Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Rants, Raves and Miscellaneous Thoughts

A few rants and raves about our San Diego vacation, in no particular order:

1) I highly recommend Paradise Pointe Resort & Spa. The trees and flowers were beautiful. The grounds were like a Hawaiian Paradise on the mainland.

2) The Friday before a holiday weekend seems to be a good time to go to Sea World. We had an awesome Breakfast with Shamu--the tables were right up next to the whale pool. Breakfast right next to the Sea World stars...and we had a front row parking place...what a great way to start the day.

3) The San Diego Zoo is not equipped to handle the massive crowds they had on Sunday. The zoo is beautiful, with all kinds of exotic plants and endangered species. But, it was crazy busy, which made all of us grumpy.

4) We did get to see the precious panda bears. This alone was worth the trip to the zoo. However, if the Omaha zoo had pandas and koalas and a warm-weather climate for growing exotic plants, Omaha would have the better zoo. Omaha natives are very proud of their zoo...and for good reason.

5) Books I read on vacation: Speak and Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson. Both were thought-provoking and well-written. I plan to study both in more depth later. Great characters.

6) Hubby did not wear sun screen to the beach. We all know how that ended. K enjoyed her first trip to the beach, but ingested lots of sand. A and S had a ball with their cousins. Even though it was only 70 degrees out and the ocean felt like ice water, my girls were body surfing in the ocean. I really do have mermaids for children.

7) Someone should have told me those shells we found were alive. I put them in a grocery sack, tied it shut, and forgot about the bag until we got home. Talk about a smelly suitcase! Thanks to a brief internet search, I discovered that I needed to boil them, dig out the meaty gunk and soak them in bleach. We now have a lovely souvenir.

8) Our vacation went way too fast. Note to self: next time C wants to take a "long weekend," remind him how time flew. The girls and I begged to reschedule the flight home, but C had important meetings today.

9) We used all the clothing we took, so I can't say I overpacked. However, five suitcases, two laptops, a diaper bag, a purse, a car seat and a kiddy backpack full of stuff to do is too much to lug through an airport. S pushed K in the stroller. A took a backpack and a suitcase, I took my purse and two suitcased and C carried the rest. On the way home, we hired a porter to help us.

10) We traveled with C's cousin (T) and her family. Our kids get along amazingly well. No fighting. At all. T takes fantastic pictures, so I have professional-quality pics of our vacation. Plus, she encouraged A and thinks A really has a great eye for photography. Once again, my seven year old took better pictures than I did!

I lied (kind of)

I lied (kind of). The mess in my house was only a small reason for the slow blogging last week. We left all the toys and furniture and clothing that we dumped into the family room while we were recarpeting to go to SAN DIEGO for a long weekend. (I couldn't exactly blog that I was leaving my house empty for five days, now could I???) What an incredible vacation! I'll catch you up on vacation news and random vacation thoughts a little later. Right now,the girls are waiting to go buy pool passes because it's our first day of summer vacation (at home) and they are ready to swim.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Slow blogging

I think it will be slow blogging for the next two weeks. The new carpet is in. The paint is lovely. But, I'm surrounded by toys, books, papers, suitcases, office supplies and other miscellaneous junk. We emptied every room and every closet to prepare for the big carpeting overhaul.

We used to move every two years, so we had no need for spring cleaning. We just tossed things and cleaned as we moved. We've lived in this house for nine years and I haven't done the official "spring cleaning" thing ever. Hubby and I have decided this is the time to pitch things that we don't need, so it may take some time to put the house back together. He's also decided to paint the office while it's empty. Good, except that most of this junk is from the office. Maybe I'll just ban the kids from the basement until this is all over.

The good news (besides that my carpet looks fabulous--I mean it's just carpet, but mine was soooo bad, that the change is remarkable!) is that our freshly-painted room is back in order and I just found the kitchen table again this afternoon.

But, finding the kitchen and being able to stand within three feet of the stove also means that I'll have to cook tonight--no more Applebee's.

Oh, did I mention that slow blogging also means NO WRITING? This really makes me sad because I was really motivated to write after reading Debbi's post at One Writer's Journey: The Bumpy Road. She's a hard worker. If anyone can climb to the top, she can. And, that made me want to try even harder myself.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Star Wars

We saw the new Star Wars movie at the drive in Saturday night. What a bargain! Kids are free, so it cost us only $14 to get in. We brought a cooler full of Diet Pepsi Lime and a bag of popcorn, and the girls were set. Much, much less expensive than a theater where we all have to pay and buy concessions...or having a date night where we spend $50+ for a baby sitter. Plus, the pre-show entertainment is priceless.

