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Celebrating 7 Years

8 Jul

Just renewed my SCBWI membership for another year! Next month marks the beginning of my 7th year and I feel confident.

In the last seven years I have grown so much as a writer and made so many good friends along the way. I’d like to thank the members of the Cincinnati chapter (Ohio: Central and South) for welcoming me to their group. When I joined Kerrie Logan Hollihan was our leader. She later passed the torch to Andrea Pelleschi. Both are gifted writers and published authors yet they, with Brandon Marie Miller, Mary Kay Carson, Kathy Cannon Wiechman, and Nancy Parish willingly offered advice, instruction, and friendship.

Through the monthly meetings I have met many more talented writers and illustrators, and have developed critique groups and friendships with several of them. I’d like to thank Jennifer Sommer, Keila Dawson, Emmie Warner, Kate Harold, Connie B. Dow, and Carol Martin for always being willing to read my work, make suggestions, and provide support. They lift me up and give me confidence to keep going.

And most of all, I’d like to thank Tina P. Schwartz at The Purcell Agency for believing in me and working hard on my behalf. I have worked as Tina’s assistant for a time before we signed a one year contract to sell one of my stories. After that year, Tina and I agreed not to renew our contract while I search for an agent who works more exclusively with picture book writers, but we remain friends and maintain a working relationship. I still read for her periodically and we touch base on our personal and professional lives. It was because of my association with Tina that I got my first ‘paying gig’ talking about agents, how and why they choose or reject a project. I have presented at both the Columbus and Cincinnati chapters.

In the words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney… I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends. So for all those mentioned and those many others I have met at conferences and through social media, I thank you! Have a piece of cake!

A Writing Community that Works for YOU

19 Jan

Do you need to belong to a writing community? Yes, you do! There are various groups you can join, some free/some paid. Each has its own focus, everything from support and information to education and advocacy.

This week I had the opportunity to learn about an organization that I want to share with you. The Authors Guild is an advocacy group which works FOR you. “The Authors Guild exists to support working writers and their ability to earn a living from authorship. We work to protect free speech, honor copyright, and ensure fair compensation practices in the changing publishing landscape.” This very important mission includes offering legal advice, resources, discounts, and providing seminars and workshops to members.

Free Swag included a new journal!

Yesterday, the AG offered a free workshop in Cincinnati (Thanks to our library for hosting.) and I attended with one of my critique partners. AG partnered with Penguin Random House to present a full day of seminars, lunch, and fellowship. Topics included Path to Publication, An Editor’s Perspective, Your Legal Rights: Making contracts Work for You, Everything You Need to Know About Agents and Query Letters, and more. I went home with so much information, I’ll be processing for weeks!

Whether you write kid lit, short stories, poems, novels, magazine exposés, newspaper articles, how-to manuals, scientific research, editorials, blog posts, screenplays, movie scripts, tour guides, cookbooks, or anything more than your grocery list, I highly recommend that you join the Authors Guild too.

The Creative Life

22 Jun

When thinking about creativity and creative people we often think of artists, musicians, or inventors. But really, when you get right down to it, we are ALL creative beings.  Merriam-Webster defines creative as ‘the ability or power to create’, and create as ‘to bring into existence something new’ and ‘to produce through imaginative skill’. Everyone from the boardroom to the maintenance room has the ability to create something new through imaginative skill at work and at home.

Children do this instinctively. Given an empty box, a child will create a whole new world, a new mode of transportation, a home for imaginary animals, or quiet place for contemplation.

French sculpture, painter, and pioneer of modern art, Henri Matisse defined creative people with these words:

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As writers, illustrators, publishers, and more we are well aware of the power of imagination and the creative souls of individuals. We make it our business to provide, enhance, nurture, model, and shape new ideas.

Today, I’m taking Matisse’s words to heart. Working on a new story idea, I need to be all these things (and more).

What do you need to reach your goals?

 

 

Back to School

26 Jul

It’s almost back to school time here in my little piece of the midwest. It’s a time simultaneously dreaded and celebrated by teachers, students, and parents. The end of July marks the start of back-to-school sales, the last days of summer vacation, and the final hours of personal freedom. Although I’ve been retired for three short years now, my teacher’s soul still aches for the beginning of a new school year.

