This is the blog of children's book author and elementary school teacher, Stacy Barnett Mozer. I blog about my own writing journey, the journey of other kidlit authors, my classroom, and talk about books. Thanks for stopping by. Your thoughts are always welcome (and encouraged).

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!!

I hope this year brings you accomplishment and success, no matter how big or small your goal.

Image from The Stock Solution

Friday, December 21, 2012

Did the Mayans Get it Right?

At 9:30 ET, in places around the country and the world, time will stop.
People will pause to morn what we have lost.
20 school children.
6 teachers.
1 mother.
1 child.
Our sense of safety.
The piece of our heart that broke and cannot be mended.
Most of us will be forever changed by this event in ways we still can't fully understand.
Maybe the Mayans weren't wrong.
They said the world will end.
Maybe it has.
But hopefully after we stop today,
We can find a way to move forward
into a better, brighter, safer future.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Interview with Picture Book Author Susan Hood

Before launching a full-time writing career, Susan was the Children’s Content Director of Nick Jr. Magazine and an editor at Sesame Workshop, Scholastic Book Clubs and Instructor Magazine. As a freelance writer, Susan has published board books, beginning readers and nonfiction books with Disney, Fisher Price, Penguin Putnam, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster, as well as articles for parents and educators in The New York Times, Working Mother and more. Just Say Boo, The Tooth Mouse, and Spike, The Mixed Up Monster are her first picture books. For more about Susan, visit her website.

When did you realize getting published was really going to happen?

As a former editor and staff writer at Scholastic, Sesame Street and Nick Jr., I’ve published a lot of baby board books and beginning readers over the years, but it took me years to attempt an original picture book. I knew enough to know how hard this genre can be! When I finally (finally!) finished a manuscript, then there were a lot of little moments when I thought, “Wow, this is really happening!”
  • when a librarian read my manuscript and wrote “LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!”
  • when my writers’ group applauded after I read it aloud
  • when an agent agreed to represent me
  • when the book went to auction
  • when my first choice in illustrators said she was “over the moon”  and agreed to collaborate
Even so, you walk around in a bubble, hardly daring to breathe lest you burst that bubble!

Was there ever a point when you thought about giving up?

No. Not yet, anyway! I’ve wanted to do this for so long and I can’t imagine doing anything else that would give me as much joy. That doesn’t mean there aren’t frustrations.  Children’s books take a long time to get published and I can get impatient. But when you first have an editor say “You’ve made my day,” or first see the illustrations light up your words, or open that first box of bound books, or have a librarian tell you, “I’ve been looking for a book like this for years,” or have a kid who’s memorized your book mouth the words as you read aloud, well! What could be better?

You had three books come out in a very short period of time (AMAZING!). What was that process like?

Well, they all came out at once, but each one was a long time in the making.  THE TOOTH MOUSE took about seven years! I sold SPIKE, THE MIXED-UP MONSTER in 2009 and JUST SAY BOO in 2010.  The work came in different stages. I might be writing revisions for one book while looking at sketches for another. The only tricky part is promoting all three this fall. I’ve had back-to-back–to-back readings, signings, and school visits. Around Halloween, I had one every day!

I've heard that picture authors don't get to approve their illustrator and some don't even see the pictures until the book releases. What was that process like for you? Did anything surprise you when you saw the illustrations?

That can be true, especially for a first-time author. I was lucky.  By contract I was given input on the illustrators for all three of my books. I had worked with a lot of wonderful children’s book illustrators at Nick Jr. Magazine so my editors and I shared a frame of reference. We’d each recommend people and discuss different possibilities. It’s a good way to explore each other’s tastes, sensibilities and visions for the book. There are practical considerations as well. Sometimes, your first choice is booked up for years. (In my case, we waited!) I’d recommend trusting your editor. He or she has the book’s best interests in mind and wants you to be happy and successful.

I also saw sketches for two of the three books and color proofs for all three. Did anything surprise me? Everything! The lighting, the perspectives, the humor, and all the quirky little details were a thrill and a delight. When I opened one package of art, I started crying because it was everything I wanted my book to be. True story.

