Monday, January 29, 2018

Two Sure ๐Ÿ˜Š-Producing Picks for World Read Aloud Day!

Start warming up your vocal chords! World Read Aloud Day is just around the corner!

I ’fessed up to my Read Aloud Fandom – first as a student, next as a teacher and then as a TeachingAuthor - in my 2016 post.
Many of the resources I shared then, representative of my Professional World, are still worth checking out for this year’s celebration.

Today, however, I’m approaching Read Aloud from my Personal World View - specifically my role as my one-and-only 8-year-old grandson’s Vovo. “Vovo,” by the way, is an affectionate variation of the Brazilian Portuguese word for “grandmother” – “avรณ.”
I’ve been reading aloud to my bi-lingual grandson since his baby days, when I first held his tiny hand and beat out the rhythms of Karma Wilson’s incurably-rhythmic BABY CAKES (Little Simon).
And I do so every chance I get – in person, via SKYPE, phone, Facetime or MarcoPolo.
Poetry is a favorite, with rhyme even more so once Gabe was able to complete the patterns.
His Most Favorite of all, though? Silly rhymes. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Our Book du Jour all 7 days of my last visit was THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK (Greenwillow), a book I'd read to his Papi at age 9 when it was first published in 1984.
How can either the Reader or the Listener NOT smile when lost in an inventive Jack Prelutsky poem?!
And, oh, to have caught my carioca on tape when I first read aloud “Homework! Oh, Homework! I hate you! You stink!” 
Gabe’s brown eyes widened, his mouth formed a perfect O which he quickly covered in embarrassment. Next he fingered the words to make sure I’d read them right.
“Flabbergasted” doesn’t adequately describe his wonder at seeing those words that captured his mindset there in a book I'd bought at a store.

We read that Homework poem again and again, then again and again, until he’d committed the words to memory.
His Plan was to bring the book to school the Monday after vacation and recite that poem aloud. He practiced daily, imagining his teacher’s face, his friends’ faces. I recently learned, though, not to my surprise, that my ever-cautious grandson is saving his poetic recital for the last week of school. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Prelutsky’s clever, silly yet sophisticated word choice, names and phrasing are downright delicious.
Clara Cleech. Griselda Gratz.   Seymour Snorkke.
His subject matter is 100% child-friendly.
Monsters. Rats. Scaredy cats.  Angry Dads.  Friends who sock. Rotten moods. Dracula.
And what a fun way for my bi-lingual grandson to increase his English vocabulary!
“What’s that word mean, Vovo?” he’d ask at least once for each spread. I, of course, lovingly obliged.
Unaccountably.  Discreetly.  Uncanny. Squandered. Dispatch.  Panache.  Semicolon.

Listen yourself to this Poetry Foundation podcast in which the first Children’s Poet Laureate’s poems are read aloud.
I dare you not to smile. ๐Ÿ˜Š

I’m certain my upcoming visit will once again produce contagious giggling as Gabe and I read aloud many of the poems in THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK as well as the new book of silly rhymes I’ve got tucked away in my suit case – Chris Harris’ I’M JUST NO GOOD AT RHYMING AND OTHER NONSENSE FOR MISCHIEVOUS KIDS AND IMMATURE GROWN-UPS (Little, Brown, 2016).  The second poem – “I’m Just No Good at Rhyming” will especially appeal to my second-grade grandson’s silly bone.

“I’m just no good at rhyming.
It makes me feel so bad.
I’m just no good at rhyming.
And that’s why I’m so blue.

read aloud a silly poem!  Share a smile.  Catch a giggle.  Celebrate World Read Aloud Day this Thursday, February 1!

Esther Hershenhorn
Check out Betsy Bird’s List of 2017’s Best Poetry Books for Kids for more child-friendly titles.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Gearing up for #WorldReadAloudDay!

I'm kicking off a new series in honor of World Read Aloud Day (WRAD), which will be celebrated next Thursday, February 1. (Can you believe it's almost February?) If you'd like to see ideas for how to celebrate at home or in the classroom, check out the official World Read Aloud Day website

Before I go on, I want to thank all of you who participated in our giveaway of the 2018 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (CWIM). We appreciate your sharing your writing challenges and goals with us and we wish you the best in accomplishing them! Congratulations to our giveaway winner, Danielle H.

