the landscape like?  (one guy never mentioned how hilly Pittsburgh is -- and that's a vital part of the landscape there.  That and the juncture of the two rivers.)

Once you are on the hilltop where Jefferson built his dream house, it hits you -- there is  no access to water.  The closest spring is halfway down the hill. Someone had to go get and carry water there.  They had to collect rainwater -- so Jefferson made his whole rooftop a water collector and directed the water into huge storage tanks beside the house and built a porch or deck over it for the family to use.  The water tank was right beside the kitchen, so the cooks had ready access to water for cooking and heating for bringing up to the family to bathe.
-- The stables were down the hill, too.  Someone had to run down the hill and bring whatever horses the family needed for the day -- or the workhorses or mules for the garden.

Besides -- Research field trips are Fun!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Writing Picture Books?

When you write a picture book, should you "play it safe"with your plot, or should you go wild?

Editor Emma Dryden, who now runs an editorial service,  explains why Playing it safe may be the most dangerous game of all.  Click on over and read and think about how it may apply to your current manuscript.  (The same may be true of your middle grade or young adult manuscript.)

Lots of good information in the comments as well.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How to write a query letter

Agent Jill Corcoran has posted a complete list of what an agent (and probably an editor) wants to see in a query letter.  Click on over to see.

Her blog is chock full of great help for writers.

One of her  more recent blog posts is all about how to write first chapter books -- you know, like Clementine, Mercy Watson, Marty McGuire, Captain Underpants, etc.  Those step-up books longer than easy readers but shorter than middle readers.

Edited and added:
Yet another post about writing a query letter, this time from Jane Friedman.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Where's the Delete Key?

We went to Florida to visit my parents in the early 1990s -- without computers. (We didn't have laptops at that time. Were they even invented, yet?)

My computerized husband was in withdrawal.  I finally gave him a pad of paper and a pencil.
He moaned, "but where is the delete key?"

I pointed at the eraser.

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's PI Day !!!

(PI rounded up.)

And -- If you'd like to see some PI in the Sky, jump on over to Sandra Boynton's page on Facebook.

Yes, I'm also thinking of making a pie today. Pumpkin would be nice and easy and delicious.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2014 Golden Kite Awards

The Golden Kite award is for the best of the best, as awarded by members of the Children's Book Writers community.  Not librarians.  Not booksellers. Not publishers, but chosen by other writers in this field.  Given out by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and honored at their International Convention in August in Los Angeles, CA.

Take a look at the winners here, and go read them. They're wonderful.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Your first book -- does it predict success or failure?

Janni Lee Simner brings up an interesting thought -- Someone once said to her:
“If you look at careers that crash and burn you can often trace it to a first book that failed to do well.”
And Janni was all, "what? Umm, no."

She continues with examples of well-known, successful writers whose first novels you've never heard of.  Check our her Desert Dispatches blog entry about Unknown first novels and the myth of the big debut.

So, go ahead and get that first novel out there. Then write your next. and your next. and your next. Some will be hits and some will have small sells, but just keep writing to keep your writing career going.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

Can you believe he'd be 110 years old?   (if he were still alive)

Here's a link to an article in the Denver Post about Theodor Seuss Geisel, who is known to the world as Dr. Seuss.  (If it's still online)

And here's a link to the national Read Across America, a celebration of reading held every year on Dr. Seuss's birthday. If you click on the pictures to the right, you'll get to their Pinterest page with printable copies of all of their handouts.

And another link to Seussville, the web page brought to you by Random House Children's Books, featuring Read Across America activities.

Or you could grab and listen to these audio clips of Dr. Seuss books at the Audiobook Blog read by some of my favorite actors.  After you click, scroll down the page to see the links.

Celebrate Reading Today!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Successful People and their Emails

There's an article on Huffingtonpost about how successful people use emails.
Good Advice.  And it's something you can do, too.  Click on the link for the whole article.

In the article the author, Alexis Kleinman, explains why successful people send very short emails:

1. People don't need as much background information as you think they do. It might seem essential to you, but it actually seems superfluous to the email recipient. They'd rather you get to the information and request more quickly, and then they can ask you to fill in any holes in their knowledge later.
2. Don't waste your subject line. In many email services, including Gmail, just the subject line and first line or two is visible in the recipient's inbox. Why make the subject "Hi" when it could be "Dinner on Thursday?" Give the recipient an idea of what the email contains and a good reason to click on it.
3. Just because your email is short, that doesn't mean it has to be rude."No matter how short your emails, there is a way to inject a friendly, cheery note, and don't forget to do that. Short doesn't mean that it's okay to go around barking orders," Schwalbe says.
I'd like to add a note about that subject line. 
Some years ago, a group invited me to talk to young writers in Illinois. I waited and waited for the final bit of information that I needed before I could purchase my airline ticket.  Finally, I emailed them back, repeating my request.  They insisted they had sent it -- with the subject heading of YOU.  At that time my email system only showed the subject line and did not add the first sentence. It looked like SPAM, so I had deleted it without reading it.
Use that Subject Line to let the person know what is in the email. You want them to read your email, not delete it without reading.       

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Diversity -- from the Native American viewpoint

As per some discussions on Facebook, at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and on several internet listserves, here are some thoughts on diversity in books and other media from the Native American viewpoint from ex VCFA advisor and best selling winning author, Cynthia Leitich Smith, has these thoughts on diversity from the Native American viewpoint on her blog, Cynsations.

