Friday, July 20, 2018

Book Giveaway and Student Success Story Interview with Patricia Karwatowicz

Hello, everyone! Today, I'm pleased to bring you a Student Success Story interview with my former student Patricia Karwatowicz in honor of the recent release of her first novel, HP? Who's He? (4RV Tweens and Teens). At the end of this post, you'll find instructions on how to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy!

Before we get to the interview, I hope you won't mind if I share three terrific tidbits of news about my own novel.
Playing by Heart:
All this good news happens to coincide with a special offer I'm running. From now through Labor Day (Sept. 3), I'm giving away a free ebook copy of either of my award-winning novels to any teachers or homeschooling parents interested in previewing the books for possible classroom use. Plus, I'll schedule a FREE 20-minute virtual visit (via Skype or Google Hangouts) with any class that reads either book as a result of this offer. You can see all the details on my website.

Okay, now it's time for the Student Success Story interview with Patricia Karwatowicz.

Before I begin, let me share her bio with you:
     Pat is a former pediatric nurse, twenty-year religious education teacher, wife of fifty years, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of five. She loved helping kids heal physically, and spiritual healing seemed a logical progression. The characters in her faith-based stories show generosity and courage, and her stories open children's eyes to God’s presence in their daily lives. Pat enjoys reading, walking, birding, and talking with kids. Her home is in Naperville, Illinois. You can read more about her and her books at her website.

Pat's middle-grade novel, HP? Who's He? was released by 4RV Publishing a few months ago. Here's the synopsis:

After Grandfather's move to heaven, a family breakup, and a relocation to bone cold Illinois, life doesn’t balance anymore for twelve-year-old California surfer dude HP. Then Grammy Jan sends him a pocket cross and his grandfather's old Bible, which happens to contain a special message to HP from Grandfather. Empowered, HP gears up for Mission Possible to find out who he is and what he stands for, and if he's even on God's radar. 

Congratulations on your new book, Pat! I'm so glad its release inspired me to setup this interview, which I discovered is long overdue. It’s hard to believe, but it will be 20 years this fall since you took my Writing for Children and Teens class and the follow-up Workshop class at the College of DuPage! I believe the classes played a role in your getting your first magazine piece published. Would you tell our readers about that?

Who knew it was that long ago, yikes! Yes, I was all ears listening to your expertise on writing tips and the business of publishing books. Your first magazine story in Pockets inspired me to write my own submission, and in a year, Pockets published my first story “Big Worry” about my grandson moving away.

I'm always pleased when my students find success from taking my advice! Can you share about how the class also led you to expand your knowledge of the field of writing for children? What advice would you give to beginning writers seeking to learn about children’s publishing?

After your class, I read a ton of books on writing. Hubby gave me a birthday present for a week-long trip to Highlights writers camp. I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), which led to my joining a critique group. The group lasted 15 years, and we still cheer each other on. We've had quite a few books published and agents landed. Joining SCBWI is the best advice I can give, along with taking Carmela Martino’s classes!

Thanks, Pat! Your first published books were part of a picture book series. Would you tell our readers a little about those books and how you found your publisher?

I learned the basics of picture book writing by taking classes at SCBWI conferences and studying picture books. Write to Publish, a conference held yearly in Wheaton, IL that features editors, publishers, and agents in the Christian market, launched my picture book A Shiny Red Apple. A Cook Communications agent loved it, but felt it needed to be a series. She asked for two more stories, and in a month, I sent her A Sprig of Parsley and A Child’s Song. Gotta strike while the iron is hot! They published all three.

Your newest book, HP? Who’s He?, is a middle-grade novel. What made you switch to novel writing? Would you share a bit about the novel and what inspired you to write it?

Having developed six faith stories for younger readers, I wanted the challenge of doing this for older kids. As a religion education teacher, I saw a real need for middle-grade students to connect faith to their contemporary world. HP is a likable but flawed kid who needs reason and truth in his life. A Post-it note in an old Bible and a pocket cross begin his adventure of finding God and becoming the best person he can be. When it gets too hard, he sketches, goes birding, and eats lots of peanut butter.