For today's post, I'm sharing a photo of me reading aloud. The following was taken at my first book signing for Rosa, Sola, at Anderson's Bookshop, back in 2005. 

I always enjoy hearing authors read from their own work, and I had plenty of opportunity to do so at the Vermont College residencies. In addition to readings by our excellent faculty, I was privileged to hear readings by such renowned authors as Richard Peck, Katherine Paterson, Karen Hesse, and Ashley Bryan. 

But long before I had a published book, I read aloud regularly to my son. One of my favorite memories is of him, as a two-year-old, sitting on the couch "reading aloud" an alphabet book. I'd read the book to him so many times that he'd memorized it, right down to the page-turns. As it says in this list of 7 Important Benefits of Reading Aloud, it's not only children who benefit when adults read aloud--adults do, too!

I hope you'll take time to celebrate #WorldReadAloudDay on Thursday. If you don't have anyone to read aloud to, you might consider celebrating as a listener at Poetry Out Loud.

In the meantime, don't forget to check out this week's Poetry Friday round up at Beyond LiteracyLink.

And remember to always Write with Joy!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


I owe buckets of thanks to award-winning children’s book author and my friend Ruth Vander Zee for contributing today’s hands-on WWW: "Connecting with Your Character Emotionally."  Ruth’s hands-on exercise will help you probe your heart so your character’s story resounds in readers’ hearts.

Ruth’s newest book, NEXT YEAR (Creative Editions, 2017) is the story of one young boy who finds a way to endure the next four years of dust storms and drought following the April 14, 1935 dust storm known as “Black Sunday.” Like the characters whose stories Ruth tells in her other works - ERIKA’S STORY, ELI REMEMBERS, ALWAYS WITH YOU and MISSISSIPPI MORNING, Calvin and his family face their tragedy while clinging to hope and acting courageously. Throughout the book, Ruth’s lyrical text is paired with the gorgeous artwork of Gary Kelley, giving readers a moving and memorable reading experience.
A resident now of Coconut Grove, Florida, Ruth believes her love of stories was kindled at the kitchen table of her childhood home on the south side of Chicago.  Her father told stories and had the ability to make each day’s activities sound like an ongoing novella. She considers herself a Late Bloomer, deciding to earn a college degree in education at the age of 40, then later to write stories for children. Those two decisions proved life-changing, not only for Ruth, but for legions of young readers, the fellow children’s book writers with whom she generously shares her expertise and experience and all who come to know her. 

In today’s WWW below, Ruth shares how she delved into the characters in her stories in ways she would have never dared.

Thank you, Ruth, for gifting us with an exercise to get both us and our readers feeling.

Esther Hershenhorn

P.S. Hours are running out to enter our Giveaway for the 2018 Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market! Click here to enter if you haven't already.

. . . . . . 


When I was writing my first book, I received this critique: “You are writing an amazing story, but I don’t feel anything.”  That was the worst and best critique EVER.  It got me delving into the characters in my stories in ways I would never have dared. 

I had a habit of holding my characters off a bit.  It’s safer that way.  Because, truth be told, finding the hearts of my characters meant finding myself in those characters.  And that brought me to places I had legitimately forgotten, chose to forget, avoided, and dismissed as unimportant.  However, when I dug up that stuff, my characters became alive.  I probably saved myself a lot of counselling fees.

For instance, when I was writing Erika’s Story, the protagonist told me that “a woman picked me up and cared for me.”  If you know the story, this child was thrown from a train.  The woman she mentioned took her home, cared for her and raised her to adulthood.  But for her to dismiss her by calling her “a woman” gave me pause. 

To write that one paragraph, I began the exercise I am sharing today.  I have done this same process with every character I have written.  Picture book writers have very few words to convey a lot.  Every word has to count, drive the story forward, and deliver the emotional connection which makes a story great.

I give myself at least a half hour.

