April 29, 2011

Plant Aside

There can be little doubt.

As of today, April 29th, it appears that Spring has at last found its way to Blueberry Hill.

In spite of temperatures still dropping below 40 at night, we've been assured the danger of frost is past.  The grass is growing.  The robins are busy.  The lower tier of the forest is misted with green, and the trees are budding.

Ah, Spring!

It brings out my inner gardener.  I love flowers, and long to have a yard that looks like the Home Depot commercials.



But herein lies the problem, a Jekyll and Hyde situation if there ever was one.

By day, I'm a mild-mannered mom and writer, but when it comes to plants of any kind - flowers, vegetables, I'm pretty sure even weeds - I become - duhn-duhn duhn-duhn - The Black Thumb of Poughquag!

Kind of strikes terror into your heart, doesn't it?

I can take any perfectly healthy flourishing plant and kill it within a week.

Really.


The only exception to date is impatiens.  The front of our house faces directly north and gets virtually no sun.  In the years when we haven't had a puppy to dig them up and I've had the time to put them in (I think that equals maybe 3 years out of 18) I have planted impatiens along the front and they have blossomed heartily in spite of me.  Clearly, they have more lives than a cat, or have discovered the secret antidote to The Black Thumb of Poughquag!

Despite my appalling track record, I'm eternally delusional optimistic.  Each year, when spring rolls around, I think, this will be the year my yard rivals the Botanical Gardens!

So I have this sweet little lavender (I think) plant that was given to me by a school I visited.  It has lived in my house for a month plus because my husband has been taking care of it.  In a few days, it's going out to the garden...

Say a prayer :)

And feel free to share any helpful gardening tips... :)

P.S.  In case you're wondering how this relates to writing, well... it doesn't.  Unless you want me to compare weeding and pruning (at which I am abysmal because I can't tell the weeds from the plants I'm trying to grow and I never know what to cut off) to the revision process.  Which come to think of it is a very apt comparison because I have the same problem trying to weed and prune my manuscripts :)
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April 27, 2011

This Pony Needs A Story!

Sometimes inspiration just hits you over the head...

Check out this video of a boy and his pony.  The pony has so much personality (and he's SO NAUGHTY!) that he practically begs to have a story written about him.

Bearing in mind that no one ever got hurt, and that this pony was much-beloved, watch and enjoy :)  (My favorite part is when the pony lies down and rolls!)  Then if you're inspired, write the first sentence of a pony story in the comments!


And lest you think he was always this bad, he does have a good side :)  There are related videos about the pony being good and the bond between the boy and the pony.  They are quite long, so I didn't include them, but if you love horses, please watch them.  Very sweet :)

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April 25, 2011

Coming Up Roses

The writing life is not for the faint of heart.

Writing is hard work.

Creativity, rather surprisingly, takes what feels like a physical effort.

The ability to be creative on demand takes years of butt in chair, and even then, it doesn't always happen.  (Although writers may corner the market on the sensation of having their butt fall asleep...)

In today's marketplace, it isn't enough to write well.  There are so many wonderful, talented authors and illustrators out there whose work is as good if not better than mine.  The recipe for success requires a healthy dose of luck along with the hard work.  (Maybe a healthy dose of pigheadedness, too, although I prefer to call it by its euphemistic moniker - determination :))

Even if you get published, it's hard to stand out from the crowd.  A book can be well written, beautifully illustrated, well-reviewed, and still not sell.

And with publishing and the economy in their current states, not only the writing, but the marketing and promotion are almost completely up to the writer.  I think I speak for all of us when I say $%^&*^!!!

(Lest you think I'm trying to depress you and/or ruin your day, I assure you I am not!  I do actually have a point... which I'm getting to... in my own round-about way... :)  Look!  Here it is!)

In spite of these difficulties, those of us who write can't imagine doing anything else.  While it's entirely possible that, at heart, we're all incurable optimists :) it may also be because we have stories to tell - stories we hope to share with readers.  We love words and language and writing.  We love the excitement, the thrill, of a new idea.  We love the creativity.  When it's going well, it's so amazing that it makes up for a lot of slogging time.  For those of us who write for children the opportunity to interact with our readers on school visits is priceless.  Even without publishing, most of us would still write, though there are few moments that rival the phone call saying, "I'd like to publish your book!"