Your novel’s main character, HP, comes up with lots of creative peanut butter recipes, many of which are included in the back of the book along with your original (and very clever) illustrations. Can you tell us where you got the recipes and how they were compiled and illustrated?

I love peanut butter and remember living on it as a picky eater, so some of the recipes are things I ate as a kid. They don't require cooking, so can be made unsupervised. (Except for the killer cupcakes, which are a throw-back to the sixties!) I’ve taken years of watercolor classes so art is my second love. My 85-year-old teacher Ruth Van Sickle Ford gave me the punch line when someone asks how long it takes to paint a picture. She would say, “Two hours and 85 years.” I use that when I’m asked how long it takes to write a novel. As for the drawings, I wanted them to look like twelve-year old HP did them.

HP? Who’s He? is published by 4RV Publishing. Can you tell us a little about 4RV and how you came to publish with them?

This small press was listed in a monthly Children’s Writer newsletter about nine years ago. (Unfortunately, the newsletter is no longer in print.) 4RV took the story because they were open to Christian writing.

Book promotion can be especially challenging when you’re with a small press. Can you tell us some of the things you’re doing to promote HP? Who’s He? and about any events you have planned?

I follow The Publicity Hound website and have been implementing some of the tips there. I also read everything I can find on marketing and how to reach out to people. I've found that requests usually take two or three follow-up calls.

Here are some of things I've done or plan to do:
  • My book club featured my book. 
  • I got an interview with the Daily Herald newspaper. 
  • I placed books in The Catholic Shoppe in Westmont, IL
  • Had a “Book Birthday Party” at home for friends with games and fancy deserts. I shared my author journey and read from the book. (Grandmothers are part of my target audience.) 
  • I asked the library to buy the book, but they need people to request it. (Something readers in our fan club can do!) 
  • I had a table at the Chicago Catholic Homeschooling Conference 7/12-13. 
  • My book will be part of a Local Author showcase at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville on Sunday, August 5, 2-4 pm
    I invite all your TeachingAuthors readers to join us!
  • If any of your readers happen to be near Burlington, Iowa, I'll be signing at the Burlington Buy the Book store there on Saturday 9/8, from 12-3 pm (scheduled the same weekend as my nursing class reunion). 
  • Several Iowa newspapers will also be running interviews about me. 
  • My church will offer a signing and I'm working on doing an event with the Knights of Columbus. (The book features honorable knights and the knight’s code.) 
Marketing is as hard as writing the book and finding a publisher! The reward is connecting with kids and readers and writers. It’s fun!

Wow! You've sure been busy, Pat. Well, thanks so much for taking time for this interview. And thanks, also, for offering our readers a chance to win an autographed copy of your new book.

Readers, to enter our drawing for a chance to win an autographed copy of HP? Who's He? (4RV Tweens and Teens), written by Patricia Karwatowicz, use the Rafflecopter widget below. You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options.

If you choose option 2, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY'S blog post below or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page. If you haven't already "liked" our Facebook page, please do so today!
In your comment, tell us what you'd do with the book if you win our giveaway--keep it for yourself or give it to a young reader?

(If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.)

Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA THE WIDGET BELOW. The giveaway ends August 3 and is open to U.S. residents only.

P.S. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Don't forget Poetry Friday. This week's roundup is hosted by My Juicy Little Universe

Finally, remember to always Write with Joy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 13, 2018

When My Work Pesters Me, I Listen

One of the things I love about historic research is that there is always something more to learn. No matter how much I’ve learned about a topic, there is always something deeper, richer, and more complex to know about it.  

I’ve had that experience this week as I’m working to get the final edits done on my book that is coming out this fall titled Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, published by Holiday House.  This book is full of all sorts of fascinating information and images.  And though I’ve never done it before like this, I’ve written an introduction and <gasp> even placed images in the introduction.  These amazing, powerful images will pack a punch even before the first word of chapter one.  