Does anything surprise you about being a published author?

The astonishing generosity of other children’s book authors, illustrators, editors, agents, teachers and librarians. I am humbled and grateful for the love and support of this very special community . There’s so much I didn’t know, especially about promotion, publicity and marketing. I found that all I had to do was ask.

What advise would you give someone trying to write and publish picture books?

1. Read as many picture books as you can, the classics as well as the latest releases. Stay on top of the way picture books have changed and evolved. 

2. After you read them, reread them. Study the way the pictures work in counterpoint to the words. When looking at your manuscript, cross out all the words that simply repeat what could be in the pictures. Substitute words that add new information. So instead of saying “the little red-headed girl in the blue polka-dotted dress,” tell us something the pictures can’t convey.  I think Mo Willems said it best in his Zena Sutherland Lecture: (link--http://www.hbook.com/2011/10/authors-illustrators/why-books-the-zena-sutherland-lecture/)

“…if I re-read one of my manuscripts and I understand exactly what is happening, then the manuscript has too many words. And if I look at the images without the words and I can fully understand the story, there are too many drawings. It is only right when both words and image need each other to make any sense. They need to be as close to incomprehensible, separately, as possible.”

This may be one of the biggest challenges for writers because we love words, but sometimes the trick is to stop talking.  Leave enough room for the illustrator to add 50%!

      3. Many picture books these days are under 500 words. With so few words, make sure they are the best they can be. Use fresh, rich, lively language with rhythm and repetition.

      4. Encourage interaction. What can you do to invite kids to participate in the storytelling?

      5. Think hard about page turns.  Here’s where the drama lies. What will surprise your readers and/or make them smile?  One of the reasons I love THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK is that that simple act of turning pages is so empowering to kids.  That said, be flexible. Your illustrator, editor, and art director may have even better ideas about how to pace the book.

      6. Think especially hard about your very last page turn. What kind of ending will make your readers laugh, cry, think? What will move them, satisfy them and stay with them without knocking them over the noggin.

      7. Read aloud to kids. They’ll show you things you never saw in a book. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t really get the genius of BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? until I read it to my three-year-old.

            Oh, yes. And be patient!

      Thanks for the interview, Susan. 

      And readers, make sure to go to the New York Times Book Review page to read their review of The Tooth Mouse. I won't share with you the whole thing so you can read it yourself, but check out the last lines, 

      "Mice, it seems, are pretty crafty. One mouse even comes up with a nice way to repurpose the collected teeth. I believe, après tout, these mice could even teach the tooth fairy a thing or two."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I'm Thankful...

I'm thankful...
- for my two kids who seem to get taller and wiser every day
- for my husband who has kept me laughing for 19 years (even if those two kids claim he's not funny)
- for my family who always give me love and support
- for my friends for the same reason
- for the teachers I work with who keep me sane, even when life gets insane
- for my students who teach me as much as I teach them
- for my writing community for our shared love of kidlit
- for my critique partners for letting me know when I've gotten it, and when I haven't
- for SCBWI for connecting me with an amazing community of writers, authors, agents, and editors
- for my agent, who lets me send her my work in progress and promises to get back to me after the holidays with a couple of thoughts, then sends me a page of notes two hours later
- for that same agent and her amazing boss for believing in my work
- for power, for shelter, for health, and for water because the past month has shown that these things shouldn't be taken for granted
- for freedom, for safety, and for so many more things that are too numerous to list.

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Interview with Middle Grade Author Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of middle-grade novel, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin), winner of The Tassy Walden Award: New Voices in Children’s Literature. She is also a former teacher and Scenario Writing coach. Lynda has been Director of the SCBWI-NE Whispering Pines Retreat for six years. She lives with her husband, two kids, impetuous beagle and beagle-loathing cat. Lynda’s next MG novel, ALPHABET SOUP, will be released in spring, 2014.

When did you realize getting published was really going to happen?

