Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Sense

Teachers looking for a book that will help kids make sense of the hurricane disaster might appreciate River Friendly River Wild by Jane Kurtz. The book contains poems about a girl, who like Jane Kurtz and her family, survived the Red River Flood of 1997. I heard about this book on the RealWritingTeachers Yahoo Group when teachers were brainstorming ways to help kids make sense of the hurricane. I hope this book can help some of our kids. I plan to look for the book at my library tomorrow.

Read Cynthia Leitich Smith's "story behind the story" interview with Jane Kurtz.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Writer Idol, Writer Envy

I really need to get over this Writer Idol, Writer Envy thing I have. I have no idea what made me do it, but today I sent an email to Troy Wilson, author of Perfect Man to gush over his book.
While I was at his site, I noticed he has another cool book coming out. I can't wait to read it.

So, then I got all wound up about his books and about the great list they have at Orca. And, I asked him if he'd like to be a guest author at the RealWritingTeachers Yahoo group (over 650 teachers and writers).

Naturally, since he is the author of a writer super hero book, I received a return email at lightning speed. Besides writing a very nice note, he agreed to be a guest author!

I know...I'm a book geek!
In other news, I took baby K to the doctor today. In addition to another ear infection, she has a full body rash. The doctor assures me it's just a virus. Now S has come down with a fever and chills. I think A is over the worst of it, and I hope I'm close behind. We had a really crummy day.
I'm looking forward to the long weekend. I think I'm taking the rest of this week off from writing and thinking (very much) about writing. I'll read my new books, jot a few notes, maybe blog a bit and SLEEP! I hate being sick and having a house full of sickies while my husband is traveling. Oh, I know...poor pitiful me.

Take a look at the fancy, new website for Kansas SCBWI.

Picture Writing

I was so sad that my picture book writing class had ended. Then, I went to the mailbox and discovered that my copy of Anastasia Suen's Picture Writing had arrived along with the 2006 CWIM. I think these are the perfect books to help me as I work on the next step of my "getting published plan." This plan begins in full force next week--right after S starts preschool.

I can't wait to sit down with both books. I noticed that CWIM has a great article about Debby Garfinkle. (Whose book, Storky, is awesome, very funny! I'd love a sequel, but I also think it would make a nice sitcom!) And, that article is right next to one about Troy Wilson, author of Perfect Man.

If you have a YA novel that you'd like to have critiqued, bid on Kimberly Pauley's ebay auction . Money raised will help support the YABooksCentral review site.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I am so sick and tired!

1) I am so sick and tired! K, A and I all have colds. Or maybe allergies. With all this rain, we probably have a high mold count now. At any rate, I can't breathe; I feel wheezy; My chest hurts. And, with all the cold medicine I'm taking, I can't sleep. At least not when I'm supposed to sleep.

2) The Center For Media Research has posted an interesting study about blogging. To view the full Behaviors of the Blogosphere analysis, please visit here. Someone places a high ad value on YOUR thoughts, ladies!

  • Dan Hess, senior vice president of comScore Networks, said "The fact that we found 30 percent of the online population to have visited blogs clearly underscores the commercial importance of consumer generated and driven media.
  • Of 400 of the largest blogs observed, political blogs were the most popular, followed by "hipster" lifestyle blogs, tech blogs and blogs authored by women
  • Compared to the average Internet user, blog readers are significantly more likely to live in wealthier households, be younger and connect to the Web on high-speed connections
  • Blog readers also visit nearly twice as many web pages as the Internet average, and they are much more likely to shop online.

3) Last night I was all pumped up about book promotion. I had all these ideas that I'd use if I had a book to promote. Then, I got online and did a little research. No wonder all authors give out is book marks and post cards. Premium items don't exactly fit an author's budget.

If I had a budget, I'd buy those "cause bracelets" printed with my book name and web address and pencils with my book info. I'd also print up some t-shirts for my dad and brothers and other family members to wear on book release day, and maybe some of those cling-on window decals. And, if I was feeling especially flamboyant, I'd get a great big car door magnet with a picture of my book. My list goes on, but I think I'll save those for another day. I wouldn't want to overwhelm you ;-) I still might consider a few of those things--and hand them out as prizes, but I really wanted to give every kid a pencil. First and second graders love pencils. Especially when they come out of vending machines. But, that's another story.

4) My picture book class is over. SNIFF. Now, all I have left to do is rewrite my stories and find an agent. I have a few dream agents in mind. That's all.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Airball: My Life In Briefs

I just finished reading LD Harkrader's Airball: My Life in Briefs. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to wake the entire house!