It was the caption to one of those images that wouldn’t let me rest this week. 

The caption as I wrote it a while back has been through various readers including my editor countless times, copyeditors, and even managing editors as they read the manuscript. The caption was absolutely fine and fabulous.  

The image on the page is a diagram of a slave ship.  The caption mentioned the transatlantic slave trade and identified the name of the ship and when it was built.  It was a good caption.  It was enough information, especially for the introduction! 

But still that caption pestered me.  My work does that to me-and when it does I pay attention.  

I started wondering…a great thing for a nonfiction author.  Are there any specifics I could add to the caption?  Maybe just a few words if I could find some detail about the ship or the human cargo it carried.

Then it got really interesting.  I found that specific ship on the Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database provided by Emory University.   I found out lots of details about this slave ship.  I know who the captain was, who owned the ship, where they picked up the enslaved, where they took them, how many Africans were packed belowdeck, how many were men, women, boys, and girls.  I know the voyage across the Atlantic took 51 wretched days.  I even know how many of them died on the voyage.  

And as if all that wasn’t enough, I discovered that abolitionists in Great Britain used this diagram to show the horrors of the slave trade.  And William Wilberforce, a British politician, used a model of that specific ship when he spoke to Parliament against the slave trade.  

Click here to see the model.

What a fascinating piece of history!

Although there was nothing wrong with the original caption, I knew more about the topic than what it said. And, well I just had to share it. So I emailed my editor suggesting an eleventh hour addition (actually the hour is more like 11:55) for the caption on page 2.   

And my wonderful editor Kelly, agreed with me and found a way to make it work.  

I’m really glad that caption pestered me.  

Carla Killough McClafferty 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Permission to Imagine

 I teach creative writing to kids. You'd think I am surrounded by junior Weltys and
Me, one happy camper!
Hemingways. I am, most of the time.

A couple of years ago, I got a call from a total stranger who heard I tutored. I do occasionally mentor high school students with Important Writing Projects--college essays, a fantasy novel they are self-publishing, a contest entry. A call from a dad about his 8th grade son was not a surprise.

His request was.

"Can you tutor my son in creativity?" he asked.

My hearing isn't what it used to be, especially over the phone. I asked him to repeat what he'd said. He did.

He wanted me to teach his son "to be creative."

I am not a phone person. I have a hard time making myself understood if I can't see who I'm talking to. The dad, son and I made an appointment "to discuss" at Starbucks.

When I first moved to my North Atlanta suburb 17 years ago, I joked that I was really living in Lake Wobegon--"Where all the children are above average." Every kid was either in the Talented-and-Gifted Program, or a prodigy in some other field. I had never seen such a cut-throat bunch of students and parents. I'm not talking high school juniors, aiming for Harvard Early Admission; these were fourth graders.
The Carriage House-Young Writers HQ

Now here I was at Starbucks with a dad insisting I "teach" his son creativity. Cautiously, I asked what he expected from "creativity lessons."

"He must be able to write an excellent college essay. His grammar and form are very good, but he has no ideas. Very dull. I don't understand. He is an A students, but no imagination." Dad spoke rapidly, thrumming his fingers on the table, obviously annoyed with my stupid questions. "He is going to be Ivy League."

I sipped my soy latte, trying to figure out a nice way to say it was a little early to obsess over Ivy League admission, and that you can't "teach" creativity.

I asked if his son liked to read. No, he did not. He was "too busy" to read. Busy with what?
Extracurricular science classes, violin lessons, learning a FOURTH language.

"He sounds busy all right," I agreed. "But what does he do in his free time? Does he like to read?"

I thought Dad was going to pound the table, so I grabbed my latte. "Free time? There is no free time. He must work at subjects that will get him into an Ivy League college."

The dad called to the boy who had been banished to a corner table.  He was the most arrogant 14-year-old I have ever met. He had always excelled at everything...until he hit the wall with his lack of creativity. I could tell he thought that since he wasn't creative, it must not be very important.When the son started interviewing me as to my credentials, that was it. I told Dad I didn't think his son and I would work well together. And got the heck out of Starbucks.

