Sunday, December 30, 2018

I remember

I remember when there were no computers
when the room-sized ones were created (run by punch cards)
when they became smaller, ran on tapes, but still had to be in air conditioned rooms and only computer geeks allowed near them
when they became desktop computers with a foot or more of computer stuff on the back and executives refused to use them because - typing was a secretary's job.
when flat screens came out
when cell phones were a heavy brick
when they became hand held
and now we hold a computer in our hand and call it an iPhone

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Tips for the Holidays

Just in time for the holidays--some "sensible" tips  (or not)

1. About those carrot sticks. Avoid them. Anyone who puts carrots on a
holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if
you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving
rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-malt
scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You

can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares
that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going 
to turn into an egg- nogaholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. 
Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of
gravy. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it
with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk
or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports
car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control
your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat
other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello? Remember college?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New
Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.
This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the
table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like
frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position
yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before
becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of
shoes. You can't leave them behind. You're not going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or,
if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always
have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? 
Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the
mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have
some standards, mate.

10. And one final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the
party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention.
Reread tips. Start over. But hurry! Cookieless January is just around

By Craig Wilson, USA TODAY

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Writer's Quotes - Jane Yolen

Don’t worry about being great or even semi-great; in fact, don't worry about rankings at all. That’s fairy dust. 

You have no control over any of it. 

Just write the damn book, tell the damn story, fiddle the damn poem.

Full interview is here.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Writer's quotes -- Patricia Wrede

Editors don't make house calls.
You've gotta send them out.
               Patricia Wrede

(referring to the fact that you won't get published if your manuscripts just stay in your computer or in drawers/ filing cabinets.)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The President is Missing = a good read

I just finished reading The President is Missing, a Novel by (president) Bill Clinton and James Patterson. For the second time. Yes, it's that good. Also, that's what happens when you live right between two library systems and reserve the book at both of them, letting them race to see which one will get you the book first. And then you go ahead and read it again when the second book is ready for you.
It's a good suspense novel about the possible destruction of the United States by cyber warfare.
But I direct you to especially read the second to last chapter where the president addresses Congress after the bad guys have been captured or killed. It's a terrific speech which directly discusses the problems our country is facing now and how and why we must do better.
So - what are you reading? Picture book. middle grade. YA. adult book.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Yesterday things broke down

First world problems:
Driving up to Oceanside to my hairdresser, a 25 minute drive on the freeway, I noticed something weird about the way the car was handling. On the way back, the car began vibrating more, so instead of going home, I traveled on to the car repair place and told them my problems. Hmmm, they said. Vibration seems normal to them. But, I sez, It's not normal for THIS car. Okay, they said, we'll put it up on the rack and look at the suspension.
Surprise (not to me). They discovered it needed new shocks and possibly a few other things. Normal wear and tear for a car with 112,000 miles on it, was my reaction.
Now, I'm at home for a day or two without a car. I probably should use this 'free' time to file all the loose papers lying around my office.
OH, and my printer has suddenly stopped working. Yuck. 
I have a replacement, but don't know if I remove the old one and place this one in its place whether my computer and laptop will recognize it. hmmm.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Water Land

Hale, Christy. Water Land: land and water forms around the world. NY: Neal Porter book, Roaring Brook Press, 2018. 

Excellent way to understand land and water forms
Hale uses cut outs in stiff paper so that you can not only see what the land or water form looks like, but you can feel it as well.  Not only that, but she has matched look-alike land and water forms in such a way that you shake your head and say, Wow!  I didn't realize that!

I have only one complaint.  Although I love the triple fold out at the end of the book, showing various land and water forms on a map of our world, the version she uses is the Mercator one that shows North America larger than Africa.  Whereas Africa is really so large that almost all of the countries of the world can fit inside its outline.

After she has tried so hard to show accurate land and water forms, she fails with the map.  Otherwise this is delicious and probably will win a Sibert Award.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A writer's mind

Fell asleep for my nap thinking about a better way to write one scene in my work in progress. 
Forgot it when I woke up. 
Had lunch. 
Read some FaceBook posts. 
Suddenly remembered it just now while brushing my teeth, so am now writing it down. 

Writer's minds are weird.

Update - I've done enough edits on my work in progress.  
Now to begin sending it out to agents or editors.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A place to write

I"ve finally decided that my tiny house might just be a tad bit too small for a writer (me) and a college student (my teen). We won't discuss her snakes and fish -- they're in her room.