Go to a quiet place with a pen and piece of paper.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and sit quietly for a moment. 
Then begin using your five senses.
Go the place you are trying to discover.  In the case of my “woman,” I went to my grandmother.  She was my mother’s stepmother.  She always did the right thing for my mother but my mother had a deep longing to know the love of her real mother.  There were many reasons for that.
So I went to my grandmother’s living room where we often sat when visiting.
I started with what I could see.
With eyes closed, I looked around the room, stood in the middle of the room and turned around several times taking everything in, from the horsehair sofa to the peppermint dish, to the people in the room, wallpaper on the walls…everything.  I took a long time doing this.  Turned this way and that and made sure I didn’t miss anything.
Then I went to the smells…dirty diaper on one baby, latent cigar on my grandfather.
The tastes in the room…the peppermints, the cookies my grandmother always baked.
The touch…the hot tea pot, the feel of the covering on the sofa if I ran my hand one way or the other, the silky hair of my cousin.
The sounds…chattering children, the conversations of a lot of people all happening at one time, my grandfather’s teeth clattering in his mouth.
This can take at least a half hour.
When you feel you have taken everything in, open your eyes and immediately write down, with no restrictions, what you have just experienced through your senses.
Write fast and fill your paper.  When you have put all those memories on paper, go through what you have written and cross out any words which are unimportant.  Leave all important verbs, nouns and adjectives.
Then take those words and write them in a list.
What you are left with is a distillation of a memory you may have never thought of or one that lingers in your heart every day.
You have essentially written a poem of that event.

What I discovered that day…my grandmother was not in my memory.  I’m sure she was there but I could not place her anywhere in my memory.  Her peppermints were there.  Her cookies were there.  I’m sure she brewed the tea.  But she was not there.

That experience informed how I wrote the one paragraph about the woman who picked up Erika.  I sensed her doing right by a girl she did not necessarily love but to whom she gave a lot of care.  Her resoluteness in continuing the care.  How that care could be misinterpreted as nice but not filling an emotional void.  There are many layers in that one paragraph and all need to be said with the greatest economy of words while still delivering an emotional connection to anyone who has experienced something similar.

You are not writing what you lived through but what you lived through is informing your writing. It gives authenticity and honesty to your writing.

This also works particularly well if you are needing to write authentically about a feeling.  For instance, if you remember a time you felt sad and go to the place you felt sad and walk through your five senses, you will have layers of information with which to write.

. . . . .

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Challenge in Writing

Challenges.  I believe being a writer is a huge challenge in every way. 

Most writers believe in the beginning that if only they could get published, everything would be different.  There would be no more rejection letters and it would be easier to get published after the first one.  As if a (small) paycheck for their words would magically open every door.   

But that isn’t true.  It doesn’t get easier once you are a published writer.  Rejection is still part of life for an author.  Books are still hard to write, and it is still hard to get the next book published.  Editors and publishing houses like to say “we publish authors” but that doesn’t hold true.  They publish their author’s next book if the sales numbers of the first one are decent and they want the next one.  But if they don’t like the author’s next manuscript or for some reason don’t want it-they will reject the manuscript.   

But that isn’t even the biggest obstacle.  For me, the monster that challenges me most often is the fact that I cannot make a living writing books.  I work full time writing books for an embarrassingly low amount of money.   I put time and energy and passion and sweat and tears into writing a book.  Yet, I could make more money working at McDonalds.  Each year I think, maybe I should just give it up and get a job with an actual paycheck.
So I often face off against this monster. And every time I do, I feel the pull to write about powerful true stories.  Every time I think about walking away from it, I come back to the same conclusion.  I believe this is what I was meant to do.  These are the books I was meant to write.  So I keep writing the books I must write. 

Carla Killough McClafferty

Click here to learn how to enter to win the CWIM book giveaway.

Friday, January 19, 2018

There's a Monster in My Closet

(Carmela here--I'm posting this for Mary Ann because she's having computer issues. So if you're reading online, ignore the above byline. )

There's a Nightmare in my Closet is a terrific picture book by Mercer Meyer. I first read it in library school and connected with the little boy and the monster who lived in his closet immediately (even though I was 22 at the time.) As a kid, I had to make sure my closet door was shutshutshut, before I could even think of getting into bed, let alone sleep.

Reading Bobbi’s post, “Shadows on the Wall” hit a lot of my own sensitive spots. Unsurprising since we both write historical fiction (a notoriously “tough sell” in the currents market) and don’t have agents. Actually, I’ve never had an agent, something that has always made me feel there is something wrong with me, no matter how many books I’ve sold without one.

But those aren’t the monsters in my closet (at least this week.) There is literally a MONSTER in my closet.

A monster of a book. And I’m afraid of it.

This book has been germinating (festering?) for over 10 years, if you subtract the years I was dealing with so much family drama that writing this blog every couple of weeks was all I could manage. Well, the drama has subsided, and that novel is still there. All 300 plus disjointed pages of it.