I chalked that up to one of those weird things that happen sometimes. I spent a few moments regretting that an intelligent boy had never had the chance to be creative, and therefore dismissed it as unimportant. Then I forgot about Dad-and-Son.

Until Young Writer's Camp the following summer. Since I have to get know my students in the first hour of a one week camp, I have question cards with the basics--name, age, last school attended. Then the not so usual--how many books have you read for fun in the last school year? What's your favorite book? My last question is"What is the most important thing I need to know about you?" I started asking this after I had a hearing impaired camper, and no one thought to tell me.

 I get goofy answers ("I love Minecraft. Can I just do that on my phone?) or heartbreaking ("My best friend died last month and I am really sad.").                                      
Sssh! Writers at work.

For the last three years, at least one student every session writes "I have no imagination"--or some variation of that.

That floored me. I subscribe to Pablo Picasso's philosophy. "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." I substitute "writer" for "artist" and "once he grows up" to "once he leaves middle school."  These kids are 10 and11.

Why on earth would any child that young think they had no imagination?

"How do you know this?" I ask, and get the same answer every time. "My teacher said so." Or, "My parents say so."

How depressing. A fourth grader who believed himself incapable of original thought

As I talked to these campers, a profile emerged. They were incredibly over scheduled, starting in toddlerhood. When I asked what they did for fun, they gave me a blank look. Free time? Fun? Something that did not involve winning and losing? This was a new concept for them.

Up a tree, imagining.
Enriching children's lives with extracurricular activities can be a good thing. My own Young Writer's Camp falls in that category...the difference being there are no awards or winners at camp. The reward is having fun and using your imagination to do and be whatever you want.

Imagining takes time. Time that appears "unproductive" to a task-oriented parent or teacher. Even adult writers have a hard time explaining to others (OK, spouses) that lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling with Beethoven's 9th blasting is "writing." Characters are living and dying in my head, to a Beethoven soundtrack. They have to live in my head awhile before they make it to the page.

As an only child, I spent a lot of time alone. An only child with chronic respiratory infections. I missed so many school days through fourth grade, that by today's attendance policies, I would still be in second grade. Home alone, I read, drew, wrote and imagined whole towns full of people, all of which resembled Mayberry. If you've ever read Harriet the Spy, it was a lot like her game of Town.

Any number of authors have had long spells of illness when they had to entertain themselves with books and their own minds. I am not recommending chronic illness as a way of nurturing creativity. What I am advocating is down time. Time to stare at ants on the side walk, gaze at the shapes of clouds, invent imaginary friends and pets. Time to slop around with paints without a teacher's direction, to put on music and make up your own dance without worrying about posture or precision. It's not about perfection; it's about the freedom to create. The freedom to fail without repercussions or shaming.

Take my own daughter (please! Rim shot!) She too is an only child who spent a lot of time alone.  Like me, she learned to entertain herself with crayons and paper. In school, her artwork did not win praise because she "did not produce representational images." In other words, she preferred colors and shapes to drawing a horse or a house. She just stared down her teacher and continued to draw her own way.

Her artistic epiphany came on a day when I was trying to finish book edits. Desperate for quiet, and an activity that didn't require my supervision, I gave her a bag of ancient disposable cameras. By the end of the week, she had used them all up. This was at my parent's house, and when we went home, I saw no reason to drag the cameras with us. I mean, she was five. I wasn't going to waste money developing pictures that were probably shots of her feet or the ceiling.
From one of the disposable cameras. Lily's grandmother.