There is no longer a place for me to spread out the items I need to refer to when writing.
Teen has taken over the living room to study in and the coffee table is covered with miscellaneous stuff of hers.
The 'dining room table' (in a nook of the kitchen) now only contains two places for us to eat, because the rest of the area is taken up by the sewing machine.  Some day I want the sewing machine to have its very own cabinet, but as for now - this is where is stays.
My 'desk' in my bedroom is covered with bills.  (it's a small portable writing desk)
My office (which the floorplan of our two bedroom/ one level condo says is supposed to be the dining room) has several other projects scattered around, plus three filing cabinets, a bookshelf, and four of those plastic stacks of drawers.  The fourth wall is the sliding door to our patio.

So = where can I go to spread out and focus on writing?

I now go to the teen's community college and use carrols in the library there.  Comfy chairs with small tables for laptop and one small notebook.  But if I have to really spread out, they have comfy chairs at larger (but not too large) tables.  I have used both of these and am in love.  I can really focus there because everyone else there is focusing on studying.  No music. No talking in the background.

So far I've rewritten that picture book that the picture book workshop at LoonSong said was a middle grade short story into actually being a picture book.  YAY!

I've completed one pass through of my young novel, correcting the mistake I learned about at LoonSong.  (It began as a picture book.  Then I attempted to convert it to a Chapter Book, but it ran away from me and grew like Topsy. It's now a young middle grade novel.)
Next I'll do several more pass throughs and see if I can whip it into shape.

Today I brought about 20 email printouts to use as references while I wrote a letter to my ex-agent.  (He's two years behind in sending me my royalties.)

Home is for eating and sleeping.
I've decided to write at the college library.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

LoonSong Writing Retreat Adventures

If it's September, then it's time for LoonSong.

For the past couple of years, I've taken the long trip to Minnesota, up close to the Canadian border to attend this writing retreat.  Each year I learn something new, enjoy meal and lectures about writing and children's book art with other Children's Book Writers, plus still have time to sneak off to find places to write.

This year, since I live on the west coast and planes like to fly to Minnesota in the mornings (very early in the morning), it took me 17 hours to get there.  (only 11 hours to get back, tho.)

Why 17 hours?
Well, firstly I had to get up at 3:00 in the morning, to catch the shuttle at 4:00-ish, to get to the airport by 5:00, to board the airplane at 5:45 am.  Then there was the layover at Minneapolis. I always enjoy roaming around that airport because I can get food (great chicken marinated sandwich) plus stock up on chocolate covered orange peel at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company store.
Roam is the correct word because our plane from the west coast landed at area G and the smaller flight to Duluth takes of either at B or A.  Yes, I get my mile walk in that day going from gate to gate.  (and yes, I reversed that walk coming back home - and got more chocolate)

Once landed at Duluth, then I have to drive 2 more hours north to Elbow Lake Lodge.  This trip I learned not to trust my phone's GPS to get me there because it had me turn off the direct road and spend an hour getting lost in the woods.
I had asked the car rental person if they would consider the car being attacked by a moose as an act of God.  But they only laughed.  So, at every turn/ over the crest of every hill, I expected to run into a moose.  (didn't happen.  whew!)
I finally decided the GPS was crazy, went back to the original road, and eventually found Elbow Lake Lodge.
Did I mention that I lost all cell service and it got very, very dark on those tall grass overgrown road/paths in those woods?

Anywho, the almost week there was great.
I learned two shocking things about my writing.  One was that a picture book I had written was actually a middle grade short story.  Well-written, but NOT a picture book.  No wonder it hadn't sold.
The other thing was a correction I needed to do in my novel, which I am now fixing and rewriting.

Yes, I do want to go back next year.
You might want to come, too.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A history of the Internet

A history of the Internet - as seen by me:

First there was the Arpanet .  But that was before home computers, so I didn't know about it.

Then, in the late 1980s, we were talking about buying one of the first Apple home computers.  However, my husband's brother gave us a Commodore 64 for Christmas.  So we used that.

We still used our typewriter for hardcopy papers for homework assignments for the kids and newspaper articles (me) and magazine articles (my husband who was Tech Editor for the New England MG 'T' Register, LTD).
But soon my husband discovered computer bulletin boards and began downloading packets and having conversations with people all over the world.  On it he discovered a group of writers and set the machine up so I could download and talk to that group.
It was called - FidoNet:
FidoNet was a bulletin board system where certain people promised to keep their computers on constantly to assist in the transfer of packets of information that literally went around the world. I was talking to people in Australia!
Once a day we subs
cribers would contact our local computer and download the packet we wanted. I downloaded the Writing packet. My husband downloaded an MG packet, plus a computer packet, and other subject packets.
After I had read my packet, I'd respond to a variety of messages in one message and upload it to the waiting computer. (located in a friend's house not far from us) and it would join all the other packets when they were sent on.

