Archive | November, 2013

The Blessing Cup

24 Nov

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Those of you who know me well, know how much I admire Patricia Polacco’s storytelling style.  It’s not your typical picture book prose, with few sentences and basic vocabulary.  (This one comes in at over 2000 words!) It’s rich.  It’s deep.  It’s emotional.   And I love it!

Her newest picture book, The Blessing Cup is a companion book (actually a prequel) to The Keeping Quilt.  It is a beautifully written story of her family’s exodus from Russia with nothing except what they could carry in a small cart pulled only by her parents.  In addition to papa’s sewing machine, their menorah, and his holy books, their most prized possession was the china tea set given to her great-great-grandmother on her wedding day.  The tea set is ultimately given to a kind doctor as a gift for nursing papa back to health after he collapsed in the street.  The doctor took the whole family into his home while papa recovered and sold a Persian rug to buy them passage on a ship to America, after he was found housing Jews.  Mama only kept one cup which she shared with her family every night.  Eventually this one cup made its way to each generation of daughters.  Each daughter learned the story of the exodus and the kind doctor.  Each daughter was given the blessing cup as a wedding gift.  Each daughter shared in its blessings.

To quote from the front flap, “The Blessing Cup is a story of family, tradition, and , most of all, love.”  It’s a wonderful story and I hope you take a few minutes to share it with your family.  And for those of you who are preparing to celebrate Hanukkah this week, peace and blessings to you and your families!

I just found this interview with Patricia Polacco on NPR and would like to share it with you.  Please take a listen, she gives such insight to herself and her work.

http://www.npr.org/2013/08/24/214570497/the-blessing-cup-polacco-and-her-family-of-storytellers

Friends

19 Nov

Eric Carle has long been a favorite in our house.  My children cut their teeth on his books.  My 3 year old granddaughter can ‘read’ Brown Bear, Bear all by herself.  Of course, she will only do this while sitting in your lap (smart girl).  My 15 month old granddaughter was dressed in a Very Hungry Caterpillar knit baby outfit for her first Halloween. And today, I picked up a copy of his newest book Friends for my son who just got engaged.

51r4PVqDyOL._AA160_The artwork is amazing! Naturally.  It’s a beautiful story of a young boy who’s best friend moves away.  He is so lonely that he decided to go find her.  He swims through oceans, climbs mountains, travels through forests, and finally goes through a flower garden where he gathers a bouquet and finds his friend.  “I knew you would come,” she said.  And they got married.

On the last pages, Eric Carle shows the reader a photograph taken of him with a little neighbor girl when he was only three years old.  That photo is the basis for the cover art.  When he was six years old, he and his parents moved back to Germany and he never saw his friend again.  But years later, he married his wife Barbara who was one of the primary inspirations for this book.

Awww, I’m a sucker for a good love story.  I guess that’s why I immediately thought to buy this book, not for one of my granddaughters who love picture books, but for my son who loves his best friend.

Gotta go now, my eyes are a little wet.   Oh yeah, before I forget, here’s a nice little youtube of Eric Carle talking about his new book.  You watch while I get a tissue.  See you around the blog!

                                                                    

Walk a Mile in His Shoes

17 Nov

In looking for writing inspiration, I was browsing my pinterest boards and found this gem I had forgotten about.  It is definitely worth sharing. Barbara Gruener writes a blog called Corner on Character.  She has loads of great teaching ideas to help kids learn character education values.  This one is called Empathy in a Shoe.  Basically, you have several different types of shoes in shoe boxes for children to look at.  Inside each one, she has written a situation that the person wearing those shoes might be in.  Then she asks students to answer the questions posed as that person.

(Note to self:  Change the wording in the box from ‘the person that’ to ‘the person who’.)

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http://wwww.corneroncharacter.blogspot.com

 I can still get to the blog posting from my pinterest account, but when I added it here, it would not open.  Hopefully you have better luck with it than I did.  

It’s a great technique for teaching empathy, but as I was browsing I realized it’s also a great technique for writing as well.  Once you know a little bit about your character, take a few minutes to walk in his shoes.  There’s so much more to learn.  I decided to try it out with one of my new story ideas and I was amazed at how much better my character sounded on the page!

