Monday, February 20, 2017

Out-and-about: REcharging My Batteries


Two weekends ago, despite rain, hail, sleet and snow which went by the name Storm Niko, I caught the last plane out of Chicago to attend SCBWI’s 18th Annual Winter Conference in New York City.

Scientifically-speaking, my creative powers needed rebooting.  What better way to REcharge my batteries than to return to my primary energy source – my community of like-hearted children’s book creators?
April’sRee would have loved the experience. J

One thousand one hundred and twenty-one attendees – representing forty-eight states and several continents - gathered at the Grand Hyatt Hotel to learn, grow and best of all, connect.  Forty per cent were published authors and illustrators; sixty per cent were pre-published. 
SCBWI Co-Founder and Chief Executive Lin Oliver lovingly refers to the organization’s 25,000 global membership as “our tribe.”
While the organization’s stated mission is “to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books around the world by fostering a vibrant community…and to act as a consolidated voice for writers and illustrators of children’s books worldwide,” the members – locally, state-wide, regionally, nationally, internationally - serve as my tried-and-true energy source when I seek the means to keep on keepin’ on.

Award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier’s opening Saturday morning keynote had us all on our feet, holding on to our dreams.
“Your dreams should steer you!” he told us.  It was bigger than the book, he reminded us.  “Somebody’s waiting for you...” he shared, “waiting to hear your story!”

Saturday afternoon NY Times best-selling YA author Iranian-American Tehereh Mafi’s keynote tightened our hold on our dreams.
She’d written and queried five books before the one that sold.
“If you do not give up, you will not fail.”

Closing keynoter, the award-winning Sarah Pennypacker, sent us on our way with E.B. White’s words: “A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false.  He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down.  Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”
Sarah Pennypacker proudly shared that twenty-six years ago, she’d attended her very first SCBWI Conference, taking heart and hope from that Conference’s award-winning keynoter – one Natalie Babbitt.  She boldly confided, almost whispering, that she’d known in her heart she’d someday be on an SCBWI stage cheering members on.

In between there were:

Panels (Four Types of Picture Books, Children’s Books and the Social Media World, the Current Landscape for Children’s Books), Workshops  (World Building, Acquiring an Agent, To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme, Writing the YA Novel – just to name a few), Socials (Illustrators, New Members, Regions, LGBTQ), Portfolio browsing, Gala dinners and autograph sessions.

Here are just a few of the nuggets attendees tweeted out in the course of the weekend:

"Everything you are awkward about is the very thing that makes you so special." - Bryan Collier #ny17scbwi @joshfunkbooks

“If you find something that inspires you, dig into that a little deeper." – Andrea Beaty #ny17scbwi @cuppajolie

“Your passion is what’s going to set your book apart.” – great advice on Nonfiction for kids and teens from @emily6560 #ny17SCBWI

“A lot of standing ovations at this conference. Why? Because we are fortifying ourselves to fight and write for the good of kids. #ny17scbwi @mbrockenbrough

The Good News, re-source-wise, is that YOU can attend the Conference too – albeit vicariously- some 2 weekends later, and power up, simply by clicking here. Be sure to set aside some quiet time, a quiet place and a big cup o’something.

Simon & Schuster Art Director (and debut children’s author!) Laurent Linn exhorted us to take Joseph Campbell’s words to heart and “follow our bliss.”

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn't know they were going to be.”

If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else.”

How could I not get my creative currents flowing again, plugged into 1121 children’s book creators who were following their bliss?!

Here’s to Happy Recharging!

Esther Hershenhorn


PS from Carmela: If you haven't entered yet, don't forget that our giveaway of Tuktuk: Tundra Tale (Arbordale Publishing), by Robin Currie, illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff, ends this Wednesday, February 22, 2017. Click here for details.


Friday, February 17, 2017

4 Apps for Writers and Creatives, and a Terrible Poem (Sorry)

.
Howdy, Campers and Happy Poetry Friday! (Links to PF and our latest autographed book drawing (!) are at the end of this post.)

