Monday, May 2, 2011

Hooray, It's May; We're Giving Another Book Away!

     The above title should tell you why I rarely attempt poetry!
     The book for our latest giveaway is Camp K- 9 (Peachtree Publishers) by yours truly, with the most wonderfully funny illustrations by Nancy Hayashi. By now, you have probably figured out that this is a picture book about dogs going to camp, but more about that on Wednesday.
    Believe it or not, this book took me four years to write because I was stepping outside my comfort zone.
    What comfort zone? you might ask.  You've written picture books before. Lots of them.
   Ah, yes, but within the picture book genre, there is the book I find the most intimidating (besides anything that rhymes!) 
    I call them "talking critter" books, where the animals act as surrogate humans. Because some of my writing idols (Kevin Henkes, Carolyn Crimi and Lisa Wheeler) are masters of "the talking critter," I decided the field didn't need whatever measly effort I might produce.
    So what changed my mind?
   A dull Fourth of July neighborhood party. I was so hot and bored that I went home for the publisher's catalogs that I kept tossing on my desk to read "later."
   It was later.
   I was struck by how many "talking critter" books were in the picture books section, and how few involved real children (my genre). It hit me that if I was going to stay in this business, I better learn to write critter books and soon.
   The trouble is my creative brain doesn't look at a cat and see a barrio feline, whipping up dinner for his new neighbors, a family of mice, as in Gary Soto's hilarious Chato's Kitchen.  I see my psychotic cat, Rosie, doing cat things; sleeping, eating, chewing my face off because I am late with her grub. Not picture book material.
    Then I remembered our first dog, Nilla. Now she was a character. Nilla already thought she was human, and we thought of her the same way.
   When we got married, my husband wasn't at all sure I could handle motherhood, despite the fact that I had been school librarian, responsible for lots of kids every day for ten years.  Our pound puppy was supposed to be my surrogate baby. Really. If puppy turned out OK, it was assumed I would do equally well with a human baby.  Really.
   Nilla was part cocker, part spitz, so when asked, I said she was a pure bred "spitzer" (I will resist an Elliott Spitzer joke here.) Because she was pure white, and because the rapper Vanilla Ice (remember him?) was on Saturday Night Live that weekend, I named her Vanilla Ice, which soon became Nilla.
   Even as a puppy, Nilla seemed like a human teen-ager. We imagined that she hung out with Paula Abdul and the Laker Girls (we're talking early '90's here). We imagined she'd swiped our car keys to hang out at the mall with her "girls."  But most of all, I remembered Nilla going to "camp."
   I don't remember the actual name of the kennel, but I do remember its logo; a dog carrying a tennis racquet, golf clubs and a suitcase. "See," I told my guilty husband.  "We're not deserting Nilla to go on vacation. She's going to camp."
   We imagined what Nilla might do at camp. I thought she might French braid fur and give pedicures. My husband knew she was teaching the other "campers" poker, and that she probably cheated.
   Yeah, I thought, as I gathered my publisher's catalogs and headed for home, I can do this. I already have a great main character and premise.  I'll write a book about Nilla going to camp. I'll call it Camp K-9. I can write talking critter books, too.
   That was the easy part.  There is a part two. And three. Tune in Wednesday and Friday to learn about leaving your comfort zone (and freaking out), making mistakes (and fixing them!) See the instructions below to enter for your chance to win a copy of Camp K-9.

And don't Forget About Our Blogiversary Critique Giveaway
For details click this link:

To Enter Our Camp K-9 Book Giveaway: 
1. You must comment to today's post, telling us why you would like to win Camp K-9.  Will you be keeping it for yourself or sharing it with another young reader?
2.  You must include contact information in your comment.  If you are not a blogger or your email address is not accessible from your online profile, you must send us a valid email address in your comment.  Entries without contact information will be disqualified.  Note:  The TeachingAuthors cannot prevent spammers from accessing e-mail addresses posted within the comments, so feel free to disguise your address by spelling out portions such as "dot" and "at." 
3.  You must send us your post by 11 pm (CST), Wednesday, May 11. Winner will be chosen at random via and announced on Thursday, May 12.  Note:  Winners automatically grant us permission to post their names here on the TeachingAuthors website.
4.  You must have a mailing address in the United States.
5.  You must respond to the notification e-mail and provide a mailing address within 72 hours, or the prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner chose.