For me, July is a time when I really start to value the gift that is summer vacation. The minutes of extra sleep in the morning, the carefree hours of dilly-dally, the days and weeks of unfettered sojourn. One of the most precious gifts of summer vacation has always been the endless supply of library books and hours upon hours of relaxed reading enjoyment. I never understood people who didn’t love reading. As an educator, I studied this alien phenomena. Why did so many children hate reading? Why did they avoid reading? Why did they find it so laborious?  Kids are not born hating reading. As a matter of fact, I’ve never met a kid who didn’t enjoy sitting on someone’s lap and listening to a story. Even as they got older, toddlers and preschoolers still enjoy hearing a story from the criss-cross position on the floor, so it’s not just the human touch of the lap which makes reading enjoyable. Actually most kids don’t start disliking reading until school-age. Which begs the reason so many kids dread the beginning of another school year. Do they equate school with achievement in reading, writing, math, or failure, embarrassment, and boredom? I made reading success my mission. What could I do to foster a love of reading in every child I met? How could I make reading an enjoyable activity? How could I turn reluctant readers into successful readers?

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So, contrary to popular beliefs, I and countless other teachers across America spent July and August preparing for the next school year. Before the first #2 pencils hit the sales rack, I attended classes and workshops dedicated to helping me be a better teacher. Prior to the last days of vacation, I spent days researching new titles and finding just the right books for my students. In lieu of the last hours of personal freedom, I scoured thrift shops and discount stores for things to make our reading time special. Because for me, nothing was more important than helping students find their own joy and self-worth in a book. And although I won’t be joining you in another adventure this school year, I will always value and respect the passion and dedication of teachers everywhere.

Tradition holds the back to school time as a season in and of itself. The end of July marks the beginning of a clean slate for a new year, the hopefulness of new or renewed friendships, the promise of fresh ideas and discoveries, and the anticipation of a precious gift. Wishing all my young and young-at-heart friends the gift of a wonderful school year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreams

5 Feb

How many of you dream about work? Everyone, right? When I was teaching I practically couldn’t sleep the night before the first day of school, a big observation, or parent conferences. And when I finally did fall off to sleep it wasn’t the peaceful, refreshing, life-affirming sleep of the innocent. No, it was terrible nightmares of showing up naked, or being the only one in the room and wondering where everyone else was, or seeing everyone else was completely Pinterest prepared with color-coded folders and eye-catching charts while I was knee deep in plain cardboard boxes.

Well this is my third year of retirement and I can honestly say those dreams are finally starting to fade, although I still have the occasional dream of a coworker showing up in some odd non-work related situation or the one where I wake up looking for something. But what hasn’t changed is the fact that I do dream about work.

Lately, I’ve been dreaming about writing related things, sort of. I’ve actually dreamed that I was typing my dream onto a computer screen. I’ve met authors in line at the coffee shop, pruning roses, and cleaning the oven. I’ve gotten lost driving to a critique meeting in the middle of the sea. I’ve even returned my library books and shopped for journals while flying. Oh, yeah, and last night I woke up looking for my chalk… I guess some things never change.

So what is it about weird dreams? Are they like Scrooge said, a “bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato”? Or as Freud said, “most profound when they seem the most crazy”?

We may never know, but for now, I’m glad that my dreams are more reflective (so to speak) of my new work and what I want to do when I wake up.

Dream

 

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer

14 Jan

22747807Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer

written by Carole Boston Weatherford

illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Candlewick Press, 2015

Winner 2016 Caldecott Honor &  Sibert Honor awards

 

Carole Weatherford and Ekua Holmes collaborate to create a masterful biography of the woman known as the Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Brilliant artwork deepens the meaning of the lyrical prose of the story. The text is infused with specific quotes and gives the reader the flavor that they whole thing is autobiographical when in fact it is a biography told in first person. Each spread depicts a different event or time in the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, 20th child to Mississippi sharecroppers who grows up to become a civil rights leader and one of the three women in a group to be the first African American women to sit in Congress.