And every once in a while, when you least expect it, you might get a little bonus :)

Last week, I received notification that Not Yet, Rose, my new baby story that was published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers in August of 2009, was awarded a Gold Mom's Choice Award!

(I would have told you immediately, but we were in the middle of Ryan's week, and I didn't want to steal his thunder!)

It's true!  My little story is going to have one of those beautiful gold medal stickers on the front!  I can't believe it :)  Maybe not the Newbery or the Caldecott, but when it comes to this story - a story about a little girl who is waiting for her new sibling and doesn't know what to expect - maybe even more valuable.  Because moms are the ones who do most of the choosing when it comes to making purchases, and moms are most likely the ones who might be looking for ways to help their preschoolers understand what having a new sibling will be like, and comfort them with the knowledge that conflicting emotion is normal, healthy, and completely OK.  I hope this award, which is like the highest form of recommendation from other moms, will garner a little much-wanted attention for Rose.  It's a story that is near and dear to my heart because, underneath, it's about my own two-year-old daughter struggling to re-imagine her world to include a younger sibling.

I don't have the actual stickered copies yet, but look how pretty...
Thank you all for indulging my moment of excitement :)  I'm a little uncomfortable shouting it out - it feels like bragging - so please feel free to brag about your own accomplishments in the comments to balance it out - I will cheer loudly - I love to hear about your successes! -  and the next time I'm complaining about something, give me a swift kick in the pants and remind me that one of my books has a gold sticker :)
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April 22, 2011

And We Have Two Winners...!

I know.  It's past 9 AM EST.  So sorry to keep you waiting when you've been all a-twitter wondering who the big winners would be.  It's just, I got distracted by bookshelves.

You all remember my office, right?
Well, I got the opportunity to pick up a couple bookshelves for a good price, and in the interest of being able to actually enter my office, I rushed off to get them, abandoning my blogging duties in a most reprehensible fashion.

But now I'm back.  The bookshelves are in the yard awaiting dusting.  And although it's making them very impatient, they will just have to wait because I don't want to keep you in suspense a moment longer!

I hope you guys realize just how lucky you are.  By entering a contest on my blog, you are way raising your odds of winning because my blog is obscure new enough that I have yet to get masses of entries :)

For this particular contest, we have 2 prizes and 7 contestants, so you do the math.  Really.  You do it.  I am terrible at math.  But I'm pretty sure it works out to You-Have-A-Great-Chance %.

So here we go.

The names are being written on slips of colored paper (very festive!)...

...the papers are being as thoroughly and randomly mixed as 7 pieces of paper can be...

...the judge is reaching into the cookie jar....

Oh, you thought I meant the papers were in the cookie jar?  No, no.  The judge just needed fortification....

Okay, now the judge is selecting the first winner...

...for a free signed copy of Zoe and Robot - Let's Pretend....

...and the winner is...

ANDREA!!!

Oh my goodness!  The excitement is overwhelming!  Everybody else go get a cookie to sustain themselves.

All right.  Ready?

The judge is reaching for the second winner...

...the lucky recipient of a free signed copy of Are You Eating Something Red?...

...and our second winner is...

TERI!!!  (Who is apparently making a habit of this :))

Wow.  All this excitement is exhausting!  Raise your hand if you think this calls for another cookie :)


Winners, please use the Email Me button on the right hand side of the blog to let me know your address (so we know where to send the book) and how you'd like it signed (so Ryan can get it just right!)

Thanks so much to the other contestants.  I really appreciate your enthusiasm.  I wish everyone could win, but alas, not possible.  For those of you who would still like copies of Ryan's awesome books, please visit Ryan Sias on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  And thanks again, Ryan, for such a great interview!

Now, I'm off to dust my new shelves, install them in my office, and attain a state of Feng Shui hitherto unknown in the House of Hill :)  Have a great weekend everyone!
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April 20, 2011

Children's Book Giveaway Contest - Meet Ryan Sias Part 2!