They had 50s music playing before the movie started. They also still play those old concession stand ads with the gooey, buttered popcorn. A wore her jammies and played on the 1950s style playground equipment before the movie started. We enjoyed people-watching too. Some high school girls piled out of a car with light sabers. They all wore their hair in Princess Leia buns spiral wrapped by their ears. Lots and lots of SUVs and mini vans. Plus, a few beater pick up trucks with couches thrown in the back. Some people came early and had a major dining experience with the whole camping table deal. Others spread out sleeping bags or chairs in front of their vehicles. We prefer letting the girls sleep in the back of the van. They almost never watch the movie, but think it's a great adventure.

We enjoyed the movie, but I fell asleep with the girls. The parts I did wake up for were good. C and I both agreed it was hard to get into the movie since we already knew how it ended.

The carpet guys are due here any minute. We had a big family camp out in the basement since our beds are in pieces all over the house. The room painting went well. I love the new color.

This is the last full day of school here. A had the big ice cream party for reading 400 books this school year. After all that pressure to get those books in--only FIVE kids in her class qualified to go to the ice cream party, the reward for reading all those books. I was afraid she was not going to ever want to read again. After a few days off, she has amazed me. I think, despite all the pressure and fighting over reading this year, we've managed to create a reader! She has been reading to us all weekend, and really enjoys reading to her little sisters. The best part is when she runs into a room with a book in her hand and just HAS to tell me about some funny thing she's just read. She even stayed up late last night reading a picture book by flashlight. ::grin:: She gets that from me.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Almost kidless

For the second time since 11 month old K was born, we hired a babysitter last night. Hubby went to a baseball game with a friend and I went to a mother-daughter party with A. A's friend was having a slumber party for her seventh birthday, and the moms all came over to make flip flops (which I keep forgetting are now called flip flops and not thongs, as they were called when I was young. A mother-daughter thong party just sounds gross.)

A and I made the cutest little flip flops. Ours are hot pink. She glued pink flowers and daisies to hers. Mine have bows, beads and feathers. I'm somewhat upset about the way I heard the party girls fighting last night. One of the girls always plays the "I'm not going to be your friend" or "I'm going home then" game when she's at our house and can't get her way. Last night, one of the girls tattled that A was vowing to not be someone's friend. One of the moms laughed that all four girls play the manipulation game all the time, which is news to me. I'm not sure which I'm more upset about--that they play this way or that the moms think it's funny. I don't.

Upon my return home, K and S were still awake at 9:30. Not a big deal. K fell asleep as soon as I held her. I was happy to see she let the babysitter hold her. They were cuddled up like buddies when I arrived. S went home with the babysitter to spend the night. She loves our babysitter and could really use the special attention right now. S is feeling left out because I've had to do so much with A over the last few months with homework and K is well...a baby...and takes tons of time.

So, here I sit, almost childless. K keeps crawling out of the office into the family room where we have most of the office furniture sitting right now. In a few hours, that room will be full of beds, tables, toys...all the junk I still can't find a place for. After that, hubby will paint our bedroom.

The new carpet arrives on Monday. I hope I can live through a few days of "I can't find my..." chaos. And, I wish that the girls were going to be visiting friends all afternoon instead of returning home during our big moving project. Actually, it would be easier to move to a new house than to move all our junk into one room. I could use a bigger house.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Because I'm losing my mind -- more on marketing

I think I need a better system for remembering things these days. Once again, I've thought of something I meant to post earlier.

Marketing Tip #1 --If you are an author, and your book is not reviewed at Young Adult Books Central and your bio is not posted, you are wasting a tremendous marketing opportunity. Get on over and do something about it...or ask a friend to. To keep up on what's happening over there, check out the YA Books Central Blog. While you're there, tell Kim how much you appreciate her. The site is awesome!

If you are a reader and you enjoy YA books, head on over too before you make your next trip to the book store or library. You'll find some great recommendations.

Marketing Tip #2 -- If you are an author, get a blog! Read this great article by Lara Zeises in the May Smart Writers Journal. Take a look at Laurie Halse Anderson's blog post from today. I dare you to tell me this reader interaction doesn't sell books.

But, of course, we all read the same stuff. You already knew this stuff, right? Get back to work now.

More on Book Marketing

Gosh, I hate it when I have a hot idea for this blog and someone beats me to it. Okay, this is the first time it has happened. The Grumpy Old Bookman beat me to commenting about MJ Rose's blog topic from yesterday, Sculpting a Marketing Plan. So, head on over to Old Grumpy's site. Read about MJ Rose. You might be familiar with her, but if not, you should know she's an authority on Buzzing Your Book.