How many of you remember watching The Lone Ranger on TV in glorious black and white?
(raising hand)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Need help plotting your story?

I've always been a bit frustrated with my writing. I have what I think is a plot, and then people ask -- where's the conflict?  Where's the conflict in every scene?  (whaaaaat?  you have to have it in every scene?)

Right, that doesn't sound like a word, does it?    
Well, it turns out that there's another style of writing called: Kishōtenketsu.
 Right, that doesn't sound like a word, does it?
It's not a word in 'Western' style writing.
However, it turns out that it's commonly used in Chinese and Japanese story composition.

And it's something I've been doing instinctively.  (and have been getting criticized for it.)

What is Kishōtenketsu?

Check out the blog, Still Eating Oranges, and discover this other art form where she (he?) talks about The significance of plot without conflict --  Creating a satisfactory ending without the need for a quasi-gladiatorial victory. 
It is a valid style of storytelling.
Now, how to I convince editors of this?

In other news, I think I'm going to attempt to attend an Intensive in LA featuring Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer, to help the plot in my work-in-progress move along.
The Intensive sounds wonderful.
The over 2-hour drive there and back does not.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Have to give a speech?

help is on the way.
Paul Edwards had written these hints about giving a talk/ speech/ lecture.
He calls it How to give an Academic Talk, but the rules are the same for anytime you have to stand up and talk to a large group.

Oh, and I want to add -- relax and have fun.  If you do, the audience will enjoy it more, and so will you.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog Day Predictions

Did you watch the news from Pennsylvania today?
What did the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, predict?
Will spring be early?  Or Late?
If you missed it, check out these news stories and find out.

Do you ever wonder how accurate his prediction is?

Did you know there are other "official' Groundhogs who also make predictions?
My book, The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun, lists them all.

Hmm, I wonder what Phil has to say about the Superbowl, which is also happening today?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Did you agree with the Caldecott awards this year?

Take a look at the differences of opinion in the comments on this discussion of the Caldecott medal winners here on the Horn Book blog today.

Not everyone agrees with the committee's choices.  But that's normal.
The intenseness of this discussion by some of the top people in children's publishing is outstanding, however.  Some people are even calling this a Blog War.
Do click on over.
And join the discussion.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Newbery/ Caldecott predictions?

Click on the link to check out the books Super Librarian, Betsy Bird has her list of what she considers the contenders for the Newbery/ Caldecott medal awards.

Here's another article , this time from NPR, featuring a few of the wonderful picture books that might win the Caldecott medal on Monday.

Be sure to check the ALA website to watch the award announcement (beginning 8 am eastern standard time) or check the website later to read the list of award winners on their publicity announcement.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Do writers NEED editors?

Yes they do. And here's why --

Check out Gillian Philip's blog post called What did Editors ever do for Us?
(they find the core of your story and they make it shine)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Celebration of food day

Evidently yesterday was Pie day.
or was it PI day?

And today is National PeanutButter Day.

Hmmm. is every day a celebration of food?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Newbery / Caldecott suspense

Next Monday is the day.
The day when the best book, the most distinguished book of 2013 is announced as the winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal.  Marsha Qualey has a nice blog post about the history of the American Library Association Awards here.

And at the same time many other awards are announced, including the most distinguished illustrated book - The Caldecott award winning book. (with the award going to the illustrator, not jointly to illustrator and author.)

The Printz medal awarded to the most distinguished Young Adult book.

The suspense is terrible.  A good many people have been reading books from the various 'best books' lists, hoping that this year they will have already read the winner before it is announced. Last year it turned out that I had read most of them. This year I don't think I have, mostly because a lot of the books on the 'best books' lists are ones that don't interest me at all.

But Monday
Monday is the day the awards are announced.
8 am. at the American Library Association meeting in Philadelphia. That's 8 am east coast time.  However, I'm on the west coast, so that's 5 am my time.  Will I be awake at that time?  Probably not.

My usual procedure is to watch the award announcement streaming on my computer. (links to the streaming video of the award ceremony are posted on the ALA webpage --  As the books are announced, I'll have the webpage of my local library up on a second screen and will be reserving them as quickly as I can.

However, if I miss the show, (and I WILL miss it this year) within a few hours the news release will be posted on the front page of the ALA website and those of us who slept in will be able to find the list of winners there.

I can't wait.  Can you?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why the Common Core is Important for our children

Fantastic discussion of the origins and implementation and purpose of the new Common Core State Standards Initiative can be found here.

And an anti-Common Core rant can be found here.

Friday, January 3, 2014

It's always men winning the big awards?

True or false:
Do men have a better chance at winning the big awards (and thus reaping the monetary benefits that go along with that from book sales and invitations to speak at events) than women?

This discussion has been going on for quite some time and one of the best places to read about it is on the Horn Book blog, Calling Caldecott.
What do you think?

Here's a link to another article about this problem:  On her blog, One Minute Book Reviews, Janice Harayda talked about the problem after seeing the complete sweep of the Caldecott awards by male illustrators in 2012.
(ah only one of the books shown here have been illustrated by men. Bad example)

And, along with that -- what books do you think the Caldecott committee of ALA will chose this year? What picture books stand out in your mind.
(and now that you are thinking about it -- which ones of those have been illustrated by men?)