Thursday, April 27, 2006


WHY? Why are all the great conferences all in April, right on top of soccer, baseball, dance recitals, school fairs, proms and other end-of-the-school-year events?

I do wonder, but I'm also whining because I'm missing out on a great conference this weekend.

Friday is A's big school fun run and auction--the girls expect me to run with them. It's actually a pretty fun family event (when I have money to spend on auction items!)

Saturday--I will volunteer at S's school art fair/auction at 9:00 a.m. Hubby will bring the girls for some games and snacks while I'm there.Then, it's off to A's soccer game. S and I will have to leave early because she has dance rehearsal for The Big Show.* A will not be far behind. She has a rehearsal at the same place for an in-studio show for her acting class. We'll sit around for a few hours--maybe I'll actually get to write while I wait since Hubby will have Baby K--then it will be time to go home to collapse around 3:00!

Sunday--another soccer game. We're also going to see Akeelah and the Bee with our super-smart spelling bee friend!


*The Big Show. S signed up for a little dance class this year. I say little because S is not a "showy" kid. She wanted a simple dance class. They told us there was a recital. I pictured the typical recital--kids shuffled onto stage, lined up, do their show, shuffle off stage, go home. Maybe just one show for the little ones. She was fine with that. So was I.

NOOOOOOO way. This is A Big Show, a theatrical production! They have rehearsals two weekends in a row. The older kids will be there five hours; little kids, "just" two. The week of the show, the rehearsals are 2 hours one night and four hours the second night. Little S won't be leaving until 9 p.m.!

There's a Friday show and two Saturday shows. On that Saturday, S and I will be at the theater from noon-9:00 p.m. (I've volunteered for Green Room duty so she doesn't have to be alone.) For some kids, this might be fun, but this is not S's idea of fun! I wish I would have known what I was getting her into with this :-(

I'm packing lots of books and coloring books and games to try to make the "green room" seem like fun mommy time. Another parent (one whose 5 year old is also involved, but who has been involved with many shows) says that the little kids think it's a lot of fun. I hope she's right!

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I feel fantastic. Full of energy and the brain fog is gone! I don't know if it's the new diet (low fat, healthy carbs) or the spring weather, but I feel I'm plugged into the sun. (Can you picture me as a kite with a cord plugged into an oversized, cartoon sun with big, bold triangular rays?)

The problem when I'm this energetic? I lose focus! As you may have noticed today, it's been an idea day. This afternoon, a new book arrived. I am not supposed to be ordering new books--NOT in the budget (taxes killed us!). BUT, the Real Writing Teachers (Yahoo Group) recommended some books for teaching kids to write. I just HAD to have them.

I can't wait for summer vacation to start. The girls and I will be writing a few days a week. These new books will make it fun. Even 5 yo S can participate. Now, I really, really want to start an after school writing club at the school. I have all summer to play around with my lesson plans. In the fall, I'll propose the idea.

The books that I'm so excited about:
Razzle Dazzle Writing
and Primary Pizzazz

I have some others that I bought last year. I really like Poetry a La Carte

Tomorrow. I will focus! Tonight, I will read.

A very cool idea

I was so excited about my gift basket idea. I thought about all the book basket possibilities while I worked out this morning. I wished I had the time to turn this into a business. I knew it was a good idea. Think about how much additional revenue an indie bookseller could make selling custom baskets if she hustled to target the right opportunities.

Well.. I came home to read the lovely PW Bookshelf review of Rules (Yay, cynthialord!) and glanced up the page and saw this: a link to Storyopolis. They sell custom book baskets that are to die for, starting at $75. How cool is that? At this price, they might be more like corporate gifts than little birthday party and special occasion gifts, so I think there's still a market for another supplier.

I wish I had the time to take something like this on. Wouldn't it be fun? A person could do PTO/PTA sales around the holidays, book parties, city or state-state specific baskets. Really, you could create a theme for almost any business you can think of--which might get a lot of authors' books into some non-traditional places.

Tie a basket purchase or auction to library funding or a literacy charity, and think of all the access and support you'd get! Restaurants, hardware stores, auto dealers, sporting goods/camping/fishing supply stores.

Just dreamin' again. I wish Storyopolis lots of luck! I think it's a very cool idea.

Cooking Up Literacy

I wish I would have thought of this idea sooner.

S's preschool is having their art fair / auction next week. We needed to come up with a donation item (this is not the same fair where I proposed the author pizza/PJ party). I took a few of my review copies and bought one more book to make a cooking "basket."


