Friday, October 29, 2010

Windy Weather, Poetry Friday, and November Writing Challenges

Inspired by this week's blustery autumn weather and Poetry Friday, I wrote a windy weather poem.

Wind grabs the bird feeder,
tosses it next door,
giving hungry birds
a new yard to explore.

Wind grabs the garbage can,
turns it upside down,
blocking the alley
on our way out of town.

Wind grabs the wind chime,
carries it along,
clinking and clanking—
wind must like its song!

We are so excited! Next Friday, November 5, the Teaching Authors host Poetry Friday! Be sure to take a peek! Today's Poetry Friday host is Toby Speed at The Writer's Armchair. Hi, Toby!

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins on November 1! The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Picture book writers can take part in their own challenge in November. The goal of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.

Good luck! Have fun! Keep writing!

JoAnn Early Macken

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why I/We Write: Last But Not Least

I’m a veritable caboose today, bringing up the rear: the last TeachingAuthor to close out our two weeks’ worth of Why We Write posts.
Learning where my fellow TeachingAuthors’ hearts lie didn’t surprise me.
At the end of each post, I found myself borrowing Leslie Helakoski’s delicious Big Chickens (Dutton, 2006) refrain, declaring,
“Me too!”
“Me three!”
“Me four!”

Like JoAnn, I think better with a pen.
Like Mary Ann, I write to figure out life.
Writing serves as my life preserver, as it does for Carmela.
April’s “What if’s?” and Jeanne Marie’s need to remember are staples stored in my writer’s cupboard.

I can’t imagine a day in which I don’t write something – a letter, a blog post, manuscript comments, a grocery list.

Years of writing across all formats, across all genres, enabled me to uncover and recover the first person singular pronoun “I.”
I found me….and the voice I’d closeted long-ago.
Now I speak loud and clear, on the page, often to the world.
My ordered words express a mind-set, a heart-set, a viewpoint – all mine.
Sometimes, I am the only one listening.
Other times, listeners come a-knockin’ at my door.

This past week, children’s book author Jacqueline Jules, the Coordinator of North Arlington, Virginia’s Nottingham Elementary School’s Exemplary Project, emailed to share her students’ S is for Story-based stories posted to the National Gallery of Writing on October 20.
The principal, Ms. Pelosky, with the help of Exemplary Project PTA funds, had purchased my book as a welcome back gift for every K-5 Nottingham student as a way to commemorate a new year of the Exemplary Writing project.

Could there be a better closing to end our Why We Write posts?

The Nottingham’s students’ National Gallery of Writing stories offer Show, Don’t Tell proof of why we six TeachingAuthors choose to write.

Esther Hershenhorn

Hurrah!  We have two (count 'em) Show, Don't Tell items of proof.  Sit A While blogger and TeachingAuthor reader Callie Feyen emailed to thank us for inspiring her Why I Write post and pass along the link.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Writing Is Being

I teach English Composition 101 to freshmen twice weekly at the punishing hour (for college students and me) of 8:30 a.m.  Most of them are taking the course as a general requirement and have no great interest in (and in some cases, a great dispassion toward) writing.

This semester my students seem to be having a particularly difficult time breaking free from the strictures of the well-drilled five-paragraph essay format.  One student who did so in spectacular fashion was kind enough to allow me to share her piece with the class last week.  It was a tender ode to her deceased brother -- who now lives on in my mind always, and, I hope, in the minds of 22 of her classmates.

"This is why we write," I told the class.  We write to share memories and to help ourselves remember.  We write for the same reason that we speak, except that in writing we can choose our words so much more carefully, and we can also reach many more people at one time.

My five-year-old daughter sits down to write stories, and she still mixes up her b's and d's.  My students who abhor 'writing' sit in class and text their friends.  Why the compulsion to write, to text, to talk?  If we don't tell our stories, in a way it's as though we never lived.  Relating our experiences is what makes us human; it's what makes our lives matter; in a truly basic sense, it's what we all live for. -- Jeanne Marie


Friday, October 22, 2010

Why Write? Why Indeed! Happy Poetry Friday!