Also - I wrote my first books on this Commodore 64.  (and the newsletters for my Girl Scout troop)
Remember Dot-Matrix printers?  How thrilling it was to be able to compose on the computer, make revisions and correction and then print them off?  Print them onto continuous sheets of paper that had holes on each side so that the printer could grip the paper and move it along line by line? With perforations every 11 inches so we could then tear them apart into normal sized typing paper.  Oh those holes along the side - they were in thin strips of paper that also could be torn off.  At first it was really rough, but then paper companies developed very fine perforations that resulted in very nice looking sheets of paper.

FidoNet disbanded when the Internet began to have public access in the early 1990s.
So, I was talked into joining GEnie by a science fiction writer/ editor friend of mine. (Since I was active in the local Baltimore SF community and hung out with her at CONs) At this point, the huge business computers were only used during the daytime. They rented out computer time to ordinary people at night. Thus - GE rented computer time to GEnie groups. I joined the Children's Book Writer's group, the SF Writer's group and the Moody Blues group, and I think the Buffy the Vampire Killer group, and also mostly silently read several personal group areas such as Bruce Coville's and Jane Yolen's and other writers I admired.

When our Commodore 64 died we bought an Apple IIe.  So much easier to use than the Commodore. So much more memory.  However, I could no longer access GEnie

Friends on GEnie pointed out that AOL had a writer's group, so I moved over there.
I began to be published in the mid 1990s.
Some years later, various internet groups formed for published writers, some of which I still belong to and still interact and get messages from.

And then came laser printers.  WOW!  Instead of taking three minutes to print a page - it could print three a minute!

By this time I was a published writer and giving talks to local writing groups.  At one Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators meeting, several new writers complained about the expense of laser printers.  Why couldn't they stick with the Dot-Matrix?  Well, I replied, the quality of what is produced is so much better, so much easier for editors to read.  So, you just have to write it up as a business expense - the cost of doing your business of writing.

There was a lot of discussion among writers about the differences between Apple products and PC products - Apples being much easier to use while producing the same end product.  Nowadays, most writers and illustrators are using Apple computers and the publishers, who had begun with PCs, have had to adjust.

And now we're mostly on FaceBook.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Electronic Adventure

I didn't get much sleep last night probably because it's difficult to sleep with noise reducing headphones on. and because of loud noise in the house.

This is what I wrote on Facebook last night:

What’s on my mind? Sitting here in my bedroom at midnight, waiting for a smoke detector to screech, so we can figure out which one is doing the screeching. So far we’ve changed the battery on one. But a half hour later more screech from somewhere. So we attacked the wired in smoke detector — because this latest screech was accompanied by a voice saying, “low battery”. Which is strange because I was assured that it had no battery and was wired in. Hmmmm. Teen gave it a twist and punched the silencer button. 
We can’t reach the third fire detector which is in my bedroom, and its little light isn’t working, so
I’m sitting here on my bed after midnight waiting to see/ hear if it wishes to screech. 

Or, maybe I’ll jusy go to sleep. 💤

And --- it beeped. So off I went to the garage to get the tall ladder so I can rip that thing off the wall.
Score— no spiders on the ladder. Managed to get it into the house, set it up, climb it. And change battery. Didn’t have to call a son in law to do it. (Teen was asleep)
Maybe next time I’ll remember to change batteries when the time changes.
I thought it was fixed.
But, no.
Whatever was beeping continued to beep the whole night long.

Come daylight, I'll be calling son-in-law to come fix it.  The smoke detector we think is the one still screaming is totally wired and we have to turn off all electricity to the house before opening it.  Need daylight to do that.  I'm tempted to go out and try to sleep in my car.  (I didn't do that because my car was parked half a block away and I didn't want to have to walk back home in the morning in my nightgown.)