Why would a book scare me? Especially since those are my words and my characters?

For one thing, over time (and with a lot of research) this novel has grown (and grown) from a straightforward, single character POV, third person in prose, to a three character, first person POV…in verse. I wasn’t trying to be cool or innovative in choosing to write this way. As I wrote, I realized that there was no way this particular story could be told through a single character’s eyes. I found that the story was too heavy written in prose. It worked much better in short free verse scenes. I’ve never written in verse. I’ve never written in multiple POV. One thing I was doing during “the drama years” when I wasn’t writing, was reading every multiple POV verse novel I could find. (So the time wasn’t entirely wasted.)

Why else does this particular book intimidate me? It was weighted with a lot of emotional baggage. My story “seeds” almost always come from my own family and family history. Yankee Girl was about my own childhood, Jimmy’s Stars from my mother’s family. This WIP is from my father’s family. He knew I was writing it (as does every living member of the Rodman family). I had so hoped to finish it before he passed away this last September, on his 95th birthday. He helped with so much of the research, as did my Rodman cousins.

I am afraid this book will be 300 pages of nothing-in-particular (yes, I DO know what the book is about and could give you the 25 second elevator pitch). Years ago, an agent who read the synopsis and first ten pages said, “You write very well, but I can’t imagine WHO would want to read THIS,” handing me the manuscript, dangling it between two fingers, as if it were contaminated.

In the time I’ve been working (or not) on this novel, I have written and sold four picture books, so it’s not like I have writer’s block. I have This Particular Book Block. I am afraid. I’m afraid I won’t do justice to the story, a story that I fervently believe in. Maybe too fervently? Too emotionally involved?

I don’t have much hope in publishing this book. I have been told I am a “literary” writer to the point that I should have a t-shirt that reads, “Literary Writer, will work for food.” (Literary writer is editorspeak for “Good reviews, no sales.”) Deep down, I hate the thought of self-publishing a story that I’ve wanted to tell my whole life, just so my friends and relatives can read what I’ve been doing for ten years. (Not casting shade on self-publishing, but that takes skills I don’t possess, to say nothing of my own money.)

So there you have it. My scary book-in-the-closet. The book that is keeping me from writing anything else. I can’t go any further as a writer until I fling open the closet door, and drag the monster into daylight. Do what needs to be done to it. Send it out into the world to fend for itself.

And maybe…just maybe, like the monster in Mercer Meyer’s There's a Nightmare in my Closet, it will turn out to be a meek creature, as scared of me as I am of it.

by Mary Ann Rodman

P.S. If you haven't entered our giveaway for a chance to win the 2018 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (CWIM), there's still time! See this post for details.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Shadows on the Wall

Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

--Maya Angelou (1993)

“Fear is the enemy of creativity, the hotbed of mediocrity, a critical obstacle to mastering life,” states Maria Popva of Brain Pickings. This round, Teaching Authors is considering,  “How do we want to challenge ourselves or our students in the new year?”

Carmela begins with a lesson learned from her new book that will help in a revision of her next (her post includes our book giveaway of CWIM 2018); Esther talks about Next Steps in a writer's journey.

April’s challenge is to LET GO. SIMPLIFY (and a book giveaway!).

It’s a natural human thing to feel, fear. It was vital to the survival of our prehistoric ancestors facing life and death situations, inducing fight or flight responses. It’s the emotional response to troubling news, calamitous events and tragic experiences. It makes us hide, or run away, or play dead. It can be irrational, almost always is complex, as a tsunami washes panic and doubt over us, reaping havoc on our creativity.

This year has been fraught with many abrupt life changes. This includes the separation from my dear agent. I searched for years for the right agent, firing two agents along the way because they were not serving my best interest. Finally, finally I found the ONE. After five years, and the sale of my two historical fiction middle grade books, my agent decided to focus on picturebooks and so ended our relationship. For a year now, I’ve been in search of a new agent. I write historical fiction, focusing on forgotten characters (usually girls, who are not represented enough) and events (because I think as a nation, we are historically illiterate and have forgotten our own story) that helped build the American landscape. I write historical American fantasy, a unique blending of the tall tale tradition and character that captures so much of the American identity with the historical American landscape.

It has not been easy.