In honor of NCTE’s National Day on Writing, we Teaching Authors continue to bring you a series of posts about our own reasons for writing.  We started with JoAnn Early Macken's take on it, then Mary Ann Rodman and Carmela Martino spoke up. Below is my attempt to explain/confess/explore in a poem why I write. 
And speaking of explore, be sure to explore the NCTE web site!
About the Initiative  xxx Tips for Writers  xxx   National Gallery of Writing

by April Halprin Wayland

I can spy half a mile from my leafy retreat        
to the ocean-licked sands 
where the scribbler birds tweet.   

“Tell me why do you write?” someone yells up at me
I lean on a branch to consider the question.       
then climb even higher to give my confession.   

New ideas are a little like dandelion wisps           
It’s here that I catch those exciting “what ifs”    
then I blow on them all as I open my fists.       

I hold on to just one…the rewriting’s begun       
I’m lost in a fog—I don’t want to be found.       
Then I read it aloud and listen for sounds.               

When I finally have something—what thing? I don’t know—
I break off a twig and I poke in two holes       
then I wave my new words that say, “I did this—me!”   

Why indeed?                
A sensible question—if you’re not up my tree.               

I know it's corny, but writing really is a magic carpet..
poem and drawing (c) April Halprin Wayland

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy National Day on Writing!

Today is the second annual National Day on Writing. Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), it's a day to celebrate writing in its many forms. Why? According to the NCTE flier:
"Because we, as a nation, are writing like never before—through text messages and IMs, with video cameras and cell phones, and, yes, even with traditional pen and paper. Whether it is done in a notebook or on a blog, writing, in its many forms, has become daily practice for millions of Americans."
As part of the celebration, we TeachingAuthors are addressing the question: "Why do I write?" In the series kickoff post, JoAnn shared how she writes "to remember and to uncover the truth—not only in stories but also in me." Then on Monday, Mary Ann described how she writes "to figure things out." I write for the same reasons. But when I thought about my answer to the question "Why do I write?" the first thing that came to mind was a quote from novelist Padgett Powell:
"I knew I was supposed to be a writer; I had made that declaration in the closet of my soul." 
When I first read these words, they struck an immediate chord in me, in part because my earliest writing was done in a closet. Literally. I was around 12 or 13 years old at the time, and struggling with the turbulence of adolescence combined with family discord. Something deep within told me I needed to write, but I had to do it in secret. Since I shared a room with my younger sister, I had very little privacy. So after she fell asleep at night, I sat on the floor of our bedroom closet with the door shut, writing under the light of a bare 40-watt bulb. I wrote page after page, trying to make sense of my feelings and my life. Writing became my life preserver.
Over 25 years after my closet-writing days, I came across Padgett Powell's words in Susan Shaughnessy's Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers. Like books of spiritual meditations, each page of Walking on Alligators contains a quote followed by several paragraphs of reflection. At the bottom of each page, Shaughnessy shares a suggestion for action or a question to ponder.

In her reflection on Powell's words, Shaughnessy says:
"You don't 'become a writer' because others say that you have written well.
You become a writer when you tell yourself that this is what you are.
If you have fundamental self-honesty, you will then write. You will carry out the activity you have linked with your deepest identity."
And that is, at least in part, why I write: because it is an activity that I have linked with my "deepest identity." What started out as a way to deal with adolescent angst has evolved into a creative outlet for me. I admit that there are times when I get frustrated with the publishing world, and consider giving up fiction writing. But I can't imagine living without writing. It's too much a part of me.

What about you? Why do you write?

Writing Workout
Celebrating National Day on Writing

Why not celebrate today by writing your own piece in honor of the National Day on Writing? Then contribute it to the National Gallery of Writing. Perhaps you'll share your own essay on "why I write." Or you can submit a story, poem, recipe, email, blog post, even audio, video, or artwork. See details here for instructions on submitting your piece. After your done, please come back and post a comment about it.
Blogosphere Buzz
  • Want to keep the celebration going? Check out the National Day on Writing Live Webcast today between 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. EDT. The event "will highlight local celebrations and compositions from the National Gallery of Writing. A wide range of authors and writers will be featured during the webcast."
  • In an interesting coincidence, blogger Catherine Denton also talks about Padgett Powell's quote this week on her blog, Winged Writer.
  • This week, Newbery-medalist Sharon Creech talks about how she uses her writer's notebook on her blog, Words We Say. She even shares photos of her doodles!
  • Our thanks to blogger Christie Wright Wild for honoring the TeachingAuthors with the "The One Lovely Blog Award" on her Write Wild blog today.
Happy National Day on Writing and Happy Writing!