Then, follow her link (or this one here) to Doug Clegg's E-Bay auction site where he's doing some interesting things to promote his next book.

It all makes sense to me. Maybe some of my ideas aren't too far off after all.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

See, I can't even get my titles right

Now that I know I have subscribers to my RSS feed, I can't publish and republish this thing every time I find a typo. So, the title below (Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit) is what I was going to write about before I got sidetracked with the whole List thing.

Here's what I planned to say about the GF Cyber Circuit: The Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit is a group of chick lit writers who have banded together to help promote one another's books. I noticed in the FAQ on E. Lockhart's blog that she participated in a Cyber Circuit book tour where she was interviewed on each of the Girlfriends' sites.

How cool is that? Now, what I want to know is....what other circuits are there? Why not create a picture book writers' cyber circuit, or a Kansas writers' circuit? Texas has a strong thing going with all the Texas bloggers who promote one another. I suppose SCBWI chapters could help pull writers together for the purposes of marketing.

Rather than one writer doing school visits alone, why not send a group of writers for a Kansas Literature Celebration or a Nebraska Writing Workshop? Why not work together to get schools to buy a collection of picture books by that state's authors? If it's not in the budget, ask the PTO to buy it. (Well, maybe that's only done in schools where the PTO has the ability to raise $30K+ a year for one school's projects. But, hey...it's your money! ASK!)

I know. I'm very naive about these things. But, I'll keep calling 'em as I see 'em.

The Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit

I finished up The Boyfriend List at the gym this morning. What an amazing book. I can't stop thinking about it, and I wish I had written it. I also can't wait for the sequel. I wondered if every girl relates to Ruby the way I did. Does a person react differently depending on what type of person they were/are in high school? (I only recently learned that people who are geeks in high school actually know they are geeks! It broke my heart. A sad, long story that I'll share another time.)

My high school life was not filled with the action Ruby encountered, but I was Ruby in so many ways. I dated or wanted to date so many of the same boys Ruby did. I had a Finn, an Angelo, a Shiv and a Jackson. I had a Kim and I've been a Kim. The only real difference is that it took me much longer than one year of high school to sort through it all. For me, it was high school, college and then some.

My boyfriend list:

1) DJ-my first grade love and the boy who later told me he'd never date a girl with a butt wider than his.

2) BG-my fourth grade love. A karate boy. My mom cut his picture out of the paper and placed it in my scrapbook. I still have it.

3) TW-the first boy whose hand I held. I think in the third grade. We were in the back of a hatchback when we got rear-ended on the way to a skating party. The crazy things parents did in the 70s. No one was hurt.

4) JS-My fifth grade rock and roll boyfriend. We started a band together.

5) DW-My first smart boy crush. We had contests to see who could read the most library books each week. We both loaded up on science books. I remember a book about birthday celebrations around the world. I made my parents hide my birthday presents so I could find them every year after that.

6) DS-Eighth grade. The first boy I reeeeally wanted to be my boyfriend. I wasn't allowed to have a boyfriend. I told him yes and then told my parents I'd break up with him if they made me. They let me keep him. We never kissed. I think we held hands. He moved to a place called Pumpkin Center, South Dakota. We remained pen pals for a few months and then never spoke again.

7) BD-My ninth grade boyfriend. The first boy I kissed. My friend's mom told us to suck on the boy's tongue really hard when we french kissed. You can imagine how well that went over. We dated a few months. I still "loved" him in high school. He married his high school sweetie.

8) ND-my 10th grade sweetie. A boy from the "other" junior high. A total hottie. We dated one week. I "loved" him all of high school too.

9) TB-Another 10th grade sweetie. I loved him forever too. As per my history, this one didn't last long either. But, I wrote him love notes all year. After college, we crossed paths. One night, I had a choice between him and my (now) husband. I chose my not-quite-boyfriend (CP, whom I married).

10) BM-My church camp counselor who was too smart to get involved with a kid like me. We were pen pals for a few months and then he visited our church for our confirmation. That was the end of my lusty relationship with him.

11) DB-A boy from my church who was two years older than me. I practically threw myself at him hinting that I wanted to date him. When he finally asked me, it was to his prom. He showed up dressed in a geeky tux with a bright blue shirt. My mom had to force me to answer the door. I avoided him and our church for many months after that. I did see him at a RA conference in college. He was cute. And I was mean. That night, I was busy making out with S, a former boyfriend of a friend.