Careful to do my research, and asking for recommendations, I’ve sent out two to three queries a week. Giving time for responses, I’ve sent out close to thirty queries. Most have given me the silent rejection and not responded. A few responses liked the story but rejected the manuscript because historical fiction is a hard sell. A few others offered that it was a bad fit, offering vague, even contradictory reasons. One asked for a revision, and then ultimately passed. Another asked for another revision, offering detailed observations. But now, I struggle with the writing.

I don’t think I have it in me for another rejection.
First there was grief over the end of a relationship that I valued. But as I understood and accepted the rational of the decision, I began to panic as I received one than another then another then another rejection.. Yes, I could submit to publishers without rep, but most require the vetting of an agent. I soon doubted my place in the writing field. I began to grieve – what I thought – the end of my career just as it finally seemed to come together.

Everywhere, there are shadows on the wall and noises down the hall.
But my friends Cynthia, Bonny and Vera, and my fellow Teacher Authors, they tell me: Don’t Give Up. It's a new year, a new day.

And Monica tells me, Just Keep Swimming.

Okay. I will if you will.

So this is my challenge to you: don't give up.

Don’t Quit

--Edgar Guest (March 1921)

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
when the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
when the funds are low and the debts are high,
and you want to smile but you have to sigh,
when care is pressing you down a bit - rest if you must, but don't you quit.

See the full Edgar Guest poem here .

Photo is from Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, conceived and edited by Sara Jane Boyers, pairing Maya Angelou’s simple, strong narrative with drawings by legendary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. For more on the lovely book, including a discussion on the art, where to buy it and listening to a reading by Angelou, see Brain Pickings here.

Bobbi Miller

Friday, January 12, 2018

LET GO. SIMPLIFY. (and Book Giveaway!)

Howdy, Campers ~ Happy Poetry Friday! My poem(s) and the link to PF are below.

This round, each of us at TeachingAuthors is considering How do we want to challenge ourselves or our students in the new year?

Carmela kicks us off; she believes lessons learned from her new book will help in a revision of her next (her post includes our book giveaway of CWIM 2018); Esther talks about Next Steps in a writer's journey.

My challenge to my students and to myself this year is to LET GO. SIMPLIFY.

This is from a poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado:

Wanderer, your footprints are

the path, and nothing else;
wanderer, there is no path,
the path is made by walking.
to read the rest of this poem, click here

His poem reminds me of who I was and what I am becoming.

In the past, I was a puppy chasing after her tail, looking for my PURPOSE in life, and trying to write my stories in the EXACT RIGHT WAY. I was looking for that green button to push. I knew it was somewhere. I just had to find it.
I ran from award-winning-writer to crazy-wonderful-workshop to must-attend-conference to the-ultimate-guru to she-will-fix-my-novel-mentor to they-will-lead-me-out-of-this-quagmire-critique group (at one time I was in three critique groups, which is categorically insane).

I don't chase my tail much these days (probably due in equal measure to wisdom and hormones).  And this year, because I was ill for several months, I had to--BAM!--blow up my tidy schedule: no weekly silent writing group, no critique group, no exercise classes, no hiking group, no folk music circles in our home, and almost no political activities. I had to unplug from those little boxes on my calendar.

Where did that leave me? On a deserted island. No one could find me. I couldn't find myself.


For my poem on October 26th, I was inspired by a sentence from a meditation I listened to that day:

by April Halprin Wayland

You may feel lost,
like a chick on the prairie.

There will be times
like this.

there will be feathers:

on bushes,
in dust.


This is how you'll find yourself.

(The sentence that inspired me was: "You may feel lost at times, but that is how you find yourself.")

LET GO. SIMPLIFY.  When I let go of everything, I'm free to choose what serves me going forward.

Searching through my daily poems for the tag word "Lost," I see I've been here before, witness my poem for August 17, 2012:

by April Halprin Wayland

We writers,
we've been through Hard Times.
Dry times.
The Long Drought.

Dry?  Oh my.
We place our plates upside down,
glasses bottom side up,
so the winds won't blast dust into 'em.

Our typewriters go thirsty on parched parchment.
We've got scrawny stories—or none at all.
Ideas simply

We hear that on the outskirts of Amarillo,
crows built a nest from barbed wire—
the only thing they could scavenge
from burned-out fields.

Those birds made a nest
from barbed wire?
Well, Sir, then so can we.
And then: we'll crow.

both poems © 2018 April Halprin Wayland.  All rights reserved.
There will be feathers. I can make a nest from barbed wire. Or from absurd and glorious ideas. They don't have to make sense to anyone else. They don't even have to make sense to me.