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Oh Good Grief, Mary Ann"

     Why do I write? Boy, what an easy topic. I can rip this blog off while watching Court TV and eating a tuna sandwich.
    Or so I thought. I had such lofty thoughts about The Muse and such. Yet, there was something vaguely familiar about them. And not familiar in a good way. Like in a plagiaristic kind of way.
     Then I realized who was being so philosophical in my head. Peanuts. Charles Schulz's Peanuts. Snoopy who fancies himself a writer (don't we all?). Linus, the thumb-sucking, blanket-dragging philosopher. And of course, Lucy the Critic. I have always been a huge Peanuts fan, but to admit they inspired me to write...well, then I'd also have to admit that I took my blankie with me to college. (Seriously.)
     Couldn't I at least claim Eudora Welty as my muse? She lived several blocks from my elementary school and I often saw her around town. I could. . .but it wouldn't be true.  However, once I got over my writing pretensions, I found my artistic connection to Charlie Brown and all the rest.
     The daily Peanuts strips were among the first things I read as a child.  I read the other comic strips too, but I never mused over them for days and weeks the way I did Peanuts.  Somewhere around eighth grade (slow muser that I am) I figured out why Snoopy and Lucy and Linus seemed closer to me than most flesh-and-blood people.
     The Peanuts gang are small children. Schulz never says how old his characters are, but I assume they were somewhere in the K-2 range. What do kids that age do? Ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. So do the Peanuts characters. Oh sure, there is usually a punchline, but a lot of deep and even religious questions appear before the tree eats Charlie Brown's kite( again), or Snoopy steals Linus's blanket.
    When I re-read my third grade journal, I see that I was asking questions, and trying to find my own answers.  This sort of soul searching evolved from simple question and answer format to the way I write today. I write to figure things out. (And I could have said that about 250 words ago.)
      Mostly, I use my stories and journals to work out the kinks in my own life.  For instance, Jimmy's Star began as a journal entry in which I was trying to figure out why something that had happened to me at age eight still enraged me as an adult. Now understand that my original incident doesn't appear at all in Jimmy. But in my journal, I wrote my way through that eight-year-old's rage, and discovered the true name and nature of this emotion.
      Yankee Girl began as a not-very-good memoir, and ended up as a catharsis. After I finished that one, I truly felt as if I had toted bags and bags of memories and emotions and thrown them in the Dumpster. Those characters and events are based in reality, so it really was like taking out the mental trash I'd been hauling around for forty plus years.
    Why do I write? To figure out life (good luck with that one, MA!) To get rid of my own demons and to honor the beautiful spirits I've had in my life. In every one of my books, I am still trying to help five or seven or eleven-year-old Mary Ann understand why things are. The funny thing is that just as you know Charlie Brown will never get his kite to fly, I see the same questions asked and answered over and over in my work. Charlie and I have had a lot of kites consumed by that kite-eating tree, but we keep trying. Wondering. Hoping. Trying to figure it out.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Latest Contest Winner!

Congratulations to our latest Contest Winner:
Danielle --a.k.a. Yellie

Danielle says she’s not sure if she’s more excited about the idea of reading this book for herself or for her kids.  That’s a fabulous attitude to have regarding picture books—because there’s no end-age for enjoying them.

(To educate parents and others on the joys of picture books, some authors, booksellers and publishers in kidlitosphere have been talking about creating The Year of the Picture Book since last June—no year set yet, but be on the lookout!)

And a big thank you to everyone who posted a comment on Candace Ryan’s interview.
May your own writing (or that of  your students) bring as much “pun” and laughter into your world as Candace’s new book Animal House does.

Remember to breathe...and to write with joy.
drawing (c) April Halprin Wayland

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Invincible Vulnerability

In honor of NCTE’s National Day on Writing, we Teaching Authors bring you a series of posts about our own reasons for writing.

Why do I write? I often say that I think better with a pen in my hand. Sometimes it acts like an extension of my arm and moves across the paper almost by itself. Thoughts pour out that I wasn't even aware of, as if I’ve turned on a tap that allows words to gush onto the page.