12) BO-The boy I was supposed to date when we got to college. A real cutie. Would have been the perfect boy for me. Instead, I got impatient and dated two of his friends.

13) DP-The boy I dated for four years in college. A true loser. We took all the same English classes and were too competitive with our writing. It seemed fun at the time, but we tried to see who could fit the most swear words in a paper and get away with it. We were going to move to Colorado together to be hippy writers. He broke my heart too many times. I broke his. We broke up graduation week. He crashed my wedding.

14) RB-the boy who lived across the lake from my parents. We took late night paddle boat rides. Never kissed. He came to visit me in college. Stayed the night on my floor. I don't recall any kissing, but it seems that was the point of him visiting. I lusted after him every summer. But, he was really not my type. Too much of a partier.

15) CP-My husband and true love. We met though DP. They both lived on the same dorm floor. The day I saw CP, I asked DP, "Woah. Who is that?" I watched him for two years. We wound up at the same party the week DP and I broke up. I asked CP out a week later. We stayed up all night making out. Yes, just that. And, the rest is history. We've been married 14 years this week.

Abandoned Books--That's What's Bugging Me Today

Something new is bugging me today. I'm really having a hard time with the idea that a house would want to publish a book only to abandon it because it's not one of their push books that season. Isn't that like having a baby and leaving it at the firehouse?

So, now there's all these great books out there that aren't even in book stores that people only find out if they stumble upon someone who happens to recommend it? Gee, that's a lot of strikes against a book. And, once again, we wonder why people don't read???? First, we're competing with TV, movies, computers, music. Then, good books aren't always in the book store ...or anyplace else teens hang out. Next, we have to rely on friends and family to help push our own books because the publisher abandoned his kid???

Okay, the relying on friends and family is a good idea anyway. The book I'm thinking about got a starrred PW review, but I can't find it in the real world. Only online. It makes me sad because I hear it's a great book. So, here's what I want you to do: visit the online book sellers and REVIEW a great book (or two or twenty) you've read recently. If you've read Storky, it would be super-nice if you could write something up, but a review of any YA, MG or picture book would be a nice thing to add to your summer vacation to-do list. Nah, don't put it on your to-do list. Do it now!

Oh, and say something NICE about all those books you're going to review. Remember what your mama said about "if you can't say anything nice..."

Other reading/writing news: I'm thinking about hosting a summer reading party for my 7 and 4 year olds and their friends. We'll decorate book bags we can take to the library, do a book exchange, eat favorite food from books, and make our own books.

And, books make great gifts. Why not buy your favorite novels for your special graduate?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

the boyfriend list

the boyfriend list just might be one of my favorite books of all time. I don't know. Maybe it's that upcoming high school reunion. Preparing to attend a high school reunion is all about creating one big boyfriend list, isn't it? Well...I would have killed my husband if he'd said that about his old girlfriends last year when we went to his 20 year reunion just two weeks after I gave birth to K. But, it's true. High school was all about crushes. And boys. And thinking you were in love. Every week. With a different boy.

I had no idea I had started a real boyfriend list a few days ago. Each chapter of this book brings back another memory. I was all-wish, no-action in high school. But, even dreamers have boyfriend lists. (As my friend and I discussed while on the Precor machines today, I had no clue kids in my grade were doing....well... you know..."it"... in high school. Nah, they made that stuff up. This was part of a conversation about teenage boys and birth control.)

I think this book should be required reading for all my girlfriends before the reunion. I'll post my boyfriend list soon!

Thank you to all the great people who have been visiting my blog. I had no idea until just a few days ago, that anyone other than my friend Heather actually read my blog. I'm blown away and flattered to know that I have an audience. To the authors and illustrators who visit my blog and reply to my emails from Anastasia's Yahoo Group: You have made my week. Although I do not really know any of you, I feel like I am surrounded by caring friends who will help me navigate this bumpy writing road.

We made it to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale today. I let the girls pick out their own summer reading materials. I spent another 50 something dollars on books today. I think my total this week is over $115. I really wasn't done, but something tells me hubby is not going to appreciate this. (He did appreciate the two shark books S selected and seemed pleased with the girls' choices. It's always about the money, isn't it?)

The Future of Publishing

Grumpy Old Bookman led me down an interesting path this morning. In his post, Running to Keep Up, he discusses the state of publishing, POD and the new direction Amazon is taking. This led me to some interesting articles at booktradeinfo.com.