Holy Swiss Cheese, Batman!  As if Monday wasn't awesome enough, today we get to finish our interview with author/illustrator Ryan Sias AND we will have a contest so that not one but two of our lucky readers will win signed copies of Ryan's books!

Deep breaths!  No hyperventilating, please!  We certainly don't want anyone to faint from an overdose of excitement!

It's true.  Ryan has most generously offered not only a signed copy of Zoe and Robot - Let's Pretend, but also a signed copy of Are You Eating Something Red?  So read on, enter the contest, and we will have two lucky winners on Friday!
Zoe and Robot - Let's Pretend, ages 4-8,  hardcover, 40 pages

Are You Eating Something Red?  Ages 0-3, board book, 5 pages

Welcome back, Ryan!


SLH:  What kinds of things have you done to publicize your work?  (Website? Blog? FB? Twitter? Flyers, promotional postcards? School visits? Etc...?)

RS:  Over the years my main promotion tool has been my website. I have done comic conventions, licensing shows and some web advertising. I hand out postcards to every person I meet. Facebook, live journal and twitter have all been good tools also.

With my books I’ve been going to more book events.  I’ve got a bunch of festivals lined up and have started working on getting signings for Zoe and Robot. I can’t wait to get out there and promote the books!

SLH:  Do you have an agent?  If so, who, and how did you get him/her?

RS:  Yes, Judy Hanson is my agent. She works with a lot of my friends and I knew her pretty well. So it was natural that I work with her.

SLH:  The world of children's books is in a state of flux right now.  Do you have plans for writing/illustrating stories for ipad, iphone, kindle, nook or other apps?

RS:  I am talking to my publisher about doing an App for our book Are You Eating Something Red? and I’ve been getting requests for a Zoe and Robot app. I think it would be cool to see it on the ipad. So hopefully soon!
An interior shot of Are You Eating Something Red?

Interior shots of Zoe and Robot (above and below)
Seems like Ryan's books would make great apps!


SLH:  What are you working on now?

RS:  I have just signed a contract for a companion book to Are You Eating Something Red? It is related to healthy eating, but I can’t tell you any more, it’s a secret!  Shhhhhh.

My agent is showing a totally new series pitch to editors. Hopefully I can announce something soon!

SLH:  Do you have advice for aspiring authors, illustrators, or author/illustrators (kids or grown-ups :))?

RS:  Practice, practice, practice. Do your homework, join SCBWI (the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), go the library or book store every week, and write every week. Same goes for drawing. When you are ready to submit, target the editors and publishing houses you want to work with.

I see a lot of people who get hung up on one story. I suggest, write three to six ideas and show them to friends. Then pick the one that seems to be working the best. Also don’t work in isolation. I did this for many years and got nowhere.  Show your work to friends or join a writing group to get feedback. It will automatically make your work stronger. Same rules apply to artwork. Show it around and get notes about colors, composition and concepts.

Also, STAY positive; don’t let negative thoughts get in your way. Stay focused on the goal and make it happen. It will not be easy, you will get a lot of rejection, but use that to learn and improve. It is totally possible to do picture books and it’s so great when the first one comes out. So stay positive and keep trying! You will get there.

SLH:  Are you available for school visits?  What is your preference for audience age, size etc.  Where can interested people get information?

RS:  Yes I am. I have two different talks. One is about growing up and becoming a professional cartoonist. The other is called “Sketch a story” where I teach creative storytelling and we create a book as a class. I seem to go over best with kids ages 5-10. They’d need to contact me for more information.
I am also looking to do readings at book stores and libraries, where I can do the same thing.
Ryan's school visits look awesome!

SLH:  Do you have any else to say?

RS:  Working on picture books is a life long dream. I’m thankful to Blue Apple Books for letting me work on books with them. I hope to do many more fun books for everyone to enjoy. I’d like to end by saying, “Keep drawing, keep writing and never give up on your dreams!”


Thank you so much for joining us, Ryan, and all the best of luck with your new book and your secret projects!  Please visit Ryan at www.ryansias.com!

And now - the moment you've all been waiting for - THE CONTEST!!!

Since Ryan's drawing has a cartoon style, that will be the theme of our contest.