Those are the official rules. If you feel like sharing a camp memory, that would be great, but certainly not required.
     To get the ball rolling here, I will share the only thing I remember about Girl Scout day camp.
     We had to make our own meals, and every day, dessert was boxed banana pudding. Every day, I would find boulders of unstirred pudding mix in my dish. To this day I shudder at the mention of banana pudding.

How about you?  It doesn't have to be sweet, embarrassing, or even super memorable (see "banana pudding.") Later on, you'll find out what camp means to Roxie, Camp K-9's main character.  
  I can't wait to hear from you.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman


The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Susan @ emaill address is
I was a divorced kid so for five years, camp was a big part of summers spent with Dad. I loved it. My favorite memories were trying to shoot a bow and arrow (i knew I was going to be the next Robin Hood and endless clapping games. "categories" (clap, clap) "movies" (clap, clap) "My Pal Trigger" (clap, clap) "House of Wax" (clap, clap) We could go one quite a long time. Movies and movie stars were my favorite categories.

sally apokedak said...

I loved this post and would love a copy of the book. Old Nilla sounds hysterical.

I went to a couple of camps when I was young. I don't remember too much about them. I remember much more the camping trips I went on with my family. My dad was big into camping. We camped across Europe and then across the USA. Fun times.

Tiffany Drew said...

I would love to have this book for my two children, I know they would love it. Thank you very much for the chance!

When I was in 6th grade, the school send us on a week long field trip called Nature's Classroom. It was up in a mountain, and it was snowing and cold. I begged my mother not to send me, but she did. I hated every minute of it. All of my friends shared a room while I was put with the group of kids who I barely knew. We ate hot dogs for lunch almost everyday, and were forced to do "trust" games out in the snow. I was miserable. I think this is partly why I don't like to go camping anymore lol.


Hannah Ruth Wilde said...

I never went to any summer camp until I became a counselor at a Jewish Camp when I was sixteen. Every Friday night campers and staff dressed up for Shabbat. I had a huge crush on a guy and I remember feeling that sixteen year old puppy love "OMG, I get to see him tonight and show him my pretty dress." We ended up dating for seven years and almost got married. Ah, sweet sixteen and summer love.

If I win this book, it will be donated to Larchmont Charter School, West Hollywood to help build their new library.

I receive emails from Teaching Authors, so you should already have my contact.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

You know what, Mary Ann Rodman?
With your voice, I'm thinkin' you can write ANYTHING. :)
I remain Your Fan.

Sarah Campbell said...

I can pretty much assure everyone I will NEVER write a talking animal book. But you probably would have said the same. ... I can't wait to read it.

Megan K. Bickel said...

I had this same problem! I've only managed one "talking critter" manuscript so far because it is just not my comfort zone either. So, bravo to you!!

I'd love to be entered to win the book. I'll be sharing with my three boys! : )

Literally Lynne said...

I would LOVE to win this book, first and foremost, for my daughter to read at our library's ongoing "Read to Rover" programs! I also am a Guest Reader at my daughter's school and share books from my personal library. It sounds like a great book!

mary ann rodman said...

I am really enjoying all the camping stories, so I'll add one more of my own. I became a camp counselor so I could spend the summer with my boyfriend, also a counselor. It was the best summer ever, because I discovered I was good working with kids. I have worked with kids in some capacity ever since. Thank you, Former Boyfriend. If I hadn't tagged after you, I might never have learned this.

Sandy Brehl said...

Hoping to win! If so, I'll share the book with my PB Workshop teachers and crit group before sharing with my nieces and nephews- dog-lovers and book-lovers one and all.

I'm too old to have been to camp- (stone age didn't have camps!) but our city park had a summer "day camp" option that I attended once. I chose the "dance" option, which was as laughable then as it is now. I did manage to meet a friend who would later become my best friend for several years. So, it was worthwhile despite my stumbles and klutzing!

I tracked back to enter today after reading your Wed. post about K-9's history. A great life story for a book, and an inspiration to other writers as well- persistence!!!
Fingers crossed that I'll win.

Gail said...

I'd love to win a copy of Camp K-9 so that when I finally get a guide dog, I'll be prepared to send him or here to camp! :-)

I only went to sleepover camp one year....the year my only sibling was born. I missed her so much, I intentionally broken my braces so my parents would have to come get me. Then I tried to convince them to let me stay home! Of course, I ended up going back to camp!
Contact info: and kidlitgail at gmail dot com

elsie said...

I love the development of this story. It would be a great example to share with students on why revision matters and sometimes your first attempt isn't the only way to write a story. Hope I win!

We never had money to send me to camp, but my son always enjoyed the summer church camps.