Posted in the morning after a night of only occasional short bouts of sleep:
I just called the electrician. (8:30 am. Didn't want to 'bother' him during the nighttime and both my sons-in-law have jobs.) He was most gracious. Told me it sounded like one of those ones you toss when it goes bad. (good) And that he has another job today, but will be sure to stop by whenever that job is done - probably after 7 pm tonight. 
Since It's only early morning here on the west coast, that's all day of beeping/ screeching. I will make sure I have excuses to be out of the house today.
On the other hand, since it's the one that goes off all the time when we cook, GOOD RIDDANCE

About 4:00 in the afternoon:
Electrician came and gone. Checked all smoke detectors. The one in the teen room was fine.  
The one in the hall (that I wanted removed) turned out to be legally required. He can't do anything about the fact that it is 3 times louder than necessary. He took it off the ceiling and discovered a little pocket INSIDE the beast with a perfectly normal 9 volt battery. Which we replaced and it stopped complaining. O-Kay.
Then he checked the one in my room. He took it apart, said it was WIRED Wrong and had been since installed. He rewired it, tested the new battery I had inserted, said it tested fine, and put it back together again.
Everything fixed.
I can take off the noise muffling ear muffs.
Maybe even sleep tonight.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Newbery predictions - two favorites

Every so often I read a book that makes me smile, makes me cry, makes me want to shout -- Possible Newbery Award!

Today it's The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty.
Wonderful characters.
Good view of Middle School.
and PI
and Fibonacci
Plus -- if you can finish this book without crying, you have a harder heart than I do.
And yet,
it does end on a positive note.
I've been wrong before, but I do expect to see this on many award lists.

Another book that is also racking up awards is Varian Johnson's The Parker Inheritance.
This one should get the Coretta Scott King author Book Award for sure, plus possible Newbery.
It's a great mystery story jumping back and forth from 1900s life for African Americans - to kids today.

Any who - these are my current predictions.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Not fond memories of worklife

Friday the 13th.
Teen is on the road.  (not to worry, she arrived safely)
I'm about to get on the road, but since my car is a grandma car (according to my children), I'm not too worried.
But a post on Facebook reminded me of a workplace supervisor whom I would gladly forget.

Every 5 years the place where I worked gives a pin and a gift to that person. Usually they give the person choices.  
I was totally surprised (and embarrassed and appalled) when my boss gave me, in the staff meeting in front of everyone, an alarm clock (suitably engraved with the number of years worked) with a little speech emphasizing that with this I'd have no excuse for not being on time.

(news note - most of my lateness was in her imagination, often caused by her terrible scheduling - schedules she admitted that she created while drinking several six-packs of beer. Or her not observing that I had already arrived, but had run across the street to the deli to get something a half hour before we opened and then lecturing me about lateness when I returned. Plus, her hugely over-scheduling our workplace hours so that we had tons of plus time and then getting angry when we - mostly me -  insisted on using up that plus time While The Library WAs Closed. What was her problem? That is when we are supposed to use it.  She eventually was fired, but not until some staff members had quit and the rest of us were out looking for other jobs.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Jay Shoemaker Celebration of Life (long post)

Well,  June got very busy what with the teen's prom and graduation and then our flight eastward.
The teen, bookended by her two moms.  I'm the one on the right.

Why did we fly back East?
Well, the teen wanted to visit friends in Florida and I was headed to the celebration of the life of James R. Shoemaker near Philadelphia, PA. (Jay died last summer of a sudden heart attack with no warning.) He was named after my father, Jame Ross Corbin, and like my father James Shoemaker was called Jay.  His mother, Cordelia Mawson, organized the event.
Which meant - four flights for me to get to Philly.
We got up around 4 in the morning on Wednesday, June 20 - my birthday.  My oldest daughter, Jennifer, drove us to the airport around 5:00 to catch a 7:00 flight.
Flight one -- to Nashville, KY.   The plane was small and our knees were touching the backs of the seats in front of us.  Ouch.  (We slept for part of that trip, since we couldn't move, anyway.)
Flight two -- to Jacksonville, FL.  Much larger plane with more comfortable seats and room between us and the seat in front.  I had planned to walk the teen to the security area and see her meet with her friends, but there was only a few minutes between emptying the plane and the re-load, so I didn't have time to do that and get back to my plane which was flying on to Fort Lauderdale. So I stayed put and teen texted me when she was met at Baggage by her friends.  
Flight Three -- by this time it was getting dark on the east coast, but it was an uneventful trip.  However I didn't have a long layover here, either, so one of the flight attendants ran out into the airport to discover where my next flight was.  Hey!  What luck!  It was right next door.
Flight Four -- For some reason, flight four was delayed and I didn't get into Philadelphia until after 11  pm.  (it was due to land at 10:30)  And it was a long walk to the exit where I caught a bus to the rental car place.  In the pouring rain.
Rental car place.  Very nice person.  Usual mix-up trying to figure out how to apply my AAA discount, but that finally got worked out.  Now, I was accustomed to them finding a car for me and driving it up to the rental building so I could just pop right into it.
But no.
Pouring rain, remember?
My choice of cars was located in lot 3.  Ho-Kay.  Out into the rain, pulling my suitcase, through lot 1 and then lot 2.  left my suitcases at the beginning of lot 3 and wandered up and down the rows, choosing a car.  suitcase getting very wet.  Me with a lightweight umbrella trying to stay dry.  By the time I chose a car (Chevy Cruise, which I loved), it was after midnight and I was dead tired.  I decided that I didn't want to drive in the pouring rain to Horsham, PA that night.  I knew those roads and some were not good in a rainstorm.  So I slept at the Airport Hotel.  (took me a half hour to find it and another half hour to get checked in, park the car, settle into the room, etc.)
The next day was sunny and warm.  I had no problem finding the Quality Inn where all the relatives and friends were gathering.  But -- the rather nasty lady at reception (blond, white woman) put me in a smelly, dirty, rug-stained room.  I was ready to change motels until my brother convinced me to request another room.  Nasty lady had left for the day and a very nice POC man placed me in a different room.
The next day I woke up with hives.  Found a nearby drug store and got Benedril.  The day after I woke up with bug bites and the day I left I woke up with nothing.  I still think there were bedbugs in that room.  So my luggage is now in my garage, having been sprayed with Home Defense and will stay there until my next trip.
One of my sisters, Sandy, who never travels, managed to fly up for this event, with the help of a wheelchair and a cane.  My baby sister, who is a professional artist, stayed in downtown Philly for several days visiting art museums.  Also went to the Redding market, which is an old train station now full of small businesses, mostly food.  She sent me pictures of Pennsylvania Deutch sticky buns and offered to buy some for me.  YES!!!
     (His mother, Cordie and Jay - He had long hair down his back)