Today's recommended reading:
Amazon, E-books and Chump Change, by rjnagle, discussing Amazon's purchase of a POD company and an ebook software company and the impact that will have on writers and book sellers. He's made so many thought-provoking points here, I'll just point you toward the article and let you ponder this yourself.

Also from booktradeinfo.com, The same old story for U.S. publishing: more books, fewer sales. The highlights of this story:

"The number of books sold dropped by nearly 44 million between 2003 and 2004, even as the annual number of books published approaches 175,000.
"People are reading less, so what you're seeing is the same phenomenon that has hit magazines and newspapers, a massive shift toward home video, DVD, Internet and cable," said Albert N. Greco, an industry consultant and a professor of business at the graduate school of Fordham University."

So, what's the solution? How do we get people to read more? I'm far from an expert, but as I said in my somewhat embarrassing post on May 5th, take the books to where the people are! A few of the interesting ideas my booktrade search led me to: Vid Lit book trailers (I first read about this on agent obscura's blog, but I'm having trouble finding the original post) and the literary DJ competition.

A little goofy? Not high-brow enough for you? As children's writers, we should understand more than anyone how today's children and teens think and behave. Is it really any surprise that they'd respond when the worlds of music, TV, movies, computers and books come together to form the ultimate entertainment? Think pop culture. Think American Idol. Put it all together, and people will once again enjoy reading.

In case you were wondering, I'm not suggesting that you dumb-down your writing. I'm simply saying -- make your promotion interesting and take it to the people...wherever they are!

50 is the perfect age to write a book? Ah, nuts! Now, I'm not OLD enough?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

How I Spent The Last Two Hours Before Summer Vacation

After I posted below, I thought, "Hmmm. This sounds like the beginning of a boyfriend list." Naturally, this prompted a trip to the book store to actually purchase the boyfriend list by e. lockhart.

S is officially on summer break. Here's how I spent my last few almost-childless hours before the start of summer vacation:

1) Attempted to drop of an over-sized bag of children's clothing to Goodwill. They were full for the day, not accepting donations.

2) Attempted to buy books at the Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale. They were closed until 4:00.

3) Selected paint chips for hubby so we can paint our bedroom before the new carpet arrives on Monday.

4) Rushed through Borders in my final 20 minutes of freedom.

5) Purchased the boyfriend list, Prom, Speak and Free Prize Inside. Turned the remaining copy of the boyfriend list out. Searched for Storky. It wasn't in stock. Searched on the computer and left the search on the screen as I browsed picture books. Looked for picture books by Kansas illustrator, Christine Schneider. Also not in stock.

Now, I'm home. I need to leave in 5 minutes to take K to the doctor for sinus x-rays. Poor baby girl has a cruddy nose--and she just got off her antibiotics two days ago.

Whose butt is that small?

I've been thinking of who I might see at this reunion.

There was this boy (D) I adored. One Sunday after church, he and his friend (J) came to my door. They wanted to know if I would "go with" J.
"Go where?" my innocent second grade self asked.
"Go with. Not go somewhere." D explained.
"Hu??" I asked.
"You know...be his girlfriend." D said.
'Uhhhhhhh." I ran inside to my mom. Mom sorted through the Valentine's Day conversation hearts and found one that said "Buzz off!" I hurried back to the door and handed J the conversation heart. Then, I closed the door and laughed.

Gee...I sound like I was a really mean little kid. I'll bet I broke J's grade school heart! The point of that story was really that I thought I loved D from second grade clear on through high school and even into college (when I had another boyfriend) and D and I ran into one another in the dorms.

The thing I remember about the more grown up D is that he once told me he'd never date a girl whose butt was wider than his. Looking back on this, it's doubtful he barely started puberty before high school graduation. He had one narrow back side. I still wonder to this day where he found a woman who had a hiney that small.

I received a really nice email from one of my old cheerleading friends who was also my freshman roomie in college. We haven't spoken in about 18 years! It was great to hear from her and learn that she has four girls, all close in age to mine.

Then, I paid to subscribe to Classmates.com (sucker!) and sent a few emails of my own. I've been snubbed! Three of the four emails have been read and NO ONE has responded to me!

Oh well. We've decided to at least go to the reunion picnic with the kids.

My writing thought of the day-- I enjoyed the Cynsations post about random acts of kindness for book people. I'm still trying to think of something really cool, but I did send A's teacher this link with a sentimental magazine story, First Grade's Forever. I knew there was a reason this year was so magical!

Monday, May 16, 2005

My 20 Year High School Reunion

Just in case anyone thought I was young...well, I'm not! My 20 year high school reunion is in a few weeks. The invitation arrived on Friday, and I've been sick to my stomach ever since. Who would have thought that the awkwardness of high school would haunt me 20 years later.