Sometimes my brain gets so overloaded that something has to spill somewhere somehow. Writing makes room for what I take in. My brain organizes the most urgent and/or relevant thoughts in ways I can’t always comprehend, and presto! They land on the page for me to sort through.

Sometimes I find scribbled notes in my own handwriting that I can’t remember writing.

Sometimes I write things that scare me because they are so surprising. I ask myself, Where did that come from? And sometimes what pours out is frightening because it’s so personal and so revealing. But a certain kind of strength comes from opening up and saying to the world, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, this is what I stand for.” I think my sister Peggy coined the phrase we used way back in college to describe that oxymoronic state: “invincible vulnerability.” The term has stuck with me all these years because even though it’s a difficult state to attain, I keep striving to reach it. Staying open requires honesty and attention, and the rewards justify the effort. Writing helps me not only discover what I truly believe but also express my beliefs. It helps me focus, pushes me to stretch beyond what I’ve grown accustomed to, beyond the easy route.

Why do I write? I write to remember and to uncover the truth—not only in stories but also in me. I write to learn and to share what I’ve learned, to collect information, to incorporate opposing viewpoints, to organize my thoughts. And a certain kind of joy—or at least satisfaction—comes from watching seemingly random concepts evolve and coalesce into a logical form.

I write for reasons that seem contradictory but connect in ways that make perfect sense to me. And for me, living a meaningful life means making connections: past to present, here to there, me to you.

Be sure to explore the NCTE web site!
About the Initiative
Tips for Writers
National Gallery of Writing

Enter our Teaching Authors contest!
Tonight (Friday, October 15) at 11 p.m. CST is the deadline to enter to win an autographed copy of Candace Ryan’s new picture book Animal House. For book giveaway details, read April Halprin Wayland’s October 8 interview. Good luck!

Out and About
Today, I’ll be visiting Wilson Elementary School, Grant School, and Mead Public Library in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to speak about writing and poetry as part of the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival. See the web site for details and the schedule of exciting events.

JoAnn Early Macken

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Out-and-About - and Book Giveaway!

I could not have picked a prettier autumnal week for traveling out-and-about to connect with writers and readers, both young and young-at heart. Mother Nature continues to favor the Midwest with sunny days and unseasonably warm temperatures.

Saturday, October 9, I spoke to my SCBWI Indiana kin, sharing ways they can keep on keepin’ on their Writers’ Plotlines.
Indianapolis’ Benton House was the perfect setting.
Retiring Regional Advisor Trish Batey, Assistant Regional Advisor Peggy Archer and new Regional Advisor Kristi Valiant orchestrated a welcoming event ripe with celebration and rich connections.

I even met a TeachingAuthor reader, writer and blogger Megan Bickel, pictured here on the left with fellow SCBWI Indiana member Sheryl Adair VanVleck.

Monday, October 11, the Lincoln Park (Chicago) Barnes and Noble featured me and my books for their first-ever Columbus Day Educators Event.
The day-off-from-school brought out both teachers – and - readers.

Tomorrow Thursday, October 14, I return to Winnetka, Illinois’ Community House to speak to the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop.

I’ll be shining a light on the two stories writers write: the one we’re telling our readers – and – the Writer’s Story we’re living each day.
Each story impacts and enriches the other.
Their meaningful intersection guarantees success.

Finally, Friday, October 15, I’m honored to visit the Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois.

I’ll be speaking with students throughout the day and with parents too at the annual Oktoberfest and Book Fair.

I’m one happy TeachingAuthor, traveling out-and-about, from writers.... to readers writers and readers.

By the way,
beginning with the next post, my fellow TeachingAuthors will be sharing why they write.
We’re told as writers to know our characters’ motivation – what they want and why they want it.
It’s every bit as important for a writer to know his.
What’s your What? What’s your Why?
Open to a page to explore the question. NCTE’s upcoming Wednesday, Oct. 20 National Day on Writing offers you the perfect opportunity to post your crafted response.

Oh, and don’t forget: you have until 11 pm CST, Friday, October 15, to enter to win a signed copy of author Candace Ryan’s new picture book Animal House. For Book Giveaway details, read April Halprin Wayland's October 8 interview with Candace.

