Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I Did Not Write This Summer



Now that the kids are back to school, I'm reflecting on all the writing I did this summer, which was basically NONE. Nothing. But I've decided I'm not going to feel bad about it. I talked with a writer friend this morning, and she confirmed that she too, sat at her desk today and couldn't quite remember where things were.
I know kids are not an excuse (look at what J.K. did! blah blah...) so I'm just going to skip the excuses and not feel bad about it. Obviously had any fabulous agents or editors requested something on deadline, I would have gotten to work. But they didn't, so neither did I.
So here's my "Writer's Ode to This Summer", and you can guess whether I was ever a good rhymer or if my summer-slide has caused irreparable harm.


I did not write at the lake,
I did not write at a clambake (nor did I get invited to one).

I did not write at the beach,
I did not write eating a peach.

I did not write in a car,
I did not write with a jar (of blueberry preserves).

I did not write in the sun,
I did not write with a hamburger bun (I'm a vegetarian).


I did not write under a starry sky,
I did not give it the college-try.

I did not write on my kayak,
I did not write on anything that rhymes with kayak.

I did not write on my neighbor's cool boat,
I did not write on a unicorn float.

I did not write with a beer and a lime,
I did not write - for I had no time.

And in the future, I'll write on my own you see, 
For I did not get into Rutgers University (One-on-One+ Conference).

But today, today I will write and you too should write and not feel bad about all the time wasted this summer. For in the immortal words of the Keith Urban song,


"Ain't it funny how the best days of my life, was all that wasted time?"





Monday, May 8, 2017

When the librarian/children's writer goes on vacation...

Last month I went on a short trip to Canada with friends and family. No writing, no emails - just lots of good food, history, and sights. But of course, I could not truly leave the children's book world behind.

I found myself wandering into the cutest store, pulled in by their adorable clothing designs. Not long after, I made the connection from this:


to these:

Turns out the store, HATLEY, is the parent company of Little Blue House, which was started by author/illustrator Nicholas Oldland's parents! He went on to publish 4 more picture books starring those adorable woodland creatures who are out to hug trees and be friends and all that good stuff! Check out their story on the website for more charm and adorableness.

So not only did I buy the pajama pants, but I bought notepads and other things I had to have. And I promise I am not being paid when I say that the pajama pants are SOOOOO comfy! My kids are completely jealous that they bought lame t-shirts somewhere else.

Lesson #1 - you cannot escape from adorable picture books once you are hooked, even if you leave the country.
Lesson #2 - not only does Canada have Justin Trudeau, they also have amazing pajamas.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When Manuscripts Haunt You

I am finally putting away the folder for a middle-grade manuscript I started in 2003. Without going into boring detail, it was the first manuscript I ever wrote, and what spurred me on to write children's fiction. In the past 14 years I revised it here and there (the first chapter maybe 546 times but who's counting), sent it out a few times, and literally and figuratively stashed it in the drawer for years on end.

But it haunted me.

When I saw that a new book had come out with similar themes, it haunted me.

When I sat down to write something else, it called to me like a drunken teenager at a frat party - "Write me, you know you want to. Everyone else is doing it."

I almost totally avoided writing anything in 2014 because I couldn't bear to SIT in the chair by the desk where it hid.



But slowly over that year, I made the decision to REALLY work at writing. I joined a great, new critique group and a few online writing communities. And once the real writing happened, it was only a matter of time before I would have to tackle this manuscript. Mind you, it wasn't haunting me nearly as much when it knew I was doing all these awesome writerly things. I think it knew I was coming for it.

So I am now done revising it on my own. Not another word shall be changed in that manuscript unless requested so by an agent or editor. It was really fun to crack open the second half of the manuscript (which needed it the most) and just go for it. But now, it has been exorcised.

I  went to a writer's workshop this weekend where I got to hear an amazing keynote address by writer Alice Mattison. Even though she writes adult manuscripts and short stories, her words rang true for everyone.

"Protect your writing time - other people are not going to
 protect it for you."

But what I loved most was this quote about revision and reading your own work:

"If you can get your book not to recognize you..." (she suggests reading in a different part of the house or possibly wearing a hat) "...what it will do is, what you want to do is, read it as if you didn't know what was coming."