My Pop Pop and Me (2006, Little, Brown)
Rabbit Pie (2006, Viking)
Tallulah in the Kitchen (2005, Henry Holt)

I'm going to put them in a mixing bowl, add measuring spoons and measuring cups and include a recipe card for the item description.

If I had thought of this earlier, I could have added so many great books, of course...there's always the cost of buying them!

What else could go into a basket like this? How about:

The Rachel Ray kids' cookbook
Pete's a Pizza
How to Eat Fried Worms
The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza
Cook-a-doodle Doo
The Princess and the Pizza

I think there's a reason I want to write a PB about cooking. I have so many of them!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Easter!

This is how S and I spent the afternoon. Rice Krispie Treat nests.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter.
Pour one package of large marshmallows into bowl.
Mix together until marshmallows are fully melted.
Pour in 6 cups of Rice Krispies.
Mix well.

Spoon mixture into greased muffin tins. (I put mine in the large tins for oversized muffins; it filled 10 holes.)

Let mixture cool slightly. Then, butter your hands. Using your thumbs, press mixture toward the edges of the muffin tin, making a hole in the center for a "nest." Sprinkle with green cake decorating sugar.

Add a Peep and a few jelly beans to each nest.

Monday, April 10, 2006


I'm back from my SCBWI retreat. It was an incredible experience and SO worthwhile! The location was rustic, a true summer camp setting. But, it was the perfect escape and it brought back many fond memories.

We spent Friday night watching Dan Schwabauer's presentation: Story Telling From the Silver Screen. He used movie clips to demonstrate plot elements that must be included in all good stories. (If you have a chance to see Dan's presentation, go for it! It was an entertaining approach to explainig the elements of plot.)

Later, we broke into critique groups. There were only three in the picture book group, but I learned a lot from the experience. I took a story I hadn't worked on in a while and found the critiquers' comments insightful. I know JUST how to fix this one up!

The workshop with Jane Kurtz was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. She is knowledgeable, down-to-earth, energetic and positive. She has that ability to look at a story and know just what's wrong. She critiqued a story for each participant prior to our arrival, and throughout the session, tied her workshop comments back to what she noted on our manuscripts.

We spent a lot of time analyzing picture books in relation to genre. It helped so much to be able to ask questions about why certain elements were used in certain books. At one point, I had to test out a theory (something I've noticed lately and something that cynthea brought up in my free-tique.) I read an opening aloud (it was one of those Lion did this. Lion did that. Lion did NOT like to ??? openings.)

I asked, "I've noticed a lot of picture books open with this type of opening. Do you think it's necessary to start this way?" She pointed to a worksheet we had just discussed. "See the rhythm?" she asked. Suddenly, the lightbulb clicked on! (so thank you to Jane and to cynthea!)

Here's an excerpt from the article that helped pull this together for me. It's a simple statement, but I felt like someone handed me glasses after years of walking around with fuzzy vision. It's from MAGAZINE STORY OR PICTURE BOOK? written by Carol Iverson: "What do editors look for in a picture book? Julie Amper, editorial edirector of children's books at Arcade Publishing, watches for language, pattern, cadence, vision, magic and wonderment..."

It was a wonderful weekend. I feel like I can do this... and that I'm getting close to breaking in. I can't wait to start my revisions because I feel really good about where I'm headed.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Third Carnival of Children's Literature

The Third Carnival of Children's Literature is here! This month's theme is poetry and Sherry at Semicolon has a poetry link for each day of April.

**I review Susan Taylor Brown's new book, Hugging the Rock, in the April 24th Carnival entry. My blogging buddy, Chris Barton, is featured on April 21.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Hugging the Rock

I received a great surprise in the mail last week: an advance release copy of Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown (September 2006, Tricycle Press). Hugging the Rock is a middle grade novel written in verse, but don’t let the poetry and young protagonist fool you. This novel deals with some heavy issues.

Rachel’s mother runs away from home and she is left behind with her father, an emotionally-distant man she barely knows. The reader is thrown into the middle of Rachel’s journey as she looks for answers and acceptance.

Susan Taylor Brown tells a moving story in Hugging the Rock. She dares to bring painful emotions to the surface, connecting with her readers through shared feelings and experiences.

A powerful novel with the potential to spark heart-to-heart conversations among families and friends.

LINKS: My October 2005 inteview with Susan at YA Books Central after the release of her picture book, Oliver's Must-Do List.

Susan was guest author at Children's Media Professionals Forum last week. Join the group and learn more about Susan's inspiration for Hugging the Rock.

DOWNLOAD: Download an excerpt from Hugging the Rock. Check it out; you'll be hooked!