Esther Hershenhorn

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall Is for Thanksgiving

In kindergarten, the calendar takes on special significance.  My daughter knows that there are seven days in a week and 12 months in a year; yet somehow, when fall rolled around, she felt sure that it would instantly be Halloween.  We have been engaged in a countdown since approximately September 1st (my daughter, taking after her mother,  is exceptionally fond of candy), but as October progresses, her excitement seems strangely to be building toward Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, I must admit, was always my least favorite holiday.  As a child, I did not like to eat (hard to imagine now), and in my half-Italian family I was expected to stuff myself with manicotti and turkey, scrapelles and sweet potatoes..  As a grown-up, I do not like to cook, to say nothing of cleaning up.  After dismal high school and college teams and years living in team-less Baltimore and LA, I'm not a football fan.  Thus one of my very favorite Thanksgivings was spent alone in LA, snuggled under a quilt with a book, a TV dinner, and a Mrs. Smith's pumpkin pie.

Lest you should feel sorry for me, please don't.  I was most thankful for a roof over my head, for heat and warmth, for pumpkin pie, and most of all (of course) for my faraway family.

When I moved back to the East Coast shortly therafter, my parents quickly made up for lost time by asking my great-aunt, my grandmother, and my great-uncle to move in with them.  I thought they were slightly insane, but I had no idea how blessed I would be as a result. 

My great-uncle Dutt (yes, that is his real name -- not Dutch, not Duck, not Butt) served in India during World War II at the ripe old age of 28.  His wife, Ruby, was in the first professional women's softball league (reference A League of Their Own) and was also, he told me, a seasoned dirt biker circa 1930.  I never meant Aunt Ruby, but I can imagine that she and Uncle Dutt were the perfect pair.

At age 85, Uncle Dutt insisted on carrying my suitcase atop his head.  In his 90s, he ran the Swiffer daily, made his famous no-bake apple pie, cleaned grapefruits by the jar for my husband and mother, and dispensed Mardi Gras beads to strangers.  At the age of 94, he had outlived his siblings and his contemporaries.  His hearing and memory began to fail.  Yet he rarely stopped smiling.

Like his sister before him, his memories of his childhood were the most keen, the most present, and he told the stories many times over -- his time in the one-room schoolhouse when he spelled 'to got she' instead of 'together'; his older brother getting locked in the coat room overnight when he misbehaved and his teacher forgot him; his father secretly feeding families during the Great Depression.

As we get older, as everything fades away, we become like children again; and so it is childhood that we never, ever forget.  Those stories are precious to us, and telling them helps us to feel human, to feel important, to feel alive.

Uncle Dutt had a stroke this week, and he can no longer tell his stories.  I give thanks that I can hold them in my heart, and I will never forget.  -- Jeanne Marie

Writing Workout
Interview a relative or a neighbor about a favorite childhood memory.  Ask the basic questions: Who, what, when, where, how?  Follow up and find out what you need to know to make the story complete in your own mind -- setting, background information (number of siblings, historical context, etc.), and especially a sense of why this event is so important to the person relating the memory. 

Finally, go home and write your story.  Make sure to share it with your subject when you're finished.  Did you relate the details accurately? 

Don't forget to enter our latest contest to win an autorgraphed book from author Candace Ryan.  See April's post for details.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gotta Pun? Author Candace Ryan Does! Student Success Story & Book Giveaway

Howdy!  If you read and comment on this post by Friday, October 15th at 11 pm CST, you'll be entered in TeachingAuthors' newest book giveaway to win today's interviewee's--Candace Ryan's--wonderfully inventive and wildly playful picture book, ANIMAL HOUSE, illustrated by Nathan Hale.

Some students make almost no impression on their teachers.  Candace Ryan made a mighty impression on me. In 2007, about half-way through my UCLA Extension course,"Writing The Children's Picture Book" I remember thinking, "This woman is SO determined, SO focused and takes this field SO seriously, it's just a matter of time before she's published...and then, WATCH OUT WORLD!"  Boy, was I right!

Meet Candace Ryan, former student, now friend and colleague.  Candace lives and works in a Los Angeles-based toy museum curated by her 5 year-old son. She tinkers with words when she can find her pen in a pile of robots and Japanese monsters.As head of her department, Candace is in charge of cataloging and organizing the museum’s extensive collection of owl, bat, and octopus toys. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it sure is rewarding.

In her dwindling free time, Candace prefers splitting infinitives over splitting atoms. Clunky puns give her a splitting headache. And she wishes there was some way to share a banana split with Dr. Seuss and Rene Magritte in a Japanese tea garden.