By many measurements, one would think I was a "popular kid." I was in cheerleading, student council, honor society, choir, yearbook and newspaper staffs. I was involved in school activities and hung out with lots of different groups of kids. At one point, I knew the names of all the 370 kids in my graduating class, and the names of many people in the school.

I bring this up, not to prove how cool I was, but to demonstrate that everyone...even the kids who appeared to have it all together, felt awkward and uncertain. Some were just better at hiding it than others.

In my 20-years-post-high-school-life, I don't really care how popular my neighbors and friends were in high school. People change. Life happens. We grow and learn. While I'm interested in who they are as people, I don't really care about which clique they fit into in high school. It's just so....high school... to even care. Who they were 20 years ago definitely wouldn't change my opinion of who they are today.

So, why am I so worried what my classmates will say about me? Why do I care that I'm a good 25-30 lbs overweight and wrinkled? Why am I so worried about what people will think about me when all I really want to know is if my classmates grew up to be happy, productive members of society? Do they have kids? What do they do for fun? Where to they live? How do they earn their living? I'm really not worried about that little number printed on the inside of their clothing label. And, I try to convince myself that they aren't concerned with the fluctuations of my scale either.

To seque to writing....I tried to buy Prom last week. It was on the very top shelf with a sign instructing the consumer to request assistance to get the book off the shelf. Uh...that works well when you have one kid in a stroller screaming and a four year old who suddenly decides she needs to go potty. So, wish me luck. We have another book store outing planned later this week.

Who knows, maybe my high school memories will develop into something worth writing about.

Another thought--my friend's grandmother passed away last week. Friend's children were so grown up about it all. Their observations and behavior were precious and I think there's a picture book in there!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

First Grade Reading **LL is Almost Over!

First grade reading **ll is almost over! We have 22 more books (or chapters from a chapter book) to read this weekend, and we will be done! I am so looking forward to a more relaxed reading pace. We really got behind when "A" moved to chapter books and took 45-60 minutes to read five-page chapters. I'm glad those days are behind us ... for another two years.

(Although, at the rate "S" is going, she'll be reading in the next few months! Amazingly, she seems to be teaching herself. She's asking lots of questions as she tries to decode everything she sees. Yes, my four year old sits at the keyboard and asks me to spell words for her as she taps away! And, she tries to read signs she sees. And, no, this is not related to competitive parenting. It's more of an observation about individuality.)

We had a lot of fun the other night. I let "A" read some books that are way too easy for her now, books that she had trouble with at Christmas. She read them to little sister "S" and zipped right through them. She was so proud to realize how far she's come in just a few months. Her formal assessment will come home in a few weeks, but I'm sure she's reading well into second grade level now, if not early third grade. I'm very proud of my sweetie! Last year at this time, I was convinced she was dyslexic because she really struggled with reading.

We reviewed our first grade spelling words tonight for the big "final" tomorrow. YOUR and YOU'RE are first grade spelling words. So are THEIR and THERE. I know a few first graders who could teach a few adults a thing or two about spelling!

Ah, the joys of summer!

Great Events in the Midwest

Once again, I'm in awe of Cynthia Leitich-Smith and the great state of Texas. How can there be so much going on in Texas and nothing taking place in the plains? It's bad enough that there's nothing noteworthy in Kansas. I've also looked for events in Missouri and Nebraska. Not that I actually have a shred of time to go to any of these things, but surely we have our fair share of talent here in the Midwest?

Here is a sampling of the cool Midwestern things I found:

Juvenile Writers of Kansas City

Missouri Writers Guild and info on their 2006 conference

Springfield Writers for Children

Missouri Writes for Kids -- a listing of Missouri children's writers

Kansas Authors and Illustrators and Kansas SCBWI member pages

Kansas SCBWI page and upcoming events

Ravenstone Press --publishes stories of Kansas and the Great Plains

The Children's Literature Festival -- an event for children in grades 4-10...what a shame to have missed this one!

Kansas City Writers' and Readers' Conference -- October 7 & 8

Kansas Authors' Club and Writers in the Schools and their District Two News

Kansas Center for the Book

Okay, so I guess there was more than I thought! The real mystery is why was it so much work to find them?

P.S. I had to edit this to add another group: The National Association of Women Writers. The KC chapter is headed by one of our SCBWI friends!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

One Thing I've Learned

If there's one thing I've learned from reading my favorite blog, it's that writing is not enough. No, a writer must get involved in the local writing community. She should support writing and literacy organizations. She should support local authors. And, she should talk about writing and reading with other writers.