Honestly? When I actually got “the call.” I’d always believed but I didn’t really know. I realize this makes no sense! Let’s just say that “the call” was the definition of surreal. Most of the time, an author hears that the book has been passed on to other editors for a “read.”  Then news may come of an acquisitions meeting. Authors spend days or weeks or even months nail-biting their way through the publication ladder process. However, in my case it was acquired by Nancy Paulsen and, since it’s her imprint, there were no meetings. So, I went from having no idea to “we have an offer!”

Was there ever a point when you thought about giving up?

Yes! Writing is hard and I think when something is that hard, people will usually have periods when they consider throwing in the towel. Mine came as I walked out of a Dunkin Donuts. At the time, the book was entitled CLIP. (I had not yet reached the phrase in the book where I discovered the title!) I walked outside, looked up at the sky and mumbled, “What are you doing? This is never going to work. You’re fooling yourself.”

I walked around my van to put some stuff in the back. As I closed the hatch, I glanced at the car next to me and the license plate read, “CLIP.”  Stunned, I figured it was sign that I should finish. So, I did.

One for the Murphys, was a powerful read from beginning to end. How has the book changed from the time you first wrote it? Why?

Oh boy.

The very first draft (written about a thousand years ago) was longer and Rainer and Mandy had much bigger parts. Before querying agents, I cut them considerably and expanded upon the Murphys family story line—that’s where the heart of Carley was. It was a gamble ina  way, as it made the story “quieter”, having removed much of the peer aspect. However, I would find later, that Toni would grow—considerably.

First, my agent helped me clear up the time lines. After I signed with Nancy, she had me cut about 80 pages. Yikes!  Then she asked me to deepen the characters of Mr. Murphy and Toni. I decided to kill two birds with one stone by making her a Yankees fan and bringing her into the home to rattle Mr. Murphy, the die hard Sox fan. Those were fun scenes to write! Although, as a Sox fan, some of it was painful. But, Sox fans are used to “painful”—unfortunately.

Do you feel being a finalist in the Tassy Awards helped to move your book towards publication?

Absolutely! The Tassy Award is a CT award but a respected one for sure. It was absolutely a wonderful item for a cover letter. The submission process mirrors submission to publishers and the judges are agents and editors. I recommend that all pre-published CT children’s writers enter—what have you got to lose? It’s a wonderful contest! There are several winners/finalists that have gone on to publication. I have also met the most amazing people through Shoreline Arts!

Does anything surprise you about being a published author?

Well it surprises me that I’m a published author. Weird right? At first, when I’d remember (such as just waking up in the morning) it was a happy surprise over and over.  
At this point, what surprises me? Well, as a reader, I understand that a book can really speak to the soul. Change you. But it wasn’t until I received letters/e-mails from people affected by Carley and her story that I understood that with even more depth. I guess because there is so much about Carley that I understand and when people who write about their connections—well, I just “get it.” Personally, I have never come across a character like Carley (not to say she doesn’t exist). I’ve heard that people write the book they want to read. Perhaps that‘s what I was doing. But, I am shocked and humbled every day that I have written a story that seems to move people.

What advice would you give someone trying to get published?

Although our work is so, so personal to us, try to separate yourself from it. I understand the quandary—believe me! You tap into your depths to get it “on the page.” But you must also remember that this is a business. You must be able to step out of the soul of the work to look objectively at it.

Consider feedback honestly—give it some time, solitude, and space to decide if critiques are on target. Develop a thick skin and focus on moving forward and up! You’ll need this in all steps of the process from first draft to subsequent drafts to querying to submissions to revisions to contract to revisions again to reviews. It doesn’t get easier—but the rewards? Man, the rewards are awesome! Hearing from a reader that is touched by the book never gets diluted. It’s worth this long and crazy journey—so keep at it! And believe

Thanks so much, Stacy! I’ve enjoyed doing this interview!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Best Side of Human Nature

As I lay in bed yesterday recovering from a terrible chest infection caused by my week without power, I received a phone call from a writer from Florida whom I met at a conference years ago. "I remembered you lived in Stamford," she said, "And I was just calling to make sure you were okay and to see if I could help. Can I send you some blankets?" I thanked her for her concern and explained that I have been lucky. While we did lose power and my backyard looks like this:

And now like this:

We are the fortunate ones. Our home was undamaged and we all stayed safe. Unlike the many others of people who have lost, in some cases, everything. At one of our worst moments this weekend, when we had completely ran out of water and it had started getting cold, a neighbor knocked on our door holding a power cord. "Here, borrow this line," he said. "We have what we need." That one cord of power, used to turn on a light and a small heater, meant so much it's hard to find the words. Especially since we hadn't even asked.