ANIMAL HOUSE, illustrated by Nathan Hale and published by Walker and Company, is Candace’s first picture book. As you can tell from the cover, the main character Jamie's house is alive--with puns!  Jamie's teacher discovers that his "living room is truly a living room," complete with "floormingos," a "chandeldeer," "armapillows" and MUCH more. Kirkus raves, "Ryan has so much fun coming up with increasingly ridiculous wildlife that it’s to Hale’s credit that his fine-tipped acrylics can keep up with the punny pandemonium. This book will stand up to multiple rereadings."

Candace's second book, RIBBIT RABBIT, will be published in 2011 by Walker/Bloomsbury.

Thanks for coming by, Candace!  What’s the story behind your book? How did it come about?
Actually, it all started with my son’s box of dinosaur magnets. The outside of the box lists all of the dinosaurs in the set. I happened to be reading the list one day and discovered a pattern.

My curiosity led me to search for similar patterns in animal names. As soon as I had about a dozen puns that fit the "animal-plus-furniture" formula, I knew I was onto something. By the way, if all of this sounds kind of scientific or mathematical, welcome to the way my brain works. I’m proud to make a poet-like statement when I say that ANIMAL HOUSE began with language, not story.

I submitted a very rudimentary version of ANIMAL HOUSE in your picture book writing class at UCLA and was encouraged by your positive feedback. Within weeks, I cold-queried an agent with the manuscript. A few months and several revisions later, I had an agent and my first book deal.

Author Candace Ryan submitting a manuscript
in the shape of a...what is that?
Do you have any particular strategy for deciding where to submit your work?
Because I have an agent, she’s the primary strategist when it comes to submitting my work. Based on her knowledge of editors’ tastes and needs, she develops sublists for my manuscripts. Not all of my work is in the same vein as ANIMAL HOUSE, so there’s a fair amount of strategy involved in determining which editors would make the best fit.

How do you balance your personal life with your writing, marketing, blogging, etc.? (And believe me, Candace does a LOT of great PR and generously gives of herself to others throughout the kidlitosphere.)  My number one priority is my personal life. When I feel there’s sufficient balance there, I can allow myself to go crazy trying to figure out the rest. And it does drive me crazy. I never feel like I’m doing enough in any one area of the writing business.

I’m one of those easily-overwhelmed, over-stimulated types. But I try not to be too hard on myself. My main goal is to always have fun and enjoy what I’m doing.

Hooray for making your personal life a top priority!  What inspired you to sign up for my class?
I had been writing picture book manuscripts for a couple of years, but switched gears when I wasn’t experiencing much success. I spent another couple of years trying to break into adult writing genres– from personal essays to experimental nonfiction.

Then, in one catalyzing evening during 2007 (the details of which cannot be shared, lest you think me truly a writer of fiction), everything changed. When I reflected on that evening, I finally accepted who I was as a writer. I’m a writer of children’s literature. It’s where my voice and playful spirit have always belonged.

Within a month’s time, I was signed up for your class, and I’ve never looked back.

Oooh...I'd really like to know more about that one catalyzing evening!  Maybe you could blog about it? you recall any specific ways the class helped you? (This could help me with the class I'm teaching now ~) To begin with, the class atmosphere was so nurturing and stimulating, that participating in the all-too-brief six weeks was a real spirit-booster for me.

I felt safe enough to take creative risks and experiment with language and story structure like I had never done before. It was a very happy, productive time for me.

I also learned that there was more to the business of writing picture books than just writing them. By having to read scores of picture books on a weekly basis, critiquing other students’ manuscripts, and journaling, I realized that there were other exercises that could strengthen my writing, besides working on craft alone.

In the past, I had always written in a vacuum. Interacting with others in the class helped me recognize the importance of collegiality and networking. When the class ended, some of us even formed a critique group together. Although short-lived, the critique group itself was also a wonderful learning experience.

Finally, the course formalized and put a spotlight on the concept of counterpoint, or irony, in picture books. It made me realize that I had always been fascinated by illustrations that show something that’s not in the text, and by text that is saying something that’s not in the illustrations (think Ellen Raskin’s NOTHING EVER HAPPENS ON MY BLOCK).

It’s a fun challenge as a picture book author to write texts that play with counterpoint.