Here's what you have to do:

1.  Be a follower of this blog (bonus entry if you get someone else to follow the blog and tell me who it is.)

2.  Leave a comment naming your favorite cartoon character.  It can be from comic books, Saturday morning TV, or any other cartoon venue.  The comment should also tell why you would like to win Zoe and Robot and/or Are You Eating Something Red.

3.  Be sure to leave your comment by Friday, April 22, 9 AM EST because that's when the drawing will take place and the winners be announced!

That's it!  That's all you have to do!  I hope we'll get lots of entries so Ryan will feel loved and appreciated :)

Looking forward to hearing who your favorite cartoon characters are!  (That means you too, Ryan!)  I am personally on the fence about my favorite - it's between Hong Kong Fooey, the Kung Fu crime fighting dog; Muttley, from Dastardly and Muttley of Yankee Doodle Pigeon fame; and Mush Mouse and Punkin' Puss.... apparently I lean toward animal characters :)
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April 18, 2011

Meet Ryan Sias!

Wow, do I have a treat for you guys today!  Allow me to introduce the one and only Ryan Sias!

Ryan Sias

Ryan is the author/illustrator of  Zoe and Robot - Let’s Pretend (Blue Apple Books 2011) and the illustrator of Are You Eating Something Red? and Are You Eating Something Green?- placemat books from Blue Apple Books 2010. His story and illustration work have appeared in Nickelodeon magazine, the Flight series (Villard) and Mad magazine.

Ryan earned a B.F.A at the Ringling School of Art & Design in Florida, where he created the puppet troupe, "Patchwork Puppets" and performed in schools, libraries and theme parks. After working for five years at ReelFX in Texas as an art director for videos he moved to New York to pursue his television and children's book illustration career.

Ryan has considerable experience in the world of television and film. He has directed videos for Barney and Chuck E. Cheese and his storyboarding credits include the movie Bowling for Columbine, as well as Robots and Maya & Miguel for Scholastic Entertainment.  He is currently working with Sesame Workshop (a dream come true!)

Ryan has so much interesting information to share that I will probably divide his interview between today and Wednesday so you can enjoy it fully.  At the end there will be a contest (you know how I love contests!) and the prize will be a signed copy of Ryan's most recent title:  Zoe and Robot - Let's Pretend!

Welcome, Ryan, and thank you so much for joining us!

SLH:  Ryan, how old were you when you started writing stories?  Drawing?

RS:  According to my parents I started drawing when I was 1.5. I’ve seen a drawing I did of Ernie at age three. (I loved Sesame Street!) I have books I made all through school. So I’ve been creating stories my entire life!
Two of Ryan's early drawings (above and below)

SLH:  Were you encouraged to pursue writing/illustrating?

RS:  Yes, my mom taught Kindergarten and my dad was a Industrial designer. So it was a house of creative people. I remember drawing all the time.  I was diagnosed with dyslexia very young, so I was encouraged to draw since school was tricky for me.

SLH:  How has being dyslexic affected your career?  (Although dyslexia makes writing harder, dyslexics are notoriously original thinkers, often very spatially gifted - more right-brained than the rest of us - are there things you think actually come more easily to you?)

RS:  Being dyslexic made school very difficult for me, and was hard on my ego. I drew all the time because it was easy and I got praise for it. I think that is the main reason I draw all the time still.
I love to write because it is so creative, but it can be hard because I have typos and wrong tenses all over the place. (Probably in this interview!) I  use spell check, but I’ll use the correct spelling of the wrong word. So I have to have everything checked by friends.
I do find I am able to generate ideas very fast, and I am creative all the time. I’m not sure how much of that is the dyslexia or just my lifetime of being creative.  I’m not sure if I do it better than any one else.
I have learned to accept my dyslexia. It is an extra challenge, but I’ve never known any different and I don’t let it get in the way of my dreams!

SLH:  What was your first published book?  How did you feel/react?

RS:  When Are You Eating Something Red? came out it was very exciting! But I didn’t fully believe it until I had a copy in my hands. The most shocking thing for me was when I saw it in the store of the Museum of Modern Art! Now I tell people that my work is in the MoMa next to the Picasso’s! ;)

SLH:  What books have you published subsequently?