Since last week images of disaster have filled my television set, my facebook page, my inbox, and my backyard. But hidden among those horrific images has been something else. The faces of strangers and friends compelled to help.

Just like the writer from Florida who took the time to pick up the phone and contact me, and the neighbor who brought over a power line, and the many messages from friends I received offering a place to charge up, take a shower, or stay for the night, I have seen people everywhere doing what they can. Whether it is setting up donation areas and traveling to affected areas with supplies, or offering neighbors food or shelter, or singing on television asking for donations to the cause, people are taking the time to help others. Another friend of mine who was fortunate to keep power remarked on Sunday as she visited as many donation centers as she could reach, that she "just had to do something. Even though it still doesn't feel like enough."

This caring side, this better side of human nature is not something we hear about enough but in times of crisis, I feel so fortunate to know that it is within us.

Feel the need to help? There are so many ways you can.
KidLit Cares: Thank you SO much! Plus an update on what’s next…
Author Kate Messner has organized Kidlit Cares, a place writers and teachers can bid for great items and help those affected by the storm.

The American Red Cross has a donation site. You can also find places to give blood and volunteer on their site.

Do you know other places to donate? Have you experienced an act of kindness that you'd like to share? Please comment below.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New Blogger Blah

If you have noticed a lack of posts on my blog since the end of summer, thanks for reading. It would be easy to assume that I haven't had time to blog, but that's not it. I actually have a number of posts written and not posted.  My problem? The new Blogger.

I consider myself tech savvy. I taught myself html language back before templates existed. But the new blogger -- I simply can't figure out. I'll be in the middle of writing and it will add space, change my formatting, change font, create posts that look one way in preview and a completely different way when posted. I have just about had it.

Is it me?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Growing an Idea

Sometimes the books I write go through their own journeys. My baseball novel started out as a story about a camping trip. It was based on a trip I took when I was eight. Here's a picture diagram I made for my students about how the story changed:

The original idea, first written as a boy mc and then changed to a girl, was a quiet story that my parents and sister still enjoy. After all, they lived it. As I nurtured this idea and watched it grow, rewrites and critique changed it into something completely different. The story the seed became is about a character who only exists in the world I created for her. But her world is as interesting, exciting, and full of drama as I could write it. Hers is a story to share. 

Have you ever started out with one idea and ended up with something completely different?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Authors: Great Books

I hope you will join me in congratulating some of my writer friends on publishing their first book. I can't wait to see them in stores!

Susan Hood recently published not one but THREE first picture books, The Tooth Mouse, Spike the Mixed Up Monster, and Just Say Boo!


Mike Jung's middle grade novel, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities, releases on October 1.

Tiffany Schmidt's young adult novel, Send Me a Sign, releases on October 2 

Kimberly Sabatini's young adult novel, Touching the Surface, releases on October 30.
Touching the Surface

Visit these author's websites to find out all of the exciting release date and publication events. Have you read any of them yet? Pre-ordered? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo - Who's With Me?

NaNoWriMo has opened a summer camp and I am an enthusiastic registered participant.

If you are not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is held every year during the month of November. But I'll be honest, even though I participate, November is not the best time for a teacher to focus on being a writer. I find time to write during the school year (I really can't stop myself from writing down the voices in my head), but trying to get to the goal of 50,000 words in a month... that's a lot to ask for.

But August, now this is my writing month. When I learned the NaNoWriMo has opened a summer camp I signed up right away. I just hope they get more camp t-shirts in soon.

50,000 words here I come!

Will you join me at camp? Go to Camp NaNoWriMo for more details. If you do sign up, please come back and leave a comment with your username so I can find you there.