Poor Kirby! Kirby loves basketball as much as everyone in his basketball-crazy Kansas town. The problem? He isn't very good. But, he must make the team and have a winning season if he wants a chance to go to Allen Fieldhouse to participate when KU retires the jersey of Stuckey's own future-NBA-Hall-of-Famer, Brett McGrew. Kirby thinks McGrew is his dad and it's Kirby's and only chance to meet him. But, first--he and the rest of the seventh grade team must live through the coach's extreme coaching tactics: Stealth Uniforms. Yes, they're playing in their undies!

If you've ever experienced life in a small town that revolves around youth or college sports--a town where the youth sport IS their "professional" team, you'll appreciate this book. Mix in the coach's new uniforms (Emperor's New Clothes-style), a boy who will risk just about anything (including the humiliation of playing basketball in his underwear) to meet his long-lost father, a trouble-making cousin who helps Kirby become captain of the team, the thrill of victory and some harmless nosing around to find proof that McGrew's his dad and you have a recipe for a great afternoon of rural basketball reading fun!

A clean, fun book for anyone who can read at the middle grade level or higher. No profanity or sexual content that I recall--just boys parading around in their briefs! A great fall, back-to-school read!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gooney Bird Greene

I just finished reading the early chapter book, Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry. Really, I don't rave over every book I read. (Remember: I had to read 100 books this month for my picture book class...well, I read close to double that to find good examples that met the requirements. Most of these were not rave-worthy!)

Gooney Bird Greene is a fantastic chapter book that boys, girls, parents and teachers will love. Gooney Bird is the new kid at school and, at first, it appears she's a big, fat liar. The teacher has her tell stories to the class and we learn that all her very creative stories are absolutely true. Besides introducing a very lovable and quirky character, Lowry teaches the basics of story telling. The inspiring ending will have grown ups and kids ready to tell big stories of their own.

I have ordered the second Gooney Bird book; it's in the mail! I hope this is the beginning of a Gooney Bird series. Gooney Bird is quirky like Junie B, but is smarter and more mature. (She IS a second grader, after all.) As a parent, I have issues with Junie B--my daughter loves JB, but even she has problems with the grammar and behavior. This book has all the charm --and more--without the negatives I hear parents complain about.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I am SO ready for preschool to start so I have some quiet writing time during the DAY when I have half a chance of thinking! I have tons of half-started ideas, but no time to work on them. The good news is that the kids are going to bed earlier since the elementary school is back in session now.

A's second grade class is using the new Harcourt (2005) reading textbooks. She brought hers home tonight. HOW COOL! The stories are by major authors and illustrators, great multi-subject tie-ins, author and illustrator bios, writing instruction. WOW! I never had such awesome books. This is the first time I've seen any of our textbooks, so I'm experiencing all that wonder and excitement that comes with having a reader and writer in school...using real books! So, before I go to bed, I'm skimming the whole book...just in case it doesn't come home again. (Anyone who leaves their book at home tomorrow loses their whole recess! GASP!)

Last night was back to school night. The night where the parents go to school and sit in those little chairs and hear about the curriculum and expectations for the year. They were short a room parent, so I volunteered. The teacher said I can take S and K with me to the parties. We received the district's handout on the curriculum.

Right before I left for the meeting, I had an email converstation about non-fiction writing. Writing non-fiction sounds like a good idea, but I just never feel I have those deep, scholarly ideas that non-fiction books require. So, I'm reading the curriculum sheet and EUREKA! It's full of story ideas! It listed each subject and what the kids were expected to learn in that subject. Instead of just listing that kids would study liquids, solids and gasses, it explained what they should learn. Obvious? Maybe. But, it looked like someone handed me a list of 20 + non-fiction story topics to research!

Another A brag: she was one of only 3 kids in her class who got all 18 words right on the spelling pre-test this week. And, she came home and FORCED me to sit still so she could read to me from her textbook. If you remember how much we struggled learning to read last year, you'll realize what a big deal this is. So, she received five extra "challenge" words. And, after tonight's study session, has all those down too! YEA! (Oh, she's already talking about entering spelling bees like our very-close-to-being-a-national-champ neighbor girl---who will also have an article published in Jack and Jill this year as their National Spelling Bee correspondent!)

I've also recently become OBSESSED with finding a way to help promote the work of Kansas authors and illustrators. More on this later. I have a big research project planned for September...and I'll need lots of help from all my writer friends!