This may seem obvious to many. However, it's very difficult when you are a newbie who doesn't know anyone in your market. It's even more difficult when it appears there's not much going on in your market. That's why I'm psyched about the post below: my SCBWI chapter finally rose from the dead, and I'm meeting some really fantastic writers. Finally.

Summer Writing Club

My friend has started a summer writing club for moms who write. Our first meeting will be in about three weeks. She's hiring a babysitter to watch the kiddies while we write and chat about writing. My girls are excited about going to a "party." I'm looking forward to meeting some moms who write. If we're lucky, we'll actually get some writing done.

I've also signed up for a new critique group my SCBWI chapter is forming. Apparently, we have several writers living in my suburb.

Our SCBWI chapter is having a June meeting at the library where librarians will talk about What Kids Read.

A busy couple of writing weeks. Plus, new carpet and a vacation and the last day of school! I love summer.

Monday, May 09, 2005

So many thoughts

Once again, I have so many thoughts and so little time! I've tried to sit down several times over the past few days to compose this post. And, I still don't have the time to do it right. I think it will be a crazy final two weeks of school with very little time for writing.

A few quickie thoughts:

1) The most reassuring thing I read all day was Laurie Halse Anderson's blog post today where she talks about how she finally sat down to write and couldn't write even after many hours of sitting at the computer. At least I'm in good company. I see that it took her two hours to decide to put on her shoes and i-pod and go for a walk. That's my problem...by the time I'm on a roll, it's time to stop. Two hours is my maximum amount of alone time. Ever. I remember in college, I needed time to get into this trance-like state. Sometimes, I even had to take a nap. I don't have that kind of time and I won't for another few years.

2) I am intrigued by all the reading and writing action in Texas. Does Texas have an extraordinary number of children's authors, or is Cynthia Leitich Smith just ultra great at promoting the local authors and events? In an attempt to answer this myself, I googled a few regional groups and events. There's not much action here in Kansas, but I did find a few noteworthy things. It's bed time, so I'll make a serious effort to post my findings tomorrow.

3) I WILL be published .... someday.... because I am too darn stubborn to quit trying.

4) Hug your kids and give them a big kiss before you send them off to school tomorrow. Today was a very sad news day in the Kansas City area. A school bus crashed into two vehicles today, killing the drivers of the vehicles. Two children remain in critical condition. I wish my kids never had to ride on a bus. Why don't those things have seatbelts anyway?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Horrible writing day

I had a horrible, horrible writing day. I sat at this computer and wrote for two solid hours and have nothing to show for it. I have lots of picture book ideas in my head, but they didn't make their way from my head to the page in one piece. I'm depressed. I think I'll eat some ice cream and go to bed....just as soon as I pick up the toys appear to have bred in every room of the house.

Libraries, Idol, Book Promotion and Blogs

A messy house, too little time and tornadic child behavior...those are the themes of my life. My thoughts for today:

1) If you haven't seen this already, cruise on over to Anastasia Suen's site to read about the Writer's Digest Bid for Blogs. They're looking for a few good blogs to highlight in an upcoming issue of Personal Writing. I nominated Cynthia Leitich Smith , Anastasia Suen and Don Tate II today. Check out the link, and nominate your favorites. Let's see a great list of children's writer and illustrator sites in there!

2) Our public library released the details of the summer reading program. My girls wish they were old enough for the sleepover at the library. "A" wished she could sleep at the school library--something I might just have to suggest next year. (How 'bout an "almost sleepover" to celebrate reading success?) I've wanted to do a sleepover at the zoo ever since I saw an article years ago about some zoo that had a contest where people could win a chance to sleep in their shark exhibit area. Of course, my girls will sleep any place that's not in their room in their own beds. We just moved the living room furniture into the garage for our weekend garage sale. The girls want to watch movies in their garage apartment tonight and then sleep in tents in the living room. Why not? It's almost summer!

3) The library program (stories in the park, the rewards for participating in the reading program, and the sleepover) reminded me of all the fun things a person could do if she ever published a book. After Mr. M quickly told me why my book was not marketable at my SCBWI conference, I took the last few minutes to ask a few questions about query letters. Apparently, I had this all wrong too, so I'll never mention to the editor again that I am capable of helping to promote my book.