(A shout out and thank you to Hazel Mitchell for posting details about this camp on Facebook.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

When Two Stories Call

In two days I enter the writing portion of my summer: three and a half uninterrupted weeks when both of my kids are at camp.

I can't wait!

My only problem? TWO works in progress can't wait either. Every time I sit down to start planning one, the other's voice gets stronger. If I switch, the same thing happens in reverse.

So what am I to do? Work on both? One in the morning and one in the afternoon? Lock one up until the other one is finished? But how do I decide?

What do you do when more than one story calls to you?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Silencing the WIP What Ifs...

When I first started writing I wrote because I had to, because I loved it, because the voices in my head could not be quiet until I wrote them down. Now I find that I am filled with what ifs...

What if it is not as good as the last book I wrote?
What if the character has the same voice as my last character?
What if I can't figure out where it is going?
What if no one likes it?
What if my critique group likes it, but my agent hates it?
What if my agent likes it, but editors don't?
What if another idea was a better one to follow?

What if...


So now that I got that all down I am going to print it, rip it up into a million pieces, and go back to listening to the voices in my head, writing them down, and realizing that most of my writing happens in revision anyway.

Do you have what ifs? What do you do to silence them?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Using Track Changes Without Losing Your Mind

Track Changes is a mode in Word that allows you to keep track of every insertion, deletion, space removal, and even make notes on your writing. It can be a great way to share your thoughts with others in a critique group or show your agent/editor what changes you have made.

It can also drive you crazy.

If you are like me and you revise the same sentence or paragraph over and over, track changes can make your manuscript look like gobbley goop. Red marks, arrows, boxes, highlights all over the place. Here is a tip for using track changes without losing your mind:

1. First step is to turn on track changes. Do that by going to TOOLS>TRACK CHANGES>HIGHLIGHT - Now every change you make will be tracked.

2. To the far left on the reviewing toolbar that says track changes, there is a pull down menu that says FINAL SHOWING MARKUP. Switch this to FINAL and your highlights have now disappeared from view. They are still there, but you can now work in a clean, clear, space. You can also use this pulldown menu to look back at the original document.

Do you use track changes and have other tricks/suggestions? If not, how do you see what you've changed in your work?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Full of Crap

I recently had an interesting conversation with my third graders about the use of bad words in books. And by bad words, I'm not talking about the traditional curse words. They objected to words like crap, hell, and damn. The problem, they said, was that these are words that they are not allowed to say in front of their parents and they often read books to their parents.

What would they rather the characters say? Here are some of their suggestions:
- fudge muffins
- poop on a stick
- peacock
- fiddlesticks
- Go eat pie.

Darn it seemed to be okay as well.

What do you think of the use of bad words in middle grade books? Do you have any other substitution suggestions?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Must Read This Summer

Every year as I set up my third grade students' summer reading goals, I like to set my own. Here are the books I must read this summer. It's a good thing that I am a fast reader. There's so many great new books to read!

One For the Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt
Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
Son by Lois Lowry (completed June 10)
Pie by Sarah Weeks
Winterling by Sarah Prineas
The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
Spaceheadz Books 2 and 3 by Jon Scieszka
Sisters Grimm Book 9 by Michael Buckley
One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson
Floors by Patrick Carmen
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Interesting that they are all middle grade this year. A shout out to the publishers for working to get middle grade kids some really amazing books!

Here's a fantastic list from The Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors of other middle grade books that will be around to read this summer.

What are your Must Reads This Summer?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Encouraging Summer Reading

It's been called "the summer slide," the downward spiral of kids' reading level because they spend two months avoiding books. As a third grade teacher, I've worked with those kids. The ones that can't sit still long enough to get through a page or two of a book until at least a month of school has passed. Here are some things teachers and parents can do to keep kids interested in reading during the summer.

1. Make sure kids know about great books
We end the year by having our local librarian come to the school to give book talks and launch the library's summer reading program. Then I continue that work by spending the last two weeks sharing book talk videos, trailers, talking books, and having each child give a book talk on a book they loved reading during the year. Hopefully by the time we're done sharing, kids will have a list of a few books they want to read.