Oh, and I almost forgot--we started that website inspired by the Perfect Man book. We're publishing it to our home network for now. A has decided to put her photography there, "and, don't you think I should put a new game up there each week too?" she says. Right now, we're using Front Page because that's what I have. Does anyone know of a kid friendly photo editor, or even some web software that's more kid friendly than FP?

Do you ever listen to the Hit List on the cable system's digital music channels? I'm in such a summer party mood now. Not good for 10 p.m. with hours of work left!

Life is good. With so much to do tonight, why am I still blogging?


Thursday, August 18, 2005

PERFECT MAN--another great picture book

I might just have another favorite picture book. This is my favorite least this week!

Perfect Man is about a boy whose favorite superhero, Perfect Man, goes into retirement. The boy is a Perfect Man fantatic--he writes stories and has a website all dedicated to Perfect Man. When the boy returns to school in the fall, he notices that his teacher has super powers and thinks his teacher may be Perfect Man in disguise. The teacher goes on to help the boy discover his own super powers. The boy goes on to do great things and the teacher becomes his biggest fan.

It has lots of appeal: the reading and writing and living life slant; the teachers are superheros angle; the everyone has super powers theme. What's not to like? Oh, and if you liked the Incredibles or Sky High, I think you'll love this one!

I was surprised that my daughters felt like discussing the book. I usually get an "Uh, that's a nice book" response. They wanted to know what their super powers were. A says hers is that she's hilarious. S says hers is "pencil power." A IS shy, but funny. As her mom, I'd say her super powers are her creativity and her willingness to be friends with everyone. And, S (age 4) is a great story teller (but, I think she means she's good at writing her letters!) A stopped me right at the beginning--"He has a website? How can he do that? Can I do that?" When I told her that I could teach her and that she could put her photography on the site, she wanted to get out of bed at 9:00 p.m. and start. Let's hope she still has this enthusiasm on Saturday!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Guess who I met last night????

Guess who I met last night?

The lovely, talented Cynthia Leitich Smith spoke at our SCBWI quarterly meeting last night. What a treat! She is hilarious and a fantastic speaker. She talked to us about cultural context in stories. I've read JINGLE DANCER and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME. She pointed out some examples of culture in her own books. It was interesting to hear an author talk about all the thought that went into the books--even a tiny picture book! I can't wait to read her upcoming releases. They sound awesome.

I am always amazed by how much she knows about the industry. I wonder if I'll ever know 1/10 of what she does.

Four things Cynthia and I have in common:

1) We were born in the same year.
2) We both are J-school grads from universities in the Midwest.
3) We both have very cute husbands. *
4) She lived in Kansas. I live in Kansas now.

But, I think that's the end of the similarities...unless you count that we both have brown hair and that she's not exactly tall either :-)

It was great to meet her in person after all these months of reading her blog. I did have to tease her about all the money I'm spending because of her. Who knew being a writer would be so expensive? So many books to read; so little time!

* Edited to add that I've never met Greg, but she calls him her "very cute husband" on spooky cyn. When I first met my husband, I thought he looked like Donny Osmond. He cringes everytime I say that. Now, he has grey hair, but still has a very cute smile :-0

Monday, August 15, 2005

A sad day for writer Kim

It's a sad, sad day for writer Kim. I just read a book review of a book that is too, too similar to a story I wrote. Check out Punk Farm. It looks like the cutest book ever, and I'll have to buy it!

It's a book about farm animals who rock. Mine has a rooster who rocks and wears sunglasses and carries a guitar--a rooster Elvis. Mine has been rejected several times. I'm not saying anyone stole my idea. I don't think that really could happen. But, I can't get over the similarities.

So, I'm sad, but I'll use this as a learning experience. I'll find the book and study it. Then, I'll see how one writer/illustrator used a similar idea and turned a good idea into an idea that makes ya scream YOWZA!!!

Poor Rudy. I think I'll send him to the unwanted story book character graveyard now.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Traction Man and ART

I just read Traction Man for the first time yesterday. I like it. A lot. I love the boy's creativity and the way he uses common household items in his play. It has lots of tie-in potential--fun playing and writing activities. Mini Grey weaves the real life kid and parents into the story without disrupting the imaginary play that is taking place. So far, I've read it about six times. I've gotten something different from it each time.

Would you believe I have a few stories in my pile that are similar, yet different enough? Maybe their time has come! I'm taking these out to rework and revise this weekend (hopefully).

Have you read Traction Man? What did you think?