Our current topic is Writer Resources. Esther's fabulous post offers five books for young writers, all of which I covet. I'd like to share four free apps I continually draw on. They enrich my life.

Meditating sometimes helps me hear that still, small voice that tells me the truth about a story I'm writing, about a life crisis, or about a relationship in flux. Insight Timer is an app I use for both silent meditations and also for its free guided meditations. I can filter them by topic (sleep, morning, energy, healing, fear, etc.), by length (from one minute to over an hour), by teacher (from all over the world), by how many thousands of times it has been played, by reviews, etc. I've been meditating for about fifteen years; this app makes it hard not to.

Adblock Plus My computer guy downloaded this popular browser extension for me years ago; it changed my life. It's free and open source and I donate to it. Why? Because if I open a web page without Adblock Plus, there are ads and moving images screaming at me. I can't focus with Las Vegas pounding on my brain. With ABP, all I see is the resource itself in a quiet field of white. Like Ferdinand the bull, instead of fighting in bull fights, I get to sit quietly under my own cork tree and smell the flowers as I write with the aid of the next two resources.

Illustration by Robert Lawson from Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, first published in 1936
Thesaurus Many of you already use this resource. If you click on the link, you'll see that it takes you to a word which helps me write. That's the page I bookmark.

RhymeZone Another one that many of you use. 

If these last two resources were pencils, they'd be little tiny stubs, I use them so much!


Okie dokie...it's Poetry Friday, so here's my poem for today. I fully admit that it's terrible, but it was fun to write and it makes me laugh.

A RAT'S TALE
by April Halprin Wayland
                     .
Ree was a rat who lived by the Source.
She did nothing but watch the Source water course
from her lonely rat hut 'neath the sourwood tree.

Ree was inactive.
Ree had no life.
Just the Source and her hut and her hot, bedtime tea.

But Ree's life was changed
when she joined the gym.
She became a gym rat and the gym referee.

She took 20 classes
that first week on a spree.
And all of her coaches said, "Sweat is the key!"

But the more Ree worked out, the more parched she got—
sweating at night
(though Ree was not hot.)

She guzzled her tea, then looked in her cup.
She pondered, then wandered outside near that tree
then drank from the Source 'til she was filled up.

And that's when Ree realized what gumption begets—
she stood taller, was forceful...
and declared,

"I'm
Ree
Source
full!"                                                               (Sorry.)
The Scream by Edvard Munch, 1893
Readers, now's your chance to enter our drawing to win an autographed copy of Tuktuk: Tundra Tale (Arbordale Publishing), by Robin Currie, illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff. The drawing ends February 22, 2017. click here for more information.

Thank you, dear Jone, for hosting PF today at Check It Out!
posted by April Halprin Wayland with gratitude for the love and support of you, our peeps of the Kidlitosphere

Monday, February 13, 2017

Working On Waiting

            
            Our latest TeachingAuthors.com theme has been “What I’m Working On.”  So I’m up next. 

            I’ve turned in the manuscript for the new book I'm working on titled Buried Lives, and I’m waiting for the editor to edit the manuscript.  So this is one of those black holes of time.   All I can do is wait.  In the meantime I’ve been working on some new projects.  Some projects have been rejected (Oh, yes rejection is a reality for us all).  Others are still being considered by the powers that be.  And new ideas are taking shape in my mind. 

            At the same time all of the above move at glacial speed, I’m also doing what many authors do and make as much money as possible as a speaker.   In addition to being a TeachingAuthor, I’m also part of an incredible group of nonfiction authors called iNK Think Tank.  I'm also part of the group of nonfiction authors who write the Nonfiction Minute that is being used by thousands of teachers (the nonfiction minute is free and we authors do not make any money from these posts).