I guess my disguise was more pounds and wrinkles than I had 14 years ago. Maybe after all this time I managed to sneak up on IT and read and revise a totally new manuscript. After 14 years, maybe it was.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

I HEARD A ROAR - #50 Precious Words Challenge


I'm finding that writing contests are a great way to get inspired! So here's my entry in Vivian Kirkfield's

#50 PRECIOUS WORDS WRITING CHALLENGE



In honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, Vivian is having us write a story using only 50 words, unlike Dr. Seuss who used limited words over and over again. Get it? Two different approaches to a fun writing prompt that I suggest you try!

So here's mine, inspired by what I do a my job all the time - try to entice young readers! Whether it's getting the shy one to come to storytime, or getting new readers to challenge themselves in a new genre, I spend a lot of time connecting kids with books. It's my passion! Thanks for reading!

I Heard a Roar

Mama said, story time?

No.

It’ll be fun.

No.

You’re friends are going in-

I watched them run to the door.  I stayed near Mama.

 She might read one you’ll like?

Lions?

Maybe dinosaurs, boats?

You read.

I’ll be right here.

I walked to the door. I heard a roar.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Club Pick: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys


It was my turn to select a book for my neighborhood book club, and after much deliberation, I chose Sepetys' awesome 2016 YA novel about 4 characters and their journey through Prussia to reach the Wilhelm Gustloff ship in 1945. SALT TO THE SEA
Sepetys does a wonderful job telling the story from the four different points of view - Joana, the Lithuanian nurse; Florian, the Prussian apprentice; Emilia, the quiet Polish girl; and Alfred, the sailor.They were escaping the Russians, escaping the Germans, escaping their own pasts. They didn't know they were headed for one of the worst maritime disasters in history.


The response from my Book Club was really positive - they liked the story and really loved learning about a page from history that they hadn't heard of. I would recommend this book for a variety of ages, and would make a great choice for a mother/daughter teen book club.

Said author M.T. Anderson of the story, "once again, Ruta Sepetys acts as champion of the interstitial people, so often ignored - whole populations lost in the cracks of history."

This page has a great photo of the Wilhelm Gustloff and an interview with Sepetys
NPR - More Died on This WWII Ship Than on the Titanic and Lusitania Combined

Click here for this awesome Penguin Random House video of Sepetys discussing why she chose this subject to write about (about 8 minutes long) Totally worth sharing with your group.
Ruta Sepetys Discusses Salt to the Sea

Penguin Discussion Guide & Questions

Friday, January 6, 2017

Little Penguins Friday!

I'm getting ready for Winter storytimes to be starting at my library, so I've been gathering new books and coming up with themes (Children's Librarians LOVE a theme). This new book by Cynthia Rylant has been in my pile since I got it in, so I thought I'd share with Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books community! I would usually do this on my work blog, but this is going to serve as a reminder to me of what a great picture book by 2 major award-winners can look like. The text and illustrations complement each other picture-book-perfectly!


LITTLE PENGUINS
Words by Cynthia Rylant
Pictures by Christian Robinson
Schwartz & Wade, 2016
Ages 3-7, fiction
Acrylic & collage
Themes: penguins, winter fun, clothes, snow, Antarctica

Snowflakes? Many snowflakes.
Winter is coming!
Mittens? Many mittens.

And so begins the classic tale of venturing out to play in the snow. But in the hands of Rylant and Robinson (who illustrated Schools First Day of School and Last Stop On Market Street) this tried and true story becomes a charming look at 5 adorable big-headed penguins and their Mama as they dress, sled, and enjoy warm cookies and sippies after. The spare text is enhanced by the fun illustrations that little ones are sure to love.

Here are a few places you can find rhymes and craft extensions when using this story with children. Also, check out Christian Robinson's The Art of Fun page if you need some art inspiration!

And according to Artsy Craftsy Mom, it's Penguin Awareness Day on January 20. Who knew?

Storytime Katie - Penguins

KidLit Library - Penguins

Artsy Craftsy Mom - Penguin Crafts