Saturday was the Celebration of James Shoemaker's life.  I arrived in a car driven by my brother, Don (also known by his middle name, Rex, in the Air Force).  One of the other passengers was Hawaiian and a good friend of Jay's, now a lawyer in New York City.  Other Hawaiians also attended.  Various people stood up and told us tales about Jay and their interactions with him. (ask me about the camping trip story.)  One of the Hawaiians sang the "Hawaiian Over the Rainbow." Also his partner in life, Pate, talked about their life in Hawaii.
Pate (Renee Fontaine) and Jay Shoemaker

As you can tell from above, this was also a gathering of the Corbin children, Sandy, Marion, Donald,  and me.  (I'm the one peeking from behind.  The couch pillow under me kept sinking and sinking as pictures were taken.)  I"m really not the shortest one of the family. (am I?)
Sunday I took Sandy to the airport, dropped her off at the departures area for her plane and made sure she was connected with a wheelchair and a person to push her to her plane.  Turned in the car and made it to security for my own flight.
Suspicious item in my bag.  As the TSA person looked at the screen (a brown square circled) and opened my carry on bag, I tried to think what could be different from when it passed security in San Diego.  Oh yes.  THE STICKY BUNS.   Right. That brown mass was my bag of sticky buns.  The TSA person agreed that yes, they did smell good, then wrapped them back up and I was finally on my way home.  We landed in Denver for a layover and I got a steak sub for lunch.
Flight two was supposed to take off from Denver early in the afternoon.  However, a strong thunderstorm stayed over the airport for hours, forcing approaching flights to detour to Albuquerque, NM to refuel.  We sat and sat and sat, waiting for a plane to land.  Finally about 6-ish it was our plane's turn to land and we were allowed to board the plane.  (meanwhile I had eaten the other half of the steak sub for Dinner!)
My darling oldest daughter kept track of the flight delays and was there to drive me home.
Yes, the Sticky Buns were delicious.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Writer's Quotes - David Lubar

From the guy who writes seriously funny books.
And is a master of puns.  (click on over to his website to see what I mean)
David Lubar

In six words, tell a complete -- no, wait. Better idea. Much better. In six words, or fewer, or more, write an interesting sentence. Write another, related to the first. And another. Keep going until you have a story, an essay, or a novel. Repeat, as needed.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Writer's Quotes - Jane Yolen

Inspiration from Jane Yolen:

Three writing rules I live by. 
- Write something every day. (BIC). 
- Revision is your best friend. 
- A manuscript in the drawer or on the laptop that isn't sent out cannot be bought. 

And two rules that even well known writers stumble over: 
- the editor is your colleague, not your enemy. 
- And a rejection is not the end of a dream. 
- Rowling had over 30 rejections and when finally published it was in a very small edition by Bloomsbury in the UK. 
L'engle's A WRINKLE IN TIME had 29 rejections. 
Suess's first book book well over 30 rejections. As I understand it, he was ready to self-publish it. (enter editor, Bennett Cerf.)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Writer's Quotes - Saul Bellow

“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. 
They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’“ – Saul Bellow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

I Voted

I Voted -- Did you?