Read Huffington Post article about the Nonfiction Minute by Vicki Cobb

           I do however charge a fee for another branch of iNK.  I’m one of a smaller group of authors who do interactive videoconferences.  I absolutely love doing these videoconferences.  I’ve done programs for schools all over the country from 3rd grade through 12th grade.   Is it the same as a live author visit?  No, but it is the next best thing.  The reality is that funding for author visits has gotten scarcer every year.   Although using technology is sometimes a problem, all in all it works very well.  The students see and hear me, and I can see and hear them.  Programs for me and the other iNK Thinkers are requested through the Center for Interactive Learning and Field Trip Zoom.   

            Another type of programming I do is Professional Development workshops for teachers.  I have one coming up this week and I can’t wait.  An elementary school has invited me to do a three-hour workshop on close reading.  I’ve done these programs many times.  As an author who does a lot of research, I do close reading all the time.  So I share with teachers a no nonsense way to approaching text that will help students with comprehension.  I’ve also done workshops like this with teachers via videoconference.    

            So this week, I have a videoconference and a teacher workshop to do.  Maybe next week, my edited manuscript will arrive.  I can only hope.

Carla Killough McClafferty

Readers, to enter our drawing for a chance to win an autographed copy of Tuktuk: Tundra Tale (Arbordale Publishing), written by Robin Currie and illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff click here for more information.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book Giveaway and Student Success Story Interview with Robin Currie


Hello, Everyone! Today, I'm pleased to bring you a Student Success Story interview with my former student Robin Currie to celebrate the release of her picture book Tuktuk: Tundra Tale (Arbordale Publishing), illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff. At the end of this post, you'll find instructions on how to enter for your chance to win your own autographed copy!

Before sharing my interview with Robin, I want to quickly mention "what I'm working on," since that's the topic of our current TeachingAuthors series. I can definitely relate to Bobbi's post about the challenges of revising historical fiction because I've been working on editing my forthcoming YA novel, Playing by Heart for several weeks now. It feels like a never-ending process! I'm also preparing my presentation on  "Coping with your Inner Critic" for the Catholic Writers Guild (CWG) online conference--which leads me to the reason I'm publishing this post today, instead of my usual Friday: I want to tell you about a pitch opportunity for those who write for young adults or adults.  A number of publishers, both religious and secular, will again be accepting pitches in conjunction with the CWG conference. I encourage you to check out the tentative list of publishers here. As I mentioned in my last post, I sold Playing by Heart to Vinspire Publishing after pitching to the editor at last year's CWG online conference. If you're interested in pitching to them, or any of the other participating publishers, you must register for the conference. And registration ends tomorrow, Feb. 10! Registration is only $40 ($30 for CWG members). For details, see this page.  If you do register, I hope to see you in my session on "Coping with your Inner Critic."

Now, back to Robin's new book. Tuktuk: Tundra Tale, is the story of Tuktuk, a collared lemming. As he prepares for the long winter night, he finds a furry kamik (boot) perfect for lining his winter nest. Can Tuktuk outwit Putak the polar bear, Aput the arctic fox, and Masak the caribou and convince them that one furry kamik is no good for anyone bigger than a lemming?


The book includes four pages of educational back matter containing information about polar seasons, arctic skies, vocabulary, and animal fun facts. A 34-page Teaching Activity Guide is also available from the publisher's website.

Robin with her assistant, Hairy Potter
Before we begin the interview, let me tell you a little about Robin's background. She's had two careers she's passionate about. As a librarian, she worked in and managed the children’s departments of several Midwestern public libraries, providing reference and literacy foundations to the smallest patrons and supporting their parents. At midlife, she was called to ordained ministry as a parish pastor. Although officially "retired" now, she is on the clergy staff at St. Mark's Episcopal in Glen Ellyn, IL. In addition to writing for young readers, Robin also volunteers annually to visit a developing country. There, she shares literature with the children and teaches them English skills. You can read more about Robin at her website and on her Facebook page.

Robin, you attended the first Facilitated Critique Workshop I offered at Mayslake in Oak Brook, IL back in 2009. At the time, you were already a published author of Christian picture books. Do you recall what inspired you to sign up for the workshop?
     After I was ordained, I stopped writing to focus on the needs of the parish. In retirement I wanted a jumpstart back into children's writing. As a preacher I was accustomed to deadlines (just try getting in the pulpit on Sunday unprepared!) so weekly class was perfect.