Weeks later, a package arrived from my parents. Mom, ever-the-doting grandmother, had developed the pictures. And...hey, these pictures were good. They were carefully composed, centered, and focused. One roll was nothing but shots of my mother's antique collection, one vase, one statue, on piece of porcelain at a time, like an auction catalog. Another roll I had watched her shoot...walking around the yard, snapping pictures of the ground. Or so I thought. These were pictures of dead leaves and roots, with interesting shadows and shades of brown. Beautiful. There were closeups of household items--a doormat, an electric fan. How did a five-year-old, whose teachers had labeled as "lacking in artistic skill" learn to do that?
Lily's 1st award winner. 3rd grade

I still don't know.  She continued to photograph, first with my old school Nikon, (which she still prefers) and finally her own digital Canon. As a result of a bored five-year-old messing around with disposable cameras, was that at high school graduation, her portfolio was recognized as one of 10 "AP Photography Profiles of Merit" from across the country.

Is she the next Ansel Adams? No. She's an education major in college. But she has a love of photography, something that gives her the satisfaction of creating. She has a photographers eye. She had the time to explore the world through her lens. Even though at the same time she fell in love with figure skating (another creative outlet) she always had time for her camera, taking it with her to classes and competitions.

Do I expect any of my writing campers to become the next JK Rowling or John Grisham? That would be great, but I don't expect it. I expect them to explore their imaginations and have fun. I hope that some will continue to write. I know they do, because they return year after year for the advanced camps.

I've been a public school librarian and I know the strong and weak points of American education. The one thing the most curriculum lack is the one thing that cannot be tested or taught, but without which, all other subjects are just words on a page.

Imagination. We have scheduled imagination out of our kids' lives. This summer, as you scurry around, trying to keep your kids busy, schedule a little time to do nothing. Give them the chance, as my mom used to say, to use their heads for something besides a hat rack.

Have a great summer everyone. Now I need to go prepare for my returning advanced camp writers.  I can't wait!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Something in a Summer's Day

A something in a summer’s Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away
Which solemnizes me.

A something in a summer’s noon—
A depth—an Azure—a perfume—
Transcending ecstasy.

(Excerpt from Emily Dickinson, A Something in a Summer’s Day)

What are you doing these summer’s days? I find it's the perfect time to catch up on my reading. With this in mind, I recently read our own Carmela A. Martino’s Playing By Heart.

I love historical fiction, especially those stories that focus on the feminine experience. We are all familiar with Laurel Ulrich’s statement, well-behaved women seldom make history. The sentiment underscored the invisibility of women in history. Not long ago, Jo Eberhardt wrote  about her surprising discovery when, after counting the books in her personal library, she found that only a mere 27 per cent of her books had female protagonists, despite “her conscious intention for a 50/50 split.” Further researching female protagonists in other media, she found that over 70 percent of lead characters in popular movies were male. And even in those movies that feature female protagonists (Divergent, Hunger Games, Twilight), male characters speak more than female protagonists, and thus still dominate the story. 

Megan Leigh suggests that  among many stories claiming to have strong female characters, one overriding issue seems to be distinguishing between strong and weak, and passive and active characters. A female who is caring, vulnerable, even emotional tends to be considered a weak character. Yet, a strong female who is aggressive, abrasive, even with difficulty connecting emotionally, is considered negative. Both types are flat, negating their own flawed, complex humanity. In contrast, male characters are often allowed to play the full emotive spectrum. Says Leigh, in too many stories, the strong female protagonist is considered “special,” the exception or chosen one. If only one woman is ever shown to be capable and complex, and is presented as the exception, the “very framing of the narrative in a way that has men writing off most females as incapable, is an issue unto itself.” 

What about our favorite TV shows that feature strong female protagonists that dare to tackle male-dominated jobs? These include super smart spies, corporate lawyers, political leaders, even homicide detectives. And don't forget about the growing trend in super heroes and wonder women.  Despite the implied power positions, these jobs are often in the background. Their story-lines are often dominated by the unhappy state of their private life. Despite being labeled as capable, they are often rescued by their male counterparts. While their male counterparts are dressed in practical clothing that allows them to run, jump, and maneuver themselves effectively, the female protagonist tends to wear form-fitting clothes, with shirts buttoned down suggestively, and high-fashioned heels. Even their boots have heels. Meanwhile, those who weld their power are considered manipulative, shrill, even overly cold and emotionally disconnected, and usually it is because they are unhappy without a man in their life. I could go on, but you get my point. 