This was the first election that my teen voted in - the primary election in California.
Most of us mail in our ballots or take them to a nearby library to place in the portable ballot box.
The poll watchers made a nice fuss over my teen when she deposited her own ballot.
California puts the top two primary winners on the fall ballot, which means it might be a Democrat running against a Republican - or - it could even be two Democrats dukeing it out.

In 2016, we had two Democrats who won the Senate race which meant that California ended up with no Republican representatives in the US Senate in Congress.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Writer's Quotes - Richard Peck

The award winning author, Richard Peck, died last week.
He said, in a speech to the Library of Congress Book Festival in 2013:

"I'm a writer because I never had a teacher who said, "Write what you know."
If I'd been limited to writing what I know, I would have produced ONE unpublishable haiku."
He added:
"Beatrix Potter never was a rabbit.
J.K. Rowling did not attend Hogwarts School."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Thoughts from a Southern Lady

One third of the writers who wrote with me under the pen name of C. W. Bowie was Claudine Wirths.
(If she were alive today she'd be in her 90s if not reaching 100 years old, so you know she remembered how things were from a long, long time ago,)

When I was writing the biography of Marian Wright Edelman, I pondered about word use.  Because of what Claudine told me, I opted to use the terms for people of color being used in each time period - her youth, her young married life, and 'modern times' (the 1990s).

This is what Claudine told me were the 'proper' ways, at least in the south where she grew up:

"I went from Colored people
to Darkies
to Nigra
to KneeGrow (Southerners had to mentally write it that way in their heads to say it right)
to Black
to African American
to People of Color  -- which was circling back to where I started -- almost!

Sigh, I try to be PC, but am despairing"
           Claudine G. Wirths

Did my editor appreciate how careful I had been to use the correct terms for each time period?
He insisted that everything be African American, even though Marian Wright Edelman preferred to use the term -- People of Color.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's time to talk about rejections

The publishing world has changed from the days when writers would type up their manuscripts, slip them into large manila envelopes, complete with a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) for the response from the editor or agent, and mail it to the agency or publisher of your choice.

Now everything is done electronically and some writers flood multiple editors with copies of the same manuscript and they felt so overwhelmed that they decided to close, to not accept submissions anymore, except maybe from agents.  And the few who accepted submissions decided that, if you have't heard back in X amount of time, it's a rejection.  (leaving the writer to wonder if they even received it)

Even multi-published authors have been trapped by this closed door policy.

Laura Backes, editor and publisher of the Children's Book Insider newsletter and now involved with, has written a letter to editors and agents discussing this problem.
An Open Letter to Editors & Agents, It's Time to talk about Rejections.

Click on the link.  It's good.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Good Rejections

Wow. My fastest rejection ever. 
Yesterday, with high hopes, I sent (emailed) a manuscript to an agent who had come several times to talk with our local SCBWI group. This morning I woke up to a rejection. 
Fastest. Time. Ever.
The nicest thing about it was that she actually responded instead of simply deleting my email and leaving me hanging. I appreciate that.

Last week I got another good rejection. 
What was it?
It was a hand written letter from an editor.  

We writers appreciate people in the business who go that extra step to Let Us Know what's happening.  

Saturday, April 28, 2018

You need to make a WILL

Yes, YOU.

You need to make a will.
To make sure that your partner/ spouse/ children/ etc. understand what your wishes are so they can make decisions.

Especially, if you are a writer, you need to have a will that spells out who should handle your literary estate.  You probably will still have royalties coming in.  Your executor needs to know who to contact to inform them of your death and where to now send royalties.  Yes, some of your books will still be earning income long after your death.

Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon, published in 1947, is still gathering royalties. Yours might not stay popular that long, but still - there will be rights and royalties that have to be handled by your executors.

Neil Gaiman has suggestions for you, plus a link to a PDF of the form you will need.
Click and read and learn.

And Make A Will.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Writer's quotes - Marquand

John Phillips Marquand once said (or wrote):
When I'm writing a novel, I'm dealing with a double life. I live in the present at the same time that I live in the past with my characters.
He continues:
It is this that makes a novelist so eccentric and unpleasant.

Yes to the first sentence.
I don't find that writers for children and young adults become unpleasant at all.  It must be older male writers who write books for adults?  (yes, I've run into some of those.)

Writer's Quotes - William Somerset Maugham

A good rule for writers:  Do not explain overmuch.  - Somerset Maugham.