You must have found the course beneficial because you took it a second time. Do you recall any specific ways the class helped you?
     The class was great! There was a wonderful exchange between writers of all genres, but eventually six of us realized we were ready to meet and support one another on our own. That was the birth of our critique group, the Write 6!

Does the Write 6 still meet? If so, would you share the logistics of how you stay connected, since the members are spread over a large geographic area? 
     The Write 6 is still very much alive! Our members are spread across the Chicago metropolitan area, from near the Indiana border to the western suburbs. We meet monthly and keep in touch by email and other social media even more often, supporting each other's publications and going to conferences together. In total we have had one wedding, six children, numerous parental deaths, graduations, job changes and travels. Some of us flit from one short project to the next. Some are still working on the story that brought us together!

Four of the Write 6
I recall that your classmates often asked you to read their picture book manuscripts out loud to the group for critique. Your experience as a librarian really showed through in the way you read. Can you tell us how that experience influences you as a writer? Do you have any advice for picture book writers? 
     Library patrons at story time are very clear about when a story is not fun or engaging. They get up and walk away. Or punch their neighbor. Or TELL you!
      As a writer, I love library work! Each year, I join other picture book writers taking part in Read for Research Month (ReFoReMo), where we read five picture books a day. Not only does that give me a sense of what is selling and popular, but what is lacking. Writers, get thee to thy local library!

Please tell our readers about your new picture book, Tuktuk: Tundra Tale and how you came to write it? Can you tell us how long you spent working on the manuscript? 
     Tuktuk began as a small nameless arctic rat because I was fascinated by the arctic and wanted to write about all the land forms, sky changes, and climate. Everyone in the Write 6 learned a lot, but they encouraged me to give the character some ... well ... character! Over the next year they read and reread Tuktuk's story as he and his pals evolved into the charming occupants of the tundra. The publication of this book is a testament to the value of a critique group!

You have an agent to represent the Christian books you write. Can you tell us how you connected with him, and also, how you sold Tuktuk: Tundra Tale without an agent?
     Cyle Young represents both Christian and secular books now. I was recommended by another member of a different critique group and met him at a conference.
     Tuktuk was one of those magical "out of the slush" pile submissions. It actually had been rejected by Arbordale in an earlier version, but a different editor looked at the revision and made the deal. The editor contracted the amazing artist!

Would you like to share a bit about what you’re working on now? Do you focus on one project at a time or juggle multiple manuscripts?
     I belong to a variety of online challenges, including: 12x12 Challenge: complete 12 manuscripts and revisions in a year; Story Storm: generate 31 book ideas in 31 days;  Read for Research month (ReFoReMo): read and annotate five picture books a day for the month of March; and National Picture Book Writing Week (NaPiBoWriWee): complete one manuscript every day for a week in May!
     I'm also active in SCBWI and submit to Rate My Story regularly. I am constantly working on numerous projects at once--creating new stories and revising as I get feedback. (Plus teaching and preaching at St. Mark's!) I appreciate the online and personal support I receive (and give) to stay energized!

Wow, Robin! I'm impressed by all you do to keep motivated. Thanks for sharing with our readers.

Readers, to enter our drawing for a chance to win an autographed copy of Tuktuk: Tundra Tale (Arbordale Publishing), written by Robin Currie and illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff, 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 February 22 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 Katie at The Logonauts.

Finally, remember to always Write with Joy!
Carmela


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 6, 2017

My 99th Revision




 "...historical fiction can be a form of resistance to a homogenizing view of our world and our past. There are certainly more immediate and material ways to resist oppression — legislating, organizing, protesting, boycotting, and mobilizing are very powerful ways — but sometimes, just existing and living your life, having your story told, can have an impact." -- Disha Jani (Who Tells Your Story: Historical Fiction as Resistance 



Mary’s spinning plates as she builds a new website. What am I doing? Remember that old marching song:

99 bottles of beer on the wall

99 bottles of beer

Take one down, and pass it around,

98 bottles of beer on the wall.