We're inside doing lots of rainy day stuff. Too bad this is how we have to spend our last carefree days of summer vacation! I've carried a notebook around the house the past few days. My girls seem to have noticed. A has written and illustrated four stories since last night. So, how does one encourage a seven-year-old aspiring illustrator? Do I just let her write and draw? Buy her some sort of art book? Enroll in art or drawing classes? Talk about art and story telling and how they work in books? OR just keep lots of art supplies on hand and let her do her own thing?

Thursday, August 11, 2005


My new story wasn't done, so I rewrote an old story to turn in for Anastasia's class. Then, I checked Amazon and the Library of Congress sites for competition. Bummer--LOTS of monster stories. And, many of them are similar. One even had some key phrases from my first version in the title. Uh. Oh. No wonder no one bought it the first time.

So, is it bad to write monster stories? Should I give up on it?

The new story that isn't done was supposed to be about name calling. I got off on a tangent and now it's about a poor lion without any shoes. Yeah, I don't get the connection either. Funny how that works.

The Company You Keep

Proof that blogging is good for you!

One of my favorite business writers, Blair Singer, sent this email to his subscribers this morning. Blair is the author of SalesDogs, one of the books in Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad series.

Recently I heard Rick Pitino, the highly successful basketball coach at Louisville, formerly at University of Kentucky, NY Knicks and Boston Celtics make a great point. The key to success is surrounding yourself with people that are positive and eliminating negative thinking around you. It's tough enough to keep your energy up!! When you have others who want to pick, peck, negate, bad-mouth, and who constantly take the wind out of your sails it takes you down. Coach Pitino said that you have to distance yourself from the 'confederation of the miserable.' He is referring to those people who feel good about being negative toward others. It makes them feel smarter and better than you and at your expense. It takes little intelligence to be negative and critical. It takes resourcefulness and brightness to pump others up and build their confidence. To earn more and have more joy in your life, choose who you hang out with wisely.
Be Awesome!

So, see...You NEED to blog so that you are surrounded by positive people who believe in--and can help you believe in--what you are doing!

Have a fun writing day!

P.S. If you were here earlier today, you'll see I changed the link to ROBERT KIYOSAKI. Thanks, Chris. I knew that picture looked wrong. That's what I get when I hurry!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Proud of Myself!

I am so proud of myself. I had a super-busy week last week....and I still kept up with my picture book class. I was afraid this would be an issue when I signed up during this busy month, and I vowed to make this class a priority.

But, some things, you just can't control. In my training job, I had a very large course load, filled with lots of procrasinators who decided to complete most of a four week course last week (which meant lots of homework scoring for me!)

It's also back to school time: We're preparing for the kids to go back to school, trying to squeeze in all that last-minute fun!

Somehow, I managed to keep up with the assignments for the picture book class I'm taking: reading and analyzing 25 books, writing a new story (well, I cheated here and did a big revision), and some other stuff.

This week is packed with more last-minute back to school, fun! We're doing lots of swimming, and we're checking out the treehouse exhibit at the botanical garden, and the dinosaurs at the science museum. Plus, I have a whole new story to write!

I will need to remember this month when November rolls around and I start freaking out about the holidays and thinking I don't have time to write!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Back to School Writing Tidbit

Someone on the Realwritingteachers Yahoo Group posted a link to some excellent teaching resources that can be found at Teaching That Makes Sense. Follow the PDF listing along the left column for materials that can help readers, writers, teachers and reviewers improve their craft. My favorite was the Writing Teacher's Strategy Guide, 124 pages of instruction, exercises and charts to improve the writing of young writers, with lots of stuff for older writers too.

Yesterday, I ordered the 2006 CWIM and Picture Writing by Anastasia Suen. I can't believe I didn't already have that one! Take a look at the second reader review. It sounds like it will be very helpful, even after I've finished the workshop!
School supply shopping today. No clothes though. I'm waiting until the weather cools down. All A will wear is athletic shorts right now. When she wears jean shorts or clothes made from other fabrics, all I hear is, "These shorts give me the wedgies!" That doesn't make winter sound too pleasant.
I wrote my first easy reader yesterday. A full 32 words!

I also laughed so hard at a stoplight that I had to look around afterwards to see if anyone was watching. What was so funny? I finally figured out how to write the story about all the name-calling my girls do. It was hilarious to me....or maybe just one of those, "I can't believe it took me so long to think of this" ideas. I hope it works on paper!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Auction is On!