Over and over again I hear from published writers that you have to leave room for the reader.  It's the reader who paints the scene in his mind from the writer's broad strokes.

Also true for picture book writers.  The illustrator is the other half of the story, so you must leave room for the illustrator to take what you have and show the world you've hinted at.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Writer's quotes - Paul O'Neil

From twentieth century American writer, Paul O'Neil:

"Always grab the reader by the throat in the first paragraph, sink your thumbs into his windpipe in the second, and hold him against the wall until the tag line."

I first heard this when Bruce Coville gave a speech to our SCBWI conference and I credited this quote to him until he pointed out that he was quoting Paul O'Neil.  Oooops!

What's the 'tag line?"
GOOGLE only gives information about its use in advertising, but one definition I found says it's the conclusion of the action.  Hmmm. The conclusion of the scene?  Or the conclusion of the book?
Take your pick.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What courses do you need to be a writer.

Almost every year I'm invited to a Career Day at a nearby school.
One of the questions they have to ask each professional there is -- what education do you need for your job?
I always say, Train for something that interests you. Keep your day job and write in your spare (HA!) time.
For example, many great writers of science fiction actually work with physics or chemistry in their day job.

Writers Write.
Writers can't NOT write!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Laura Purdie Salas and creative nonfiction and fascinating facts and

Laura Purdie Salas wrote an interesting take about how writing nonfiction is often a creative process on the Celebrate Science blog today.

I agree with Laura the robots don't write our books.  That would be boring.

I remember one day when I was giving a talk at a school about writing nonfiction when one upset student jumped up and shouted, "How can you write stuff like that.  Nonfiction is boring!"

That stopped me cold. My immediate response was, "Well. If it's boring, I can't write about it.  I ONLY WRITE ABOUT THE INTERESTING STUFF."
Think about it.  The Interesting stuff.
It got so that I included this bit in every talk I gave from then on.

Where we differ from creative fiction writers is that nobody is desperately waiting for the next book by that famous author... (whoever)   People are looking for a certain subject,  If they're lucky, they find one by a good author who is passionate about the subject, which makes the reader excited about the subject.

Librarians, on the other hand, when they discover a writer who can present nonfiction in interesting ways will always look for other books by that same author, no matter the subject, and will purchase them for their library system instead of books by less talented writers.  (and publishers get a reputation among librarians when they consistently publish either dull or fascinating books.)

Saturday, April 7, 2018


It's amazing the people and events you discover when you are researching a book, especially biographies.

 I call it serendipity:

When I was writing about the Wright brothers, I got connected to
1) the Wright brothers' paper boy,
2) the nephew of a man who was one of the boys who SAW the first flights,
3) another person who pointed out that the actual house the brothers had grown up in and first lived in as adults had been moved to a northern midwest display of old houses. (Wisconsin? Michigan?)
and 4) was driven around Dayton, Ohio by a fellow writer to visit Wright brothers' sites, including a stop at the mansion where Orville Wright lived and died.
And this was with just one of my biographies. For each of them, people came out of the woodwork, or showed up on the Internet, or knew somebody who knew somebody - to help me tell my subjects story.

Oh, about those boys who 'saw' the first flight?  Actually not exactly true.  It turned out that he and a few friends were peering over one of the sand dunes overlooking the Wright brothers' campsite at what later became the town of Kill Devil Hills.  (yes, they often stayed at a boarding house in Kitty Hawk before setting up camp by the Dunes.)  The boys had never ever heard a gasoline engine before. (this was before cars were common - only cows and horses on the Outer Banks at that time)  So  -- when the brothers started up the engine on The Flyer, popping and sputtering, the boys were so scared of the noise that they ran like hell. (away)
And that's why I didn't take the next step to interview his uncle, since he didn't actually see it happen.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Nonfiction Monday - on Wednesday today

Understanding—and Teaching—the Five Kinds of Nonfiction

Melissa Stewart has another marvelous article about the different types of nonfiction available to children, in school and out, today.  In School Library Journal magazine.
Click on over to read it in entirety.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Buying a bureau causes disruption.