Have fun working with this technique.  Leave me a comment, I’d love to know what you’re up to!

My Corner

15 Nov

A. A. Milne had a House at Pooh Corner.  Loggins and Messina sang about it.

I have my corner.  I think I prefer Pooh’s Corner.  I know I prefer Pooh’s Corner.  But for now, I’m satisfied with my own little corner of the world.  My own corner is for reading, writing, and thinking.  (And like Pooh, there are many times I think I’m a bear of very little brain.)

Leaving 30 years of teaching and accumulated paraphernalia behind was no small task, ask my husband!  I left much of what I had amassed in the hands of other young teachers, some just starting out.  My fiction and non-fiction collections of children’s books (minus some of my absolute favorites and duplicates which I kept for myself) went to two very special teachers and a host of young people they will work with over the next several years.  Assorted rugs, lamps, shelves, chairs, and bookcases were donated as needed to different classrooms.  Boxes and baskets of markers, crayons, highlighters, tape, staples, paint, post-it notes, memo books, spiral notebooks, bulletin board trim, paper bags, paper plates, baggies, stickers, stamp pads, Mailbox magazines, cleaning wipes, and glitter disappeared faster than free cookies!

But, that’s not to say that I cleansed myself of everything.  In the trunk of my car I carried mementos, reference books, stuffed animals/book characters, science and math tools I thought I could use with my grandchildren, and some things I knew I couldn’t live without!  Over the summer, I set up some bookshelves in my husband’s basement office and organized my treasures.  And I use the term ‘organized’ loosely!

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This month in my PiBoIdMo group, we’ve been talking a lot about our writing spaces.  Are you organized/disorganized, quiet/noisy, pen&paper/computer?  Below is a photo of my current work space.  It’s not a fancy office, but I like it.  It’s always quiet.  I keep the TV off and I don’t listen to music, I find noise too distracting for me.  I like to read books, newsletters, online articles… and I like to research there also.  I usually have a drink and my reading glasses within reach.  I use my laptop for everything.  If I lost or broke that I would be lost!  I keep all my files, story ideas, drafts, and finished pieces on my desktop.  The chair is large and comfy and I can put my feet up on the ottoman while I work!

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This is where I work, where I find that I love what I do!

So, I’ll leave you, dear reader, with a wish that you find your own special corner of the world where you can be yourself and find happiness.  As for me, like Loggins and Messina wrote, “I’ve got to get back to the house at Pooh Corner by one.”

First Snow

12 Nov

We had our first snow dusting today.  It didn’t warrant school closures or delays, but I understand there were still traffic tie-ups this morning.  It was only enough to frost the leaves on the ground and layer the rooftops.  The roses that were still hanging on received a fluffy coating too.  By mid-morning the sun had stolen away most of what had fallen during the night.  Only the areas still shaded retained their wintery look.

Regardless of the amount, the dogs were ecstatic!  They bounded, rolled, and shook in the magical stuff.  They were so exhausted from the constant in and out to enjoy the newfound wonder and their obsession with collecting firewood, they immediately dropped off in a highly irregular noonday nap.

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This quiet afforded me the time I needed to work on a short story today.   It’s something different for me, but I’m going to give it a whirl. It’s actually something I started this summer as a children’s story, but I can’t seem to fit it into the confines of a picture book.  For one thing, my protagonist is older than the picture book audience.  So I’m revising it into … I don’t know yet, but something else!

My second project of the day… baking.  There’s something about snow that brings out the baker in me.  Looking around the house, I realized I need to shop for my winter baking needs.  Luckily, I had a few browning bananas and the essentials for bread.  Substituting orange zest for lemon zest didn’t seem to be too outrageous, so with my firewood collectors underfoot I whipped up a warm nutty loaf.

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So, please enjoy a piece with me and tell me your First Snow story!

Picture Book Idea Month – Day 10

10 Nov

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Inspiration comes to us in many different forms and at different times.  I didn’t exactly get a story idea today, but I did get inspiration.  It came in the form of a bible reading at church this morning.  It probably actually started a little earlier than that, because I was one of the readers of the scripture, and I was practicing my passage last night and this morning.  I was reading from the second letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians, “God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”  With this simple prayer, I am inspired and I wish the same for all my fellow writers of every faith.  For I truly believe that those who write for children do so with good deeds and words.  To know children is to know love.  And therefore, to speak to children must be to speak with love.  Peace!