RS:  My brand new book Zoe and Robot – Let’s Pretend was my next book, it is also with Blue Apple Books. It is part of their Ballon Toons line of books. It just came out April first!

SLH:  Which is your favorite of the books you've published so far?

RS:  I like all my books, but at the moment my new book Zoe and Robot – Let’s Pretend is my favorite. I like the comedy and how the Robot talks in third person. My goal is to do more silly books, so this is a step in that direction.

SLH:  You have been both author and illustrator of your books.  When you create a story, which comes first - the writing or the drawing?  Or do they go hand-in-hand?

RS:  They go hand in hand for me. I’ve started books both ways. I flip between both as I’m developing an idea.

This is how I normally work.  I do pencil sketches for the whole book.
I use a light board, making the lines with water color instead of the ink that many people use.
I scan the finished inked page.
I color in PhotoShop and TA DA!  Finished art!

Wow!  As someone who cannot draw, I am fascinated by Ryan's process.  I hope you're finding it interesting too!

Tune in Wednesday for the conclusion of Ryan's interview, when we'll learn about his marketing techniques and school visits, among other things, and finish with A SECRET! and our contest for a free signed copy of Zoe and Robot - Let's Pretend!  See you then :)

And if you have questions for Ryan, please post them in the comments!
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April 15, 2011

Love Your Indie!

Today I have a story to share.  Please forgive me if it's a little long, and read to the end if you can - it's important!

Once upon a time, there was a teacher who loved books.  He loved people and the stories they had to tell, and he loved his community.

Me and Scott in a photo that is not at all posed :)
Wanting to share his love of books and reading and enrich his community, Scott Meyer started his bookstore by accident.  (He says if he'd ever had any business classes, he never would have done it since he's done all the things they tell you not to do!)

He started out with two tables, borrowed from a local school on Friday nights.  He set up his books on a street corner at the main intersection in Millbrook, NY, and sold them on weekends, returning the borrowed tables to the school on Sundays at dark.

In 1983 Scott Meyer got an actual storefront, and sold his first book there in 1984.  He didn't have enough stock, so he went to the local library each week, borrowed books for his window display, and put up a sign telling people that if they wanted to read the books they could get them from the library after he returned them, and if they wanted to own the books, he could order them.  It gave him a window full of books, helped his fledgling business off the ground, and promoted the local library.

The bookstore moved four times, but has been located here for many years:
Merritt Bookstore, Millbrook, NY, owned and run by Scott Meyer
There is nothing like a bookstore.

Especially a local, community, independent bookstore.

But our indies need our love and support, or they will soon be a thing of the past.

At the time Scott first opened his doors, there were 5200 independent bookstores in the U.S.  Today, there are fewer than 1800.

Even the big chains are struggling.  Walden Books is gone.  Borders has declared bankruptcy.  Barnes & Noble is closing 50% of their stores.  The bookstores that remain open no longer sell only books.  They've added toys and other items to their merchandise in order to boost the bottom line.

And indie bookstores have it hardest of all.  How to compete with the big chains which can afford to discount books, especially Amazon and companies like it where the books are less expensive and you don't even have to leave your house or consume fuel to get them?  And how to cope with the new popularity of electronic books?

It's all about community.

At Merritt, 68 out of every 100 dollars spent there goes back into the community.  At the big chain bookstores, that figure is not more than 12 out of 100.  For Amazon, it's probably 0.

Scott is involved with the local schools and library, he serves on the Millbrook Business Association, he supports local businesses, offers his store space to display the work of local artists, supports girl scouts and 4H, and runs events to encourage reading while also bringing business to Millbrook.  For a Harry Potter event, he once had 72 high school students sleep over in the store.

As the book business has grown more difficult, Scott has been forced to look for out of town events, like the New York State Readers Association Conference in Saratoga Springs, events he does in addition to all the local ones, in order to stay in business so his community can have a bookstore.  The bookstores that are surviving do so through the incredibly hard work and dedication of their owners.

It is a tremendous challenge to stay solvent.  Scott hasn't made money in a while.  But he believes his community deserves a bookstore.