2. Set summer reading goals
Our last unit is a unit of reflection and goal setting. Students take a look at the skills and strategies they learned throughout the year and rate themselves on the ones they use all the time, some of the time, and almost never. Then they set a goal for practicing an unused or rarely used skill/strategy and one for determining the books they will read. Some kids say that they'll read a certain number of books. Others list very specific titles, many of which have been discovered during all the book talking. Once my students have finished setting their goals, I laminate their sheet and send it home along with questions parents can ask their kids when they read.

3. Host summer reading competitions
Along with encouraging my students to take part in the local library's program, this year I started a summer reading and writing blog for my students to share their summer book reviews (and stories). In the fall blog participants will be thanked with an after school ice cream party.

1. Sign your kids up for your library's summer reading program and make it a priority to get there.

2. Allow your kids book choice.
Summer reading is not about challenge, it's about interest. Kids don't learn to be better readers by reading Lord of the Rings going into third grade. They get to be better readers by reading, discussing, and thinking about books they can understand and enjoy.

3. Keep track of summer reading.
Kids can get very busy during the summer. Starting some kind of sticker chart or calendar to show when your child is reading can remind them (and you) to do at least 20 minutes of reading four days a week.

What do you do to get your kids reading over the summer? Do you have any summer reading sites, book talks, or trailers to recommend? Leave a comment below and tell me about it. Happy summer reading!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Skyping Into the Classroom

I LOVE author skype visits. So do my students. If you want to reach the elementary school market, I doubt there is a better way to reach a whole class of kids all at one time.

(Okay, sure, being able to meet the author in person is better. But author visits cost the author money and cost the school money. Skype visits are usually free and the only thing it requires is an internet connection.)

This year my class had five skype visits.

We made Origami Yoda with Tom Angleberger.
Thought about what we would wish for in a breadbox with Laurel Snyder.
Learned how to make large dragons out of duct tape with Jodi Moore.
Figured out ways to save the world with Marty McGuire and Kate Messner.
Visited the Monstore with Tara Lazar. You can head over to Tara Lazar's blog so that you can see the  adorable and amazing monsters that my class created.

What's in it for the author? Besides getting to meet a bunch of cool kids who may be fans already, you also get to reach kids that may not have heard of you. More than half my class (of 22 kids) have bought the books of the authors that have come in through my Smartboard. Even more than that have found the book to read at our school library or the local library. When they go to bookstores and bookfairs they ask for books by those authors. And even better than that, they have started following those author's careers. They tell me when new books come out or if there are books by those authors that weren't mentioned in the Skype visit.

How do you give a successful Skype visit? Here are some things I found that kids love (in no particular order):

1. Be funny. It's really not a hard thing to do when your face is about a yard tall on our Smartboard screen.
2. Tell them about how you became a writer.
3. If you are Skyping from home, show them your pets or other special objects.
4. Read something from your book.
5. Don't just talk about yourself. Ask about them.
6. Don't be surprised when they ask questions like "How much do you get paid," or "How old are you?" Have your answer ready, even if it is laugh and avoid the question.
7. Smile.

That last one may sound silly, but kids can tell if you love what you are doing and if you love listening to them. If you love them, they'll love you. I promise.

If you are a teacher reading this and you want to find authors who Skype, visit Kate Messner's Authors Who Skype With Classes and Bookclubs List.

Have you have an author Skype in? Have you been the Skyping author? Leave a comment below.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Great Week of #RAOKblitz

I had such a great time participating in the Random Acts of Kindness Blitz. I hope you enjoyed Joan Riordan's poems. Thank you for reading and continue commenting. Don't forget to visit The Bookshelf Muse blog to see more random acts by other writers.

Here are a few more poems by Joan Riordan

Babysitting Blues
By Joan Riordan

   My                           I
 energy                  wish this
is sapped.             kid napped.

Changing Seth’s Diaper
By Joan Riordan

Changing Seth’s diaper
Set the chandelier rattling.
It was like dinosaurs battling.
There was defensive bobbing,
Dodging, growling, sobbing.
The tabs got mangled.
The diaper dangled.