One of my favorite quotes is,

I feel sorry for anybody that could let hate wrap them up.

Ain’t no such thing as I can hate anybody

and hope to see God’s face.

Out of one blood God made all nations.

It’s no wonder this book won both a Caldecott Honor and a Sibert Honor this year.

Five Minute Mentor

9 Dec

28530025-Vector-illustration-of-five-minutes-stopwatch-on-white-background-Stock-VectorFive minutes. Not a lot of time. But when someone shares their expertise with you, five minutes is invaluable. And when you’re lucky enough to get more than five minutes of someone’s time… well, that’s just phenomenal.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Will Hillenbrand, author and illustrator, for taking time to talk with me personally about writing, children, books, education, schools, publishing, and so much more! I watched while he set up for a presentation at The Blue Manatee, a local bookstore and he invited me to sit on the step with him and chat. What an wonderful gift of his time and know-how. He is the consummate gentleman and educator. I learned so much from him before he even began his formal presentation.

Just a reminder for myself, and anyone out there who has even five minutes of time to spend with someone who is just starting out… spend it thoughtfully and completely with that person… it will mean the world to them. Thank you, Will Hillenbrand!

Quote of the Day

Things are not untrue just because they never happened. -Will Hillenbrand

Photo Gallery

This beautiful framed artwork is the cover from Bear and Bunny written by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. You can read more about the story HERE.IMG_2249

Will signed his new book for my granddaughter and posed for a picture with me. IMG_2250

Sometimes a writer just needs to act like a kid! IMG_2253

Read more about Snowman’s Story by Will Hillenbrand HERE.

On Collaboration

22 Apr

Unknown

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

-James Keller

On Hard Work

8 Apr

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No matter what barriers stand in your way, never lose sight of your goal.

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On Guidance

5 Apr

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On Good Endings

26 Mar

UnknownA good ending must be as satisfying as dessert.

-me

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On Post-Critique Revision

21 Mar

When revising, it’s always a good idea to put a manuscript away for a while and come back to it later.

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It’s easier to determine the cause of the fire after the flames have been extinguished.

Published Books

13 Mar

This is a category I’m saving for the day when I have work published!  It may take years… but I’m persistent and confident!  And really, who can argue with Plato?

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Read Across America Day

3 Mar

In honor of the good doctor, Theodor Seuss Geisell, the National Education Association celebrates Read Across America on his birthday, March 2nd.  Because that was on Sunday, it was moved to today, March 3rd. In our neck of the woods, there are a lot of schools closed, so I expect this day may be celebrated tomorrow in many classrooms.  Regardless of where and when it is celebrated, the focus is the same… Read!  The NEA offers teachers and parents ideas and materials to celebrate and encourage reading.  There are traditional events, Wear a Hat to School, Green Eggs and Ham luncheons, One Fish Two Fish swimming Blue Jello, etc.

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I’d like to take a minute and quote some of his lesser celebrated books, and some of my favorites. Especially for an older child, these books are intended to offer food for thought as well as entertainment.

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Five Lessons I’ve Learned from Dr. Seuss    (listed alphabetically by title)

‘Every year the same four things!  I’m mighty tired of those old things!  I want something NEW to come down!’  and   ‘Even kings can’t rule the sky.’  Bartholomew and the Oobleck

 ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small.’  Horton Hears a Who!

‘Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  What if Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.’  How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.’   The Lorax

‘I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.’  Yertle, the Turtle

I spent 30 years in education, encouraging reading in classrooms. Today I’m using Read Across America to encourage reading among adults.  I have piles of novels stacked on shelves and on the floor that I’ve been meaning to organize, someday.  Today is the day!  Today, I organize and sort.  Today these books are going into two piles Keep and Give-away.  It’s time to spread my love for reading with adults who haven’t developed that love, or who would love to have their own books in their own homes.  Maybe this small act will encourage an adult to pick up a book and read.

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Passion

3 Jan

Passion

Writing is my Passion.
I will embrace it,
nurture it,
and grow with it.

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