And it is a fortunate community that has his bookstore.
Merritt is well stocked...

...cozy and inviting...


...a place to browse and enjoy!
To Scott, everyone who comes through his door is famous.  Everyone has a talent or a skill.  Everyone has stories to tell.  Everyone is important.  He converses daily with stone masons, dancers, historians, cloud-catchers, teachers, authors, stay-at-home moms, doctors and people of every kind and he enjoys them all.

His is a writer's bookstore - he loves authors and is excited for their books and the wrk they do.  Witness the lovely display of local author Susanna Leonard Hill :)


He knows his customers.  When he hears of a new book he thinks, oh! so-and-so would love that, and makes a point to let them know.

You don't get that from Amazon or a chain bookstore.

So please support your indie bookstore if you have one.  They are precious and few, and our communities would not be the same without them!
7th graders shadow Scott to learn about the book business

Do you have an indie bookstore near you?  Post its name and location in the comments and give it a shout-out!
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April 13, 2011

Lists of Lists

What would I do without lists?

I love lists.

Not only do they keep me organized and make sure I don't forget things, they also give me a sense of accomplishment.  There's nothing like checking things off your list to make you feel like you're being productive.  Sometimes I put things on my list like get up or brush teeth just so I can check them off right away and feel like I'm off to a good start :)

The thing is, I have so much to do in so many different areas that I really need several lists.  Which leads to needing a list of my lists.  I am pretty organized (assuming I haven't imbibed too much caffeine...)

but I am not tidy.  Seriously, look at my desk

When it comes to writing, though, the lists are of limited use.  It's all well and good to have a list that says:
1. Write an early reader about a boy.
2. Write a chapter of current novel-in-progress (I guess that's a N.I.P.?)
3. Write a picture book about baseball
etc.

It's quite another thing to be able to accomplish that list.  It requires:
1. Coming up with viable ideas (not just anything, but something that will actually work and that people will want to read)
2. Actually doing the writing, which seems easy, but so isn't!
3. Ending up with work that will make it past:
     1. my agent
     2. an editor

in the midst of the housework list
1. scrub bathrooms
2. dust (yeah, right)
3. vacuum everything
etc.

and the schedule list
1. take dog to vet
2. pick up dry cleaning
3. go to child #2's game
4. take child #3 to the orthodontist
5. revisit colleges with child #1
etc.
oh, and I'm supposed to fit exercise in somewhere...

and the miscellaneous list
1. get car inspected
2. turn over flower beds
3. birthday present for Dad
4. fill out ENDLESS forms for kids' schools, camps, etc.
5. costume for child #3's play???!!!
etc.

and this is the short version.... :)

Here's the list I would like to check off this week:
1. Sell one of my currently circulating picture book mss (just one - I'm not greedy!)
2. Finish my N.I.P.
3. Write a new board book, picture book, or early reader that is a definite winner!

No one said the list had to be realistic.  And there's always that other list that starts out with
1. Keep dreaming!
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April 11, 2011

The Bright Side

If you've noticed a drop in posting frequency lately it's because the last couple weeks have been professionally challenging on pretty much every level.  Were I to post on that, I'm afraid it would amount to whining which would not make for entertaining or enlightening reading!, so I have elected to spare you :)  You may thank me with donations of chocolate :)

Anyone who writes will tell you the writing life has its ups and downs.  I feel it's important to look on the bright side, especially when discouragement is rearing its ugly head.  So here are 2 bright sides, and they are very bright :)  First, I got a lovely thank you note from a school I visited.  That was very nice.

And second, Beer is zo moe! is printing - very exciting!  Check it out:
Nicole, the talented illustrator, overseeing color with the editor, Bert Veltman

A sheet of covers!
So, there.  To discouragement I say, "Begone!"

And to myself I say, "Butt in chair."  Didn't someone say something along the lines of 99% of success in writing is just showing up?

"Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow." ~ Mary Anne Radmacher
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April 6, 2011

NYSRA Conference

There's a reason I like to write.

Actually, there are many.  But one of them is, I can sit in the sunshine at my kitchen table in the created world of my choosing, with my two faithful dogs for companionship.