In the end,
I was breathless
And the diaper was-

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Brother's Plea by Joan Riordan #RAOKblitz

You want to share my bed?  Okay.
But first, I have some things to say:

Don’t toss and turn and flop and flip.
Don’t jab me with your bony hip.

Wear warm, thick socks, I’ll tell you why.
Touch me with freezing feet – you die.

Don’t grunt or grind, sniffle or toot.
If you do, you’ll get the boot.

If you wake, scared from a dream,
Chew on the sheet, stifle the scream.

Want to hog the blanket?  Don’t try it.
If you have to breathe, breathe quiet.

And if, by chance, you wet the bed,
You are totally, completely dead.

 You’re going back to your bed?
If you insist, go right ahead.

- Joan Riordan

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Poem by Joan Riordan #RAOKblitz

Fast frogs
Jumping over old logs

Thorn bush
Sliding on a jeaned tush

Gray gook
Damming up a slow brook

Long Hikes

Everything a boy likes!

- Joan Riordan

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Contrary Cat by Joan Riordan #RAOKblitz

The Contrary Cat
By Joan Riordan

Won’t capture mice
Thinks that they’re nice

Won’t climb a tree
Watches T.V.

No laps- instead
Perches on heads

Likes to get wet
And visit the vet

Allergic to yarn
Stays away from the barn

Chews on big sticks
Learns funny new tricks

Greets me each day
When I’ve been away

At times, I suppose
He’s a dog in cat clothes

The only thing
That’s as it should be?

I like him

                 and he likes me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

By the Birch Trees by Joan Riordan, my #RAOKblitz Honoree

By the birch trees

           The tulips are a
   bouncy boy band with hair dyed
   a bright, bright yellow.

Past the pond

            Cherry trees throw
            pink petal confetti-
            Flower girls in a wedding.

Along the wall

            Lilacs burble bubbles
            of grape soda.
            A flimsy foam fills the field.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Turvy Topsy by Joan Riordan, my #RAOKblitz Honoree

Please take a look at yesterday's post to learn more about the celebration of writers going on this week to commemorate the release of The Emotion Thesaurus. I am so excited that Joan Riordan has decided to accept my Random Act of Kindness Blitz. Joan is a kindergarten teacher, a critique group leader, and a picture book writer. She is also a poet.

This week I am going to celebrate Joan by posting her poetry on my blog, starting with the poem below. My daughter and I loved this one because we spend every night in a fun debate about outside in or inside out.

             Turvy Topsy
         By Joan Riordan

Why say inside out?     
               Why not outside in?
Instead of upside down
               Give downside up a spin.
If we say things all turvy topsy
                And get the rules suspended
Will life change in an instant?
                Will the world end up upended?

Please make sure to comment and don't forget to stop back tomorrow for more.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness BLITZ!

"A smile. An encouraging word. A thoughtful gesture. Each day people interact with us, help, and make our day a bit brighter and full. This is especially true in the Writing Community.

Take a second to think about writers you know, like the critique partner who works with you to improve your manuscript. The writing friend who listens, supports and keeps you strong when times are tough. The author who generously offers council, advice and inspiration when asked.

So many people take the time to make us feel special, don't they? They comment on our blogs, re-tweet our posts, chat with us on forums and wish us Happy Birthday on Facebook."

Kindness ROCKS!

To commemorate the release of their book The Emotion Thesaurus, Becca and Angela at The Bookshelf Muse are hosting a TITANIC Random Act Of Kindness BLITZ.  And because I think KINDNESS is contagious, I'm participating too!

I am blitzing Joan Riordan. Joan has been the Stamford critique group leader for three years. She opens her home to our group once a month and critiques our work, even when she doesn't have anything to submit. Lately Joan has been submitting poetry to the group. For my RAOK, I will be featuring Joan's poetry on my blog all week!! I hope you will stop back this weeks and enjoy the work of this amazing poet, writer, and critique group leader (she's also a kindergarten teacher btw). Please make sure to comment so that she will know how awesome she is.

Do you know someone special that you'd like to randomly acknowledge?