Cinders, the Chicken Cinderella

6 Nov

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Jan Brett’s new picture book was just released yesterday.  I guess that means another trip to the bookstore!  I know, I know, I can order it online and have it delivered right to my door…. but what’s the fun in that?  $70 spent yesterday (you’re welcomed B&N) and now another trip back tomorrow.  Honestly, if I don’t stop all this book buying, I may have to go back to work!

Seriously, you know how beautiful all of her artwork is.  It just captures the reader (and listener) and immerses them into the world of the story.  I always hate when I get to the end of one of her stories, because I have to leave her world and come back to reality.

Picture Book Idea Month – Day 5

5 Nov

Writing can be like navigating a maze.  There are so many choices and so many roadblocks.  It’s easy to fall into the notion that you’ve got a wonderful idea and so therefore the story will just write itself.  Wrong!  Along the path from beginning to end, you have to make good choices.  Characters, Setting, Problems, Solution…

November is PiBoIdMo.  And as writers and authors of picture books, we are being challenged to come up with 30 ideas in 30 days.  This, in and of itself is a lofty goal and to be taken lightly.  But I’d like to talk about what happens afterwards.    Eventually we will work on developing these ideas into one or more manuscripts.  This might be an easier task if we ask ourselves a few questions along the way, maybe start adding more notes to our idea pages.  I don’t mean write the whole first draft, but maybe just let the editor take a peek at the idea.  I think our PiBoIdMo work will be stronger for it.

Character

Character

Should my main character be male or female?  Is my main character a person or an animal?  What makes him/her lovable, or at least likable?  How old is my character?  What unique attributes does my main character have?  And how will these help him/her?

Setting

How will the setting influence the character’s journey?  Is the setting helpful or a hinderance?  Can or should the main character alter the setting?  Where will the character be at the end of the story?  Is the setting an actual place or a state of being?

Problem

Problem

How many problems will the character encounter along the journey?  Will he/she be able to overcome the obstacles?  Can the main character solve his/her own problem, or will they need help?  How is the character changed by facing these problems?

Solution

Solution

Solutions too, can be particularly difficult.  A solution can’t be so easy as to make the reader wonder why this character was so stumped to begin with.  And it can’t very well come out of left field.  So how will I lead the reader toward the solution from the beginning?  Or should it be a surprise ending?

Isn’t it amazing!  (pun intended)  And writing for children makes every one of these choices all the more challenging.  We must keep the story moving forward and wrap everything up in less than a thousand words!

 

For more information go to taralazar.com

For more information go to
taralazar.com

Picture Book Idea Month – Day 1

1 Nov

Let’s see….

Coming up with ideas is easy no sweat a piece of cake…. oh never mind, I’ll just change my profile picture to a giraffe instead!  Hey wait, giraffe… a green giraffe who doesn’t have any friends, oh was that already taken?  OK, I can do this… just let it flow freely… water flows freely.  Coffee!  Maybe I’ll just stop for a minute and make myself a cup.  Anybody else? I’m already up, let me get you something.  Now, focus… I feel a little like Pooh tapping his head, “Think, Think, Think”  Hmmm…nothing.  Check your facebook page,  check your PiBoIdMo post… great idea!  Tammi Sauer suggested coming up with just the titles today and work on the story behind the titles later.  Now I’ve got a goal.  Yeah, not even one.  Let’s try again.  Did you know that I just exhaled exactly nine times in one minute?  Is that too much?  Is that not enough?  Akkkk… I don’t know the appropriate number of times a normal person exhales in one minute!   Quick, someone google that for me, I might be dying!

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Now, google, that’s a funny word.  I bet if I spend the rest of the day on google I could come up with some TOTALLY AWESOME picture book ideas and titles today….

Squirrel!

Picture Book Idea Month

Picture Book Idea Month

For more information about Picture Book Idea Month visit http://taralazar.com/2013

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