Quite a disruption around our house this weekend.  The teen, now that she has a job and is RICH, decided she wanted to replace her bureau (a 100 year old maple highboy) (still very sturdy) with something new, something larger, something Not Brown. So off to IKEA we went.
(Actually, what she said was that she needed something to put a new fish tank on. Something small, like a bedside table.)
I shopped in Costco while she searched IKEA.
She found what she wanted, so I drove back to IKEA to see.  After much discussion (but you went to IKEA to get a bedside table to hold a fish tank and now you want a bureau, instead?), she decided which one she wanted.
So -- we did what those who go to IKEA do, we went downstairs to find the box(s) of bureau parts. But all we found were empty boxes in the bin which should have contained the parts.  So, off she went to get help.  The helpful lady found the last 3 boxes containing all the parts for her pretty white bureau -- but one part was damaged.
So -- off we, and the lady, went to the land of replacement parts.  Where she not only talked the replacement parts man into replacing the damaged part with something he had on hand, but talked him into giving her a Reduced Price.
Once home with the 3 heavy boxes (which she loaded into the car by herself!!!), she and a girlfriend began putting it together.
But wait.  What to do about the now unwanted maple bureau?
After much discussion, (yah, you've heard this before.  It means she talked me into...) it was decided (by her) that they'd move a small, four cube IKEA bookcase from my bedroom into the living room to hold children's games and they'd move the maple bureau into my room.  "Look Grandma - it looked hideous in my room, but looks great in Your room."  (actually, she's right, it does.)
So -- the new bureau is almost put together (will be completed today, or tomorrow) and I now have more storage space in my room.
SCORE for both of us.

And how was your weekend?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Should an author come to your school for free?

This was just posted today by author, Martha Brockenbrough:  (click on through to find out more about her)

Please stop asking us to work for free. Please stop saying, “It’s for the kids.” 

If you work at a library or a school, every professional who walks through those doors is paid. You wouldn’t call a plumber and say, “Unclogging this toilet is for the kids.” It is, of course. So are the lightbulbs. The napkins. And so on.

Most writers don’t make a living wage. Most have day jobs. Many supplement their income with school visits and the like. We don’t have paid leave from our jobs. The time we spend on this comes directly from the time we have to create. 

(for example - I worked 30 years as a children's librarian in a public library system and took vacation time to research and write my books and also spent more of my allotted vacation time to do school visits. I very seldom actually took vacation.  I was literally working two jobs.)

So when you are manipulating people’s emotions to get this for free, you are taking time from someone who already makes less than minimum wage. You are also taking opportunities from someone struggling to get by. 

It’s crappy that schools and libraries are underfunded. Let’s not further undermine the professionalism of people writing and illustrating for them.

Oh, and writers: You don’t have to say yes to these gigs. People who aren’t paying you also do not value your time and are likely to be ill-prepared to make the most of this—something I say from unfortunate personal experience.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Sharon Darrow - Worlds within Words

One of my favorite faculty members at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults department, Sharon Darrow, has published a book of her lectures.

When I offered a picture book manuscript in a workshop at VCFA run by her, she told me that it read more like the outline of a middle grade novel than a picture book, which changed my whole view of it.  And I spent the next few semesters enlarging it and building the world where those characters lived.

So, if you'd like to get a taste of the kinds of things we learn in this graduate course about writing, I highly recommend her book, Worlds within Words, Writing and the Writing Life. 

You can read a smidgen of it here on the Cynsations blog

Friday, February 16, 2018

Dr. Seuss Trees

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to San Diego (as I nearly ran off the road noticing them) were the trees that looked like Dr. Seuss trees as illustrated in his books.

It was a few years later that I discovered just why trees here looked like those crazy trees in his books.

1.  He lived in La Jolla, a suburb of San Diego.
2.  San Diego is actually a desert/ chaparral area, not normally suited to trees.
3.  Therefore trees in San Diego need to be watered.
     3A - trees take up water with their roots and expire them through their leaves.
     3B - in order to use less water watering trees, the people in San Diego constantly trim their trees to create less branch and leaf area.
     3C - ERGO -- Dr. Seuss trees.

(for a description of how and why trees were imported into the water-parched San Diego area, I refer you to the book, The Tree Lady, The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever  by H. Joseph Hopkins.) 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

What happened to your Book Today?

For all of us writers who are Not going to hear our name or book title announced on Monday morning when the American Library association announces their list of Award winning books, Kate Messner has offered this poem:
What happened to your Book today?

Read it on her blog - click on through the above link

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Picture book author - Eric Pinder

"Wait a minute... It's a humbling career moment when you suddenly realize you're actually the stuffed animal's sidekick."

Read more from this interview with picture book author (and college professor), Eric Pinder.
Where he talks about writing picture books, doing school visits, and teaching writing.

Just follow the links.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Groundhog Day is Here

Will Spring be early or late?  

Punxsutawney Phil  saw his shadow, so 6 more weeks of winter.
Good!  That should mean that the rains might finally come to San Diego.

Thursday, February 1, 2018