I've always liked to explain that I'm a sales trainer to some of the country's finest media organizations. As such, I have connections with sales managers and media account executives nation-wide. What does this have to do with selling books and promoting literacy? A lot, I think. Almost every book has a potential tie-in beyond the typical school or bookstore venue. Take the books to the people with fun activities and book signings at grocery stores, banks, car dealerships, restaurants, pools, parks--all co-sponsored by the radio station/cable system/newspaper's biggest clients.

It's a promotional model that works well on a local level because the sales organizations can sell the idea of an author visit or a literacy event to a community-minded retailer. The days of selling a straight ad schedule are over. Today, media pros must sell their clients RESULTS. For many clients, a reading/writing/literacy event that allows them to make connections with their customers makes sense. Today, it's all about results, developing a relationship with the customer and ultimately activities that move the consumer one step closer to making a purchase.

I think these ideas are good for the stations, the retailers, the publisher and the author. AND, it would sell books. Best of all, everyone wins...and there's no book promotion cost for the author or publisher.

Mr. M thought this was presumptuous and a turn off because the author would be telling the editor how to do his job. Like I said, I guess I had the pitch all wrong.

Granted, this wouldn't take the place of any promotion efforts a publisher wanted to throw my way. But, when it's my time, I'm not going to sit around and wish for things to happen. I have marketing plans for all my books. I just won't mention it again!

4) Idol -- My predictions: next week, we'll lose Anthony. The following, we'll lose Vonzell. The final two will be Carrie and Bo. That's a toughie--this will come down to format preferences. My girls love Carrie. I'm for Bo till the end.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Modern Fairy Tale

Two days ago I talked about my human tornado children and the messes they create. I'm certain there's a modern fairy tale hidden here...maybe beneath the sofa cushions that they used to create a mini-apartment this afternoon. It was an elaborate apartment, complete with a DVD player and an office.

I don't know what they'll do with themselves next week. Tomorrow we move the living room furniture to garage to prepare for our neighborhood sale this weekend. No more old living room furniture to jump on and tear apart...and you can bet I'm not letting them play with the cushions from the new furniture!

Sunday's artistic activity: May basket creation and delivery.
Monday they settled on baking cookies, hide-n-go-seek and jumping on the trampoline before homework and bed.

If anyone is counting, I wrote one great chapter of the marketing book today. I still need to finish up something that I can submit in the children's category to the Writer's Digest competition. I live with three colorful characters. Think I could turn one into a rooster?

Poor baby K has green goopy eyes. The doctor says it's a sinus infection that is oozing out her eyes. Say it with me, "GROSS!"

Don't Think Pink

Just in case you thought I meant that marketing to women should be all fluffy and pink, let me clear that up. I didn't mean that at all, but I was attempting to describe the differences between how men and women process information. Usually men are straight to the point. No stories. Just the facts, ma'am. I think blogging is a great forum for these ad women since so many blogs have the feeling of stream of consciousness writing.

For me, these women bloggers are interesting because I get a glimpse inside their minds and a feel for how they live their lives. Products, services, stores, books...they can't be marketed if the consumer doesn't connect with the product in the first place. Hooray for women bloggers and marketers!

Marketing blogs worth noting:

A great blog by the co-author of Don't Think Pink, Andrea Learned.
And, one by a guy who can tell a story, Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside (plus many, many more!)

I'm still trying to decide if I need two separate blogs. I'm leaning toward creating a marketing-only blog. I think those marketing-types could really use the children's lit insight, but I'm not sure they are really ready for the rush of creativity!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Marketers, Meet the Children's Writers

You may have already guessed that my new writing project has something to do with marketing. I stumbled upon loads and loads of marketing/advertising/PR blogs today, and I started reading them. I am more excited than ever about my new project. I don't care how big some of these consultants are, they need to learn about storytelling. I think they need to meet up with my SCBWI friends and my online blogging buddies for a few lessons.

A few years ago, I spoke at the Radio Advertising Bureau conference. My seminar topic was Marketing to Women. If you've spent even 30 seconds studying women's marketing, this won't come as a surprise: the marketing blogs written by women are better. They are rich with stories and relevant content and the blogs integrate many meaningful topics. It's like sitting down for coffee with a friend to have a little marketing chat. The tone is conversational. The topic is insightful...and you get just enough of the blogger's personality to know you want to call her a "friend."

I'll be interested to see what men think about these blogs. I'd bet these female bloggers are making a huge connection with women. But, do the men connect as well? Or, do they find them fluffy?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Holy Cow!

New manuscript page count: 101 double spaced pages!!!!!!!!!

Now, all of it won't get to stay. A lot of it is not the right tone. But I have the guts of the thing--the primary facts and details-- on paper...er...screen!