No one stares at me blankly.  There are no awkward silences.  I don't find myself fervently wishing to be anywhere but there!

Put me in front of a blank sheet of paper or a new Microsoft Word document and I can almost always think of something to say - maybe not the next great American novel, but something.

Put me at the front of a room with a bunch of people (the kind that are over 4 feet tall and 10 years old) staring at me and waiting for me to enlighten them and my mouth goes so dry it won't work properly, my hands tremble, and I have a sudden first-hand understanding of palpitations.  You know how in books people are paralyzed with fright?  I'm not paralyzed - I shake!  All but my mind.  THAT gets paralyzed.  I can't think of a single word to say, even with notes in front of me.

So.  How was the conference? you'd like to know.

Well, I'll tell you.

I drove to Saratoga Springs in the pouring rain.  This is getting to be a habit with these author outings.  It was cold and gray and wet, and I'm wondering if spring will ever come this year.

But I digress.

The hotel was very nice.  Merritt Book Store had set up a beautiful display, selling books by all the attending authors.  I had the extreme pleasure and privilege of chatting with Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter, two wonderful people and fellow authors whom I had met Saturday at the Empire State Book Festival, Michael Garland, the talented author and illustrator of many books for children, and Doreen Rappaport, the inspiring author of many biographies and historical books for children.  I also met lots of other very nice people.

Here is the beautiful poster the NYSRA made for my talk:

Dinner was fun.  I got to witness the formal presentation of the Charlotte Awards, sit with a number of interesting people, and hear all the other authors who were in attendance get up and speak, all of them very inspiring to listen to.

Here is the copy of their new book, Spilling Ink (which I highly recommend!), that Anne and Ellen signed for me as a gift for surviving my talk!



I told you they were really nice :)

The drive home was late and also in the rain.


The talk was very scary and I'm pretty sure the only people who wanted to leave more than I did were the people listening!  Thank goodness it's over... until the next time :)

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April 4, 2011

Trial By Fire

Some writers are very outgoing people.

Others enjoy the writing life because it's solitary - a life of the mind that doesn't require constant engagement with other people.

I'm probably somewhere in the middle.  But when it comes to public speaking, I am squarely in the please-no! camp.  (This does not count kids - I'm always happy to visit with them!)

So you will understand when I tell you that, since today I'm off to Saratoga Springs to give a talk to actual professional grown-ups, I am undergoing a whole new experience of the term trial by fire!

Wish me luck!  If I survive, I'll tell you about it tomorrow.  Or possibly the day after depending on recovery time :)
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April 1, 2011

Ebooks and Apps As Tools For Teaching Reading

OK, folks.  This is serious!

I know I said I was going to finish the week with Challenge #3, but I have changed my mind for two reasons: one, no one's doing the challenge, (so I don't expect any heartbreak over a temporary delay - we'll pick it up next week), and two, I have to give a talk Monday to actual professional grown-ups and I'm feeling just a mite panicky (understatement of the year.)

I'm hoping you all will be able to help me out.

I'm wondering what people think about ebooks and book apps for kids.  What are the pros and cons of these types of new media as they relate to teaching kids to read?  Do they have a place in teaching reading?  Do they surpass traditional books in this area?  Do they merely distract from the actual process of reading with too many bells and whistles?  Do they make lazy readers who rely on the voice that will read to them?  Or, as some have said, do they open new doors, particularly for autistic and dyslexic students?  In what ways?

If any of you have experience with this, especially specific apps you've used or seen, I would really love to hear about it.  Parents, teachers, anyone!  Opinions are also welcome!

Please share your thoughts.  I am liable to dissolve into a panic-stricken puddle without a little moral support :)

On another note, for anyone who is interested, I will be at the Empire State Book Festival in Albany tomorrow, on a panel about picture books, and the New York State Readers Association Conference (NYSRA) in Saratoga Springs on Monday, where I will be giving the talk which relates partially to this topic.  Also, April Fool, Phyllis! is being featured on The Children's Literature Network's new Book of The Day Fanfare segment today :)  And Phyllis wants everyone to know that her prediction of snow on April Fools Day was correct!
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