And--sakes alive!  You already have another book coming out!  Tell us about it!

My next book is RIBBIT RABBIT, a short picture book for the younger set. Here’s a teaser from the back cover:

"Frog and Bunny are best friends.
Ribbit Rabbit. Rabbit Ribbit.
But what happens when they get in a fight?
Ribbit Rabbit. Yip it, yap it.
You’ll have to read the book to find out!
Ribbit Rabbit. Grip it, grab it."

It sounds terrific--and as energetic as you--I can't wait to read it!  Here's a recent post about you and your book on author/illustrator Diane Browning's blog, Out Of The Paintbox.  Anything else you'd like to share?

I recently received exciting news that there will be a Bloomsbury U.K. edition of the book, and Walker has selected it as a lead title.

Wowee--and congratulations, Candace!  I know we'll be hearing thundering hooves from your many books in the future.  Thank you for sharing with our TeachingAuthors readers ~ and for personally autographing a book for our lucky winner!

Readers--remember to comment here to be entered in the book giveaway, which closes Friday, Oct. 15th at 11 pm CST.  Good luck to all!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Celebrating World Teacher's Day with our Giveaway Winner

When I picked today for the announcement of our latest giveaway winner, I had no idea it coincided with World Teacher's Day! How fitting it is, then, to announce the name of our winning teacher:

Tanya Norris, a sixth grade teacher at Castleberry ISD.
I'm posting late in the day because I'd hoped to hear back from Ms. Norris before sharing the good news here. But I didn't want to keep you in suspense any longer.

In her contest entry, Ms. Norris wrote:
"My sixth grade class really enjoyed this activity! Last year I did this at the end of the year, but it worked well to do it at the beginning of the year -- it gave me some insight to the students. They came up with some clever memoirs like:
'Babysitting -- someone get an ice pack!'"
Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us, Ms. Norris. I hope you'll share a few more of your students' memoirs.

And thank you to everyone who entered our contest. We'd especially like to commend Ms. Peirce, a first-year teacher who tried our Writing Workout with her third-grade class. Ms. Peirce expanded the activity. After spending two days reading other kids' memoirs, her class wrote theirs. Then they published them to the wall in their hallway, alongside the author's photo. Hooray for Ms. Peirce, and her students!

Ms. Norris has won her choice of:
A) a 30-minute SKYPE author visit from one of three TeachingAuthors:
April Halprin Wayland, Esther Hershenhorn, OR JoAnn Early Macken 
B) a basket of TeachingAuthor books.
If you didn't win, be sure to come back on Friday when we announce a brand new giveaway contest!

Out and About
September was a busy month for me. Some of the highlights:
  • I started teaching a new 6-week writing class called "Craft and Critique."
  • I gave a workshop for young writers at the TT Patton stationery store in Barrington, IL.
  • Esther Hershenhorn and I presented to a great group of teachers who are members of the Illinois Reading Council's South Suburban Council. You can see us in the photo below, with the council's president and president-elect.  
Jill Liapis, Esther Hershenhorn, Megan Wrzesinski, and me
That's all for now. I hope to post more after I hear back from Ms. Norris, our winning teacher.
Happy World Teacher's Day and Happy writing!

Friday, October 1, 2010

More, More, More

More about daily learning:
Esther’s Wednesday post listed daily ways to learn by e-mail. Here are a couple of sites with daily poetry offerings:
More about Banned Books Week:
Jeanne Marie’s Monday post described book-banning controversies surrounding books by Laurie Halse Anderson and Lauren Myracle. YA author Ellen Hopkins writes powerful novels in verse that explore tough subjects. Her invitation to speak at a teen literature festival in Texas was rescinded after a librarian’s complaint. Several other speakers withdrew in support, the festival had to be canceled, and Texas teens lost the opportunity to hear all those authors speak. As Hopkins says, "What's perhaps not right for one child is necessary to another. Ignorance is no armor. And those whose lives are touched by the issues I write about deserve to know they are not alone." I agree. Read more:
More about our Teaching Authors contest:
We're extending the deadline to 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 5. Enter to win either six autographed books, one from each Teaching Author, or a 30-minute Skype author visit with April Halprin Wayland, Esther Hershenhorn, or JoAnn Early Macken. Read all about it here.

JoAnn Early Macken