It would seem, according to Tasha Robinson, that “strong female characters – someone with her own identity, agenda and story purpose – has become more of a marketing term than a meaningful goal.” 

Sometimes it is not always about the outrageous or the rebellious. Sometimes it’s about doing the unexpected. While the feminine hero may follow a similar path as her male counterpart, the language, the ordeals and even the symbols are uniquely her own. They neither seek domination over another or ascendance into elitist power. 

Choices are made when life no longer fits into her definition. 

This is why I love Carmela's new book.

“The day I decided to take my fate into my own hands began like any other.” So states Emilia Salvani, who is destined by birth order as second born to become a nun. Gifted with musical genius, she struggles to find a way to earn the respect of the maestro, and find a way to avoid a life in the convent.

Set during 18th century Milan, Italy, the story follows two sisters who navigate a strict Catholic social construct. Her older sister, Maria, is a gifted linguist. While her father hopes to secure a noble marriage, Maria longs to join the convent and help the poor. 

Carmela’s attention to detail in her luscious imagery as she builds this eighteenth century city is captivating. Her characters are fully-realized, complex beings, making choices and facing consequences as they strive to make a life of their own. Carmela includes an author’s note, detailing the lives of the two sisters who inspired this story. 

This is a thoroughly engrossing, lyrical novel. It's perfect reading for a summer day in the garden.

Happy summer reading!

Bobbi Miller

Friday, June 15, 2018

Out-and-About at Chicago's Printers Row Lit Fest!

If it’s the second weekend in June in my hometown of Chicago, I’m thinking BOOKS – new, used and antiquarian, for readers old and young, and AUTHORS aplenty and anything LITERARY.
In other words, the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Lit Fest!
Five city blocks long, utilizing the nearby Jones College Prep High School and the Harold Washington Public Library, this book lovers’ fest draws crowds by the thousands.

Once gain, I loved it all – from exploring the books of academic presses and small independent local publishers to bumping into friends and students and fellow writers to discovering a first edition of Sydney Taylor’s ALL OF A KIND FAMILY.

But I especially loved facilitating my annual “So, You Want to Write A Children’s Book?!” panel in which I both introduced and lauded 5 Chicago-area debut children’s book creators who just happened to be my SCBWI-Illinois kin.

Meet, from left to right, boasting their AUTHOR badges:

picture book author Lisa Katzenberger (TRICERATOPS WOULD NOT MAKE A GOOD NINJA, Capstone), picture book author as well as publisher Christine Mapondera-Talley (MAKANAKA'S WORLD, Global Kids House), YA author Amelia Brunskill (THE WINDOW, Delacorte Press), illustrator Jacqueline Alcantara (THE FIELD, North South Books), and in front, middle grade author Jessica Puller (CAPTAIN SUPERLATIVE, Disney Hyperion).

They generously shared their Back Stories, their journeys, their smarts and their books with a room full of folks eager to write for children.

All agreed: committing to realizing their dream is what made the difference.
Whether it meant participating in the 12 x 12 Challenge, launching your only publishing company, applying for and winning a WeNeedDiverseBooks mentorship, studying at Chicago’s Story Studio or turning your play into a novel with help from NaNoWriMo and the University of Chicago’s Graham School’s Writers Studio.
Each author also earnestly recommended connecting with like-minded, like-hearted children’s book creators, especially via classes and SCBWI.

My next Out-and-About in Chicago? 

Stopping by this beautiful new statue of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Chicago-based black poet honored with a statue and memorial in a Chicago public park.  Unveiled last Thursday, June 7, on Brooks’ Birthday, the installation sits at the North Kenwood Park at 46th and South Greenwood Avenue that carries her name. There’s also a replica representing the poet’s porch, as well as a path of stones, each engraved with lines from her poems.

Speaking of which, thanks to Karen Edmisten* (The Blog with the Shockingly Clever Title) for hosting today’s Poetry Friday.

Happy Out-and-About-ing!