Don't be shy--come join us and celebrate! Send them an email, give them a shout out, or show your appreciation in another way. Kindness makes the world go round. :)

Becca and Angela have special RAOK gifts waiting on their blog, so hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to pick it up.

Have you ever participated in or been the recipient of a Random Act Of Kindness?  Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"The Right to Play"

Have you seen this story coming out of Phoenix? Our Lady of Sorrows forfeited the high school championship game because of the 15 year old girl who played for the other team. All I can do is shake my head on this one. At least most of the comments have been supportive of the girl, unlike other articles I've shared.

SF Gate
Fox News
Washington Post

This story came to my attention via Girls Play Baseball, the best resource I've found online for information about girls who play ball.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How do you write?

It is easy to think that everyone must have the same process or at least a similar process for writing. After talking to many writers, I have found that that's not necessarily true. People can experience their stories in many different ways. Here are some examples:

The Visual Writer - The visual writer sees their story in images, one moment at a time. Some can even study that image and turn it around in their head. 

The Movie Maker - The movie maker writer experiences their story in their mind the same way that other people experience life or watching movies. They can actually walk through it, seeing, hearing, touching, and smelling everything around them.

The Planer - The Planer plots an outline and fills it in. They don't see or hear their story, they craft it out of words on the page.

The Auditory Writer - The auditory writer listens to their story. They hear voices in their head talking to each other. Some auditory writers can talk back to the voices and even argue. Others can only listen. 

The Illustrator/Photographer - The illustrator draws out their story first. If they can't draw, they might also take pictures or collect photographs to help their story emerge. 

When I write I am an auditory writer and a photographer. I can only listen to my characters, not interact. They speak to each other and I capture their words. Even when I write a blog post like this one, I hear my own voice in my head molding the words together. To add visual images to my writing, I am the photographer. I find images in the real world or online to match the voices in my head or the settings where the events are taking place. 

How do you write? Do you use one of these methods or a combination. Is there anything you do that I haven't mentioned?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

May Flowers with New Books

The month of May brings the promise of consistently warm weather and lots and lots of newly published books. Here are the ones I'm excited about:

May 1
Insurgent (#2 in Divergent trilogy) by Veronica Roth
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
The Serpent's Shadow (Kane Chronicles, Book Three) by Rick Riodan

May 8
City of Lost Souls (Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare

May 10
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

May 22
The Enchantress (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) by Michael Scott

Have I missed any? 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Because I knew you - NESCBWI 12

I spent most of this weekend in Springfield, MA, at the NESCBWI conference. On the way home, I listened to the soundtrack of Wicked in the car and heard the following words: 

I've heard it saidThat people come into our lives for a reasonBringing something we must learnAnd we are ledTo those who help us most to growIf we let themAnd we help them in return
After listening to it a few times (it's one of my favorite songs on the album) I realized that the words captured my feelings about attending this conference. 

I listened to a keynotes about finding meaning in the mess by Sara Zarr and was reminded that even though I am waiting for the milestone of being published, I can be proud of how far along on the journey I've come. 

Kate Messner gave her TED talk about having the courage to do the things worth doing, and I felt empowered to keep trying and not worry about things being too hard or too overwhelming. 

I spoke to authors about their journey and was reminded that becoming published took time for everyone.

But it wasn't just the keynote speakers, presenters, and authors who came into my life this weekend, it was also the conference attendees. At each meal, in the hallways, at events, and even in the elevator, I met writers. And after talking to them I was reminded that the waiting is not the hardest part. The hardest part is continuing forward after rejection. And everyone I met was doing that, no matter where they were on their journey.

Thank you to conference coordinators Kathryn Hulick Gargolinski and Joyce Johnson and to all the people I got to know this weekend. I probably don't know all of the ways I was touched by this conference. As the song ends:

 Who can say if I've been changed for the better?I do believe I have been changed for the better.And because I knew youBecause I knew youBecause I knew youI have been changed for good

I end my weekend changed for good. I hope many of you were helped by me in return. I can't wait to do it all again next year.

Peer Critiques

Conference Welcome

View from a lost balloon.
Independent Editor Panel 
Faculty Dinner
Wine and CHEESE!
Kate Messner talking TED

See you next year!