Monday, July 13, 2009

Adventures in Techland

I am writing this from beautiful Ocean Isle, North Carolina, but I don't think that was what we had in mind when we set up the "out-and-about" category of blogs. But since I haven't been to any writing-related events lately, I will tell you about two "techie" related projects I am currently working on. Or maybe struggling with would be a better way of describing it. Anything that involves the Cyberworld takes me a long time to master.

The first of these is the "virtual school visit." Two of my publishers have offered their writers this option, which involves the writer using Skype to come into a distant classroom, via webcam. In fact, one of my publishers asked us to make a three to five minute "auditioncast" to take to ALA as an example of our work. It took me a week to discover that the webcam on my computer required a program that was not on my computer. Go figure. But having solved that little glitch, I am really excited about the idea of using Skype to do school visits. (Mary Ann Rodman, coming to you via Skype...just like on the Oprah Show!). With school and library budgets shrinking by the day, an author visit that does not require paying for the author's transportation, housing, etc, would make a cybervisit much more affordable, providing the school has the technology. It is also a great deal for those of us who love doing school visits, but don't always have the time in their schedule to fly three time zones away for a week at a time.

My second venture in Techland has to do with the UK release of my middle grade historical fiction, JIMMY'S STARS. (That's the UK cover at the top of the post; the American Farrar Straux Giroux cover under it. Interesting change in cover art, no?) This book was based on my mother's family and their experiences during World War II. My UK publisher, Usborne, asked for any pictures, letters, documents that I have of Mom's family that would reflect the events in the book. They were especially interested in the shipboard diary my Uncle Jim (the inspiration for the fictional Jimmy) kept as a seventeen-year-old Merchant Marine. Usborne is posting all this, along with my explanations as to how these things fit into my story, on a special section on the Usborne site as a resource for teachers. I am so excited to be sharing some of my material with a delightful woman named Sally, who is as interested in the intersection of history and fiction as I am!

My only problem has been in discovering that 1)somehow the power cord to my scanner has disappeared into the black hole that is my office 2) discovering that my Local Chain of Office Service Provider has horrible scanners 3) my Local Chain of Office Supplies no longer sells flat bed scanners. When I asked where the scanners were, the adolescent sales "associate" looked at me as if I had asked for a rotary dial phone or typewriter. Instead, he waved his hand at a display of "multipurpose" machines, each the size of VW Bug. When I told him I didn't need a fax-printer-scanner-copier-photomaker-that-plays-The Star Spangled Banner (OK, I made up that last part), he just shrugged and said, "I think you can get those old-fashioned ones online."

So I ordered one online, and had it in my hot little hands two days later. I am now gleefully scanning away, and firing off my family treasures to Usborne. When they have the site set up, I will let you all know.

But for now, the beach and a book are calling my name. And speaking of books, I have read been reading like crazy these past two weeks. Here's the list: Barnyard Slam, by Dian Curtis Regan, Up North at the Cabin by Marcia Chall, Prairie Train by Marcia Chall (Picture books)
The Locked Garden
by Gloria Whelan, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, When the Whistle Blows (MG Historical Fiction)
Love, Aubreyby Suzanne LaFleur (MG fiction)
Also Known as Harper by Ann Heywood Leal, The Morgue and Meby John C. Ford (YA Fiction)
Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toibin, Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (Adult fiction!!!)
Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row by Jarvis Jay Masters (Adult Non-fiction)

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