Esther Hershenhorn

Friday, June 8, 2018

Home, Home On The Blog - Or, For The Love Of A Blog

Howdy, Campers ~ and Happy Poetry Friday!  (My poem and a link to this week's host is below.)

We, at TeachingAuthors Central, are celebrating our ninth (9th!!!) blogiversary and feeling pretty darn grateful.

Carmela, our Chairwoman of the Blog, started the celebration back in April, writing about our origin story and previewing coming changes.

Still in a celebratory mood, we're each posting on the topic: What I Love About Being A TeachingAuthor. Mary Ann posted the wonderful Think Write Love--with apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert, Carla writes her appreciation of sharing the real life issues of being an author, and Carmela posts her appreciation to you, our readers.

Now it's my turn.

When I was invited to join this blog, I remember thinking two things: 1) What's a blog? and 2) Why would anyone want to blog? But what I discovered is that I'd moved into an online home with five extraordinary roommates in an online galaxy (the Kidlitosphere) with an infinite number of generous souls. My village. My peeps.

So after nine years, what do I love about being a TeachingAuthor?

“The ache for home lives in all of us.
The safe place where we can go as we are
and not be questioned.” 

Why blog? Because for the writer in me, this blog is home.

* * * * * * * * * 
And now, for your listening pleasure, a poem (that mentions home):

by April Halprin Wayland
I have no rain inside my house,
no grass instead of rug,
no tiny living dinosaur,
no belching monster bug.
No piano-playing fish with wings,
no daffodils on skates,
no snowmen in my bottom drawer,
no unicycling kings.
But do I have
a waggish dog?
Oh, yes, I have
a dog.
So, there’s no end of wonders
nor subjects
for a poem
in our exciting, topsy-turvy, dog-invaded home.
poem (c)2018 April Halprin Wayland, who controls all rights.

(I  initially wrote that poem in 2012, when our doofus dog, Eli, was a puppy.)

May all your blogging bring you joy.

posted with affection by April Halprin Wayland with help from Eli

Friday, June 1, 2018

What I Love About Being a TeachingAuthor

     We're celebrating our Ninth Blogiversary with a series of posts sharing what we love about being a TeachingAuthor.

     I fear my comments may sound redundant, as I'm the next to last TA to address the topic. Like my fellow TAs, I love being part of this terrific team of award-winning authors who happen to also be writing teachers. It's amazing how close I feel to all the  TeachingAuthors even though most of them live far from me, in locations scattered across the country, and I have yet to meet one in person!

     What's surprises me even more, though, is how connected I feel to you, our readers. I did not foresee this when the initial TeachingAuthors team met to plan this blog and discuss who our target audience would be. We eventually decided we wanted to write about topics of interest to fellow writers--published and yet-to-be-published--and to those who teach writing. We hoped to share information that would be useful to both groups. To this day, that continues to be our goal.

     The part I didn't anticipate was how supportive, encouraging, and downright friendly our readers would be. Many of you comment regularly, and when I see your lovely profile photos in the comment box, I feel I'm reconnecting with a longtime friend. I initially proposed this blog as a way to be of service, and, as Esther says, "pay it forward," to fellow writers, writing students, and teachers. But often, I feel I get back more from you, dear readers, than I give.

     One of the posts that stands out in my mind was one I wrote back in 2014 called Holding on to Hope for Our "Unmarketable" Manuscripts. In that post, I shared about putting a young adult historical manuscript I'd poured my heart and soul into in the proverbial writer's drawer after being told it wasn't marketable enough. Not only did my fellow TAs post encouraging comments, but two readers, Linda Baie and Jan Godown Annino did, too. I was especially touched that Jan took the time to write a lengthy, lovely note in which she said: 
"I guess it's like a potter who creates a vase without a buyer ready to purchase, or a composer who hears music in her head & creates a score without knowing a symphony will perform her new piece." 
I don't think she even knew my novel's main character is a composer!

All the comments on my post lifted me up and made me feel embraced by a marvelous community.