Its repetitive melody helps you find your rhythm when hiking trails or jumping ropes. It’s an ear worm that keeps you steady when the task at hand seems monumentally tedious. It diverts your attention from the monotony to the goal. That’s what I feel when I revise. When I finish a first draft, breathing a sigh of relief and accomplishment, I move on to the first revision. Only to discover another plot hole. A character acts out of character. First person slips into third person. Or worse, the history is wrong.

I write a blend of historical fiction and American fantasy, blending the folklore that captures the American identity with a unique form of fantasy that – I hope – captures forgotten times and personalities in American history. My first book, Big River’s Daughter, begins in December 1811, when a series of earthquakes shook the Mississippi River basin. It shook so hard, the river ran backwards. It changed the landscape. Language is as important as the history during this time. In true rough and tumble fashion, the heroes of tall tales mocked and defied convention. Annie Christmas and Mike Fink – two important characters in the book – used language as wild and unabashed as the circumstance and landscape that created them and the protagonist, River. If the language isn’t correct, not only to the time and place and character, it’s time for a second revision.

98 bottles of beer on the wall, 98 bottles of beer…

The historical details are particularly important, whether it is the day the river ran backwards or a day during the Civil War. Historians work within a broad spectrum of data-gathering, dairies, journals and other volumes of primary sources. Planning and plotting resemble postnotes arranged in rainbows, Venn diagrams and flowcharts, all in the quest for accuracy. The process of writing historical fiction, like researching history, is neither straightforward nor risk-free. My second novel, Girls of Gettysburg,  focused on Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. No other time in American history has been so researched, even down to the number of bullets fired during the charge. Historical fiction makes the facts matter to the reader. If you get those details wrong…

97 bottles of beer on the wall, 97 bottles of beer…

Even after a manuscript is done, it's not truly done. My dear agent and I have a process. After so many rejections, we review the story, and look for possible revisions. For all the blood, sweat and tears – no tall tale here! – spilled during the writing of the manuscript, a manuscript is more likely to get rejected than not. Over winter break, I revised one rejected manuscript, taking it from 150 pages to 175 pages, refining character,  language and plot while expanding on the historical context. During these times,  I have to keep reminding myself, revising is when the real writing begins. This is when the real story emerges, the one that needs to be told. I only hope the editor agrees.

Now I’m revising another historical fantasy manuscript. The original was an experiment into the contemporary. After several rejections, it became apparent that the experiment didn’t work. With this book, I venture into the wild, wild west, taking on its fantastical landscapes and lore.

96 bottles of beer on the wall, 96 bottles of beer…

Historical fiction is one of the hardest sells today. Dear agent warned me, western themes are harder still. The original manuscript was 150 pages, and I have to get it to 225 (for many reasons, one of which is the conventions our hoped-for editor prefers)...

95 bottles of beer on the wall, 95 bottles of beer…

You know what? I hate beer. And this morning, I hate revision even more. It’s hard, hard, hard work. And there’s no guarantee that after all that blood spilled, sweat poured, and tears cried, and there’s been plenty of each, I’ll even be offered that coveted contract. So why do it anyway?

Indeed. Instead of spending all those hours writing, typing, outlining, researching, deleting, cutting, pasting, I could bake a pie. I could give my cat a bath. I could learn a new hobby, plant another garden, or two, or three…

Wait. Pause. Take a breath.

True enough, I have enough gardens, stretching almost a full acre around my cabin. And I have enough hobbies, which mostly centers on books and more books. And my cat would not let me live to see another day if I dared give him a bath. And I haven’t had a baking oven for close to a decade.

Besides, this character, for all her flaws, is getting really interesting. If I could just…

Fine. Back to work.

94 bottles of beer on the wall, 94 bottles of beer…


 Bobbi Miller