Marianne Mancusi returned home from the RWA conference to find that her home had been struck by lightening and had burned to the ground. The Literary Chicks are hosting a fundraising ebay auction to raise money to help Marianne replace some of the "stuff" she lost.

Lots of great auctions, including several editor critiques. I think they are all romance editors so far, but if that's your genre...or even if it's not...check it out and bid on something!

Friday, August 05, 2005

New Reviews

As you know, I've been doing a lot of reading this week. For reviews of some of my recent reading, cruise on over to the YABooksCentral Blog and see what will be highlighted at YABooksCentral in the coming weeks.

I've posted a review of Never, Ever Shout In A Zoo by Karma Wilson (look for the review of her new book, Sakes Alive, A Cattle Drive soon. Very cute book!)

Picky Mrs. Pickle, by Kansas author and illustrator Christine M. Schneider. My four year old loves this one and begs for it nightly.

The Cranium Big Book of Outrageous Fun. Another my kids won't put down.

And, Olive's Pirate Party, a very cute book about a girl who doesn't want her old aunt to mess up her very important birthday party. Just released this week, it's a great book about birthdays, creativity, solving problems and having fun.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Are you sick of my class yet?

I promise, Anastasia is not paying me to gush!

ANNOUNCER: This is an unpaid promotional announcement.

Is your writing stalled? (stalled car starter noise.) Are you confused by conflicting critiques? (car crashing, screeching brakes) Are you unsure of how your writing fits into the world? (busy cars zipping on highway noises.) Do you need creative inspiration? (harps and la, la, la singing).

If so, then Anastasia Suen's Picture Book Workshop is for you. (TA DA! music)

If you are a busy mom, a corporate executive, a teacher, a painter, a dad, a chauffer, a living, breathing being, you must be organized to fit all this reading and writing into your life. (person clomping up and down stairs) But, it's worth it! (breathes a sigh of relief) Let's look at what you will learn in only the first week!

George, tell us more!

GEORGE: This information-packed workshop will teach you to read, analyze and categorize books and apply what you've learned to your own writing. A baby makes discoveries about her world by sorting and categorizing. (child's laugh) You will learn about writing the same way. (adult voice, likee Ferris Bueller...Oh, yeah...).

But that' s not all. You also get...

ANNOUNCER: uh, George, we could tell them more, but then, we'd have to... (death march type song) you know how it goes.

See Anastasia's workshop page for more information. Call now...operators are standing by. Well, not really, but you can sign up online, so ORDER TODAY!


Seriously, this class is very worthwhile and fun too!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Baby Geniuses

Did you know I am the mother of three genius children? I am.

Well, they aren't technically geniuses, but they are super creative. Watching them play today, I got an idea for another book. In fact, S fed me the line that sparked the idea.

They are playing Little Red Riding Hood. My children often act out fairy tales, but this one is different. If you're in THE CLASS with me, I'm sure you'll see this one eventually. I hope it turns out as cute as it is in my head right now!

My kids are an incredible source of ideas. Would you like to borrow them so I can write? I'm sure they'll give you a few ideas too :-)

I'm starting to realize there is a definite pattern to the types of stories I write. The day I figure out who buys this type of story will be an awesome day in this house!

Off to type of the framework of that idea before I forget why I liked it so much!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pure Genius!

Anastasia is a genius! The books I write have a name! They are social issue concept books, some of which blur the lines and are also character-based. Yeah! So, why does this help? Because when someone tells me that my characters are not strong enough, I can choose to act on the information or not, depending on what is said. Some books can be silly, some can be factual, some (but not all) solve a character's problem. I knew that. But, now I know how to categorize the books so I can see my book's true competition and determine what must be fixed.

Course notes

It's day two of the picture book class, and so far I love it. I can't talk too much about the course because that would inhibit Anastasia's ability to make know, trade secrets and all that.

Here's a little tidbit though: each day, we have to read five books with various criteria. I've decided to keep an Excel file of all the books (I meant to do this two years ago!) to track the book, author, illustrator, publisher and topic. I'm sure I'll add more columns eventually. Right now, I'm using it to see who writes and publishes what. If I can figure it out, I'd like to try to add the editor and agent, but that may be a little tricky to uncover.

I had my SCBWI critique group last night. It went well. The new story didn't have as many problems...just little ones to fix. But, once again, I've been told I have a magazine story. I'm just having problems with this character thing. I can see the illustration potential is possibly limited, but I also see lots and lots of books that have the same limited picture potential where the illustrator was just brilliant. Research, research for me!