Two and a half years later, in January, 2017, that same community celebrated with me when I announced that my YA historical had found its way out of the drawer and was in fact being published! And you've continued to cheer me on every step of the way, from the cover reveal through the book birthday.

It's that wonderful sense of community that is one of the things I love about being a TeachingAuthor. Thank you, dear readers.

     It's been a hectic week so I don't have a poem to share for Poetry Friday today, but I look forward to reading those in the roundup hosted by Buffy Silverman at Buffy's Blog.

As always, I encourage you to Write with Joy!

Friday, May 25, 2018

What I Love About Being a TA Blogger

One of the things I love about being a TA blogger is sharing the real life issues of being an author.  Like a lot of things in life, the dream of what a certain event will be like isn’t exactly how it turns out to be. 

When we as writers first start in this business, we dream of holding a book in our hands with our name on the front.  We think that once we get published the rest will be easier.   That isn’t usually the case.  I know well-published authors who have trouble finding a publisher for their next book.  

But still, we persevere. The desire to write books for children / young adults still pushes us on. 

So whether you are pre-published still waiting to see your name on a cover-or a published author:  keep going.   From somewhere deep inside you-you must keep going.   

Carla Killough McClafferty

Friday, May 18, 2018

Think Write Love --with Apologies to Elizabeth Gilbert

My dad's 1936 Royal.
    When I heard that my topic of the week was "Why I Love Being a TA," I was stumped. Why do I love (in no particular order) chocolate, reading and my daughter?  I could either write a doctoral dissertation on each topic....or I could say "Just 'cause." All of these, including blogging, are so much a part of me, it is hard to dissect the why and wherefore of my love.

But I'll give it a shot.

Blogging requires thinking. In this case, thinking about writing. I spend a lot of time thinking while writing.  Plots, characters, research details...a lot of thinking. What I don't do is contemplate the act of writing, the why of writing, the reasons I write.

Teaching Authors offers me the challenge of thinking about those questions. The questions I would be answering on say Fresh Air or during an interview with Horn Book...if I were fabulously successful and well known...I am forced to think about here. Think and articulate them to the best of my ability. When I am confused about anything, I journal about it. Writing brings my own fears, failures and frustrations into focus.  Most of the time, things become clearer after I've journaled. TA has sometimes served as my Public Journal.

I love TA because it makes me write. Well, duh, you think. Isn't that what you are supposed to're a writer. Yes. But TA gives me a deadline. Since I am not currently writing under contract, I don't have deadlines. This lack of urgency makes me a slack jack of a writer.  When TA says "By first thing Friday morning," that leaves no wiggle room for me. Feet to the fire, fingers to the keyboard. TA readers expect a post that day....not the day before or after.  (Admission: there have been times when I have forgotten or there has been a monumental emergency, and the post winds up being a "deadline edition" instead of an "early morning edition."

TA's Mary Ann, Carmela, April--Ill. Reading Ass. 2010
Then there is the love. The love of putting words together in a way that makes sense to you and hopefully to your readers.  The love of reading reading reading to see how other authors do this or that...or to just lose yourself for a couple of hours (all the while telling yourself that you will use what you have learned in a future TA post.)

Most of all, however, is the love of my fellow TA's. I have never been associated with such a smart, creative and occasionally irreverent  group of women (as of yet, there haven't been any TA of yet.) Some of them were fellow students in MFA program at Vermont College. Some were friends of friends who I met when we did state reading conferences together. And a few I have to remind myself, I have never met in person. I know them through emails and posts. It doesn't matter. If there is a more caring and supportive group of people...well, I haven't met them (yet...never say never.) We appreciate each other's work; we are poets, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, and a couple of us are multi-genre-ed (I know...not really a word...until now!) Writing is a lonely job. No coffee breaks with co-workers, or Friday Happy Hours. Just you and your chosen instrument of writing. However, the support and advice of my fellow TA's is just a text or email away. God bless them all.

So, in conclusion...being a TA has kept me ruminating about writing, focused and on time, and surrounded by my own support group.  What's not to love, people?