So how does LET GO. SIMPLIFY. translate for me this year?  I use the app My Affirmations; here are some of them:
  • I radiate vibrant health.
  • There is no need to compare.
  • My writing sings.
  • I submit one book this year. (If I submit more, I get bonus points)
  • I am present.
  • I am kind.
I know this post wanders. But today I accept I am a wanderer. May you accept yourself and your own writing in all it's absurdity and glory in the coming year.

What writing (and/or non-writing) challenge will you take on this year?

Remember to enter our Book Giveaway for a chance to win the marvelous 2018 CWIM. Click here for details.

Thank you, Jan Godown Annino at Bookseed Studio for hosting this week's Poetry Friday! 
(I love this joyful PF image. Makes me smile. )

posted with hope by April Halprin Wayland with the help of Eli-the-dog, Snot-the-cat, and Monkey-who-doesn't-know-he's-a-stuffed-animal.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Of Chances and Challenges and New Beginnings

Here’s to the 365 chances this brand new year 2018 gifts us to honor and complete the challenges we’ve honestly and bravely identified!
[Note: Be sure to RE-read the above A Favorite Design, Inc. greeting card’s small print often: “Improvement not guaranteed, but achievable when used in conjunction with a positive attitude.”]

And here’s to our TeachingAuthors Book Giveaway of the 2018 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET! If you haven’t already entered, be sure to check out the instructions at the end of this post.

Thanks to all who’ve already shared their New Year’s challenges.  The oft-repeated verbs in the posted comments say it all:

flesh out

Verbs, E.B. White reminded us, drive the sentence, in much the same way our chosen verbs drive our Writer’s Plotlines. They get us up close, then through, then over, then past what’s standing in our way.

No matter the year, my teacher’s challenge, my Writing Coach challenge, is to keep my writers keepin’ on!
When it comes to protecting and sustaining the writer’s Spirit, resources, opportunities, possibilities abound.  Indeed, they’re limitless.
When it comes to the writer’s telling his story in words to young readers, however?
Identifying the “something” in a story that needs to work better – the format, the narrator viewpoint, the word choice, for example – that’s easy.
Figuring out the purposeful, concrete and doable Next Steps that offer a writer a way to address that “something” -  not so much.

So I’m always on the look-out, now and forever, for new exercises that help
ensure my students and writers tell their stories the best way possible.
Alice LaPlante’s THE MAKING OF A STORY (W.W. Norton, 2007), which came highly recommended by a Writing Coach who works with adult novelists, has grown my stash immeasurably.
Think: a 677-page one-stop guide to the art of fiction and nonfiction, covering “inspiration, craft, aesthetics and purpose” and offering expertise, exercises and examples aplenty.

The Exercises on Revision included in the chapter “Learning to Fail Better” offer all sorts of delicious Next Steps possibilities.
Some of the Analytical/Mechanical exercises are tried and true:  highlight all forms of “to have” and “to be,” then replace them with active verbs; retype your story so that each word might spark a new idea.
Many of the Creative Exercises were familiar: change the point of view and rewrite the story; change the tense (from past to present or vice versa).
I’ve used many of the Research-Based Exercises: research the kind of music that would have been playing on the radio at the time the piece is set; research five recipes that the people in the story or nonfiction piece were eating.

It was the Chance-Based Exercises that raised my eyebrows. Suddenly I was adding new Next Steps to my Bag of Tricks.

Take a walk around the block.  Make whatever happens (or doesn’t happen), or whatever you observe, the basis for a free write that you can include in your piece.
Make a list of all the things that happened to you this week that surprise you.  Do a free write on one of them that might be relevant to your piece.

                                                    (A Favorite Design, Inc.)

Hopefully the above exercises will serve as “helping verbs” of a sort, not in the true sense of the word, but instead in the sense they are helping you take a chance to ACTualize your own chosen challenge verbs.

Here’s to a year of Hope and New Beginnings and successful Next Steps on your Writer’s Journey!

Esther Hershenhorn
I’ll be sharing my ever-growing stash of Next Steps with writers this July as I’m again honored to continue Barbara Seuling’s Manuscript Workshop in Landgrove, VT. 

And now, click HERE to read how easy it is to win a free copy of  the 2018 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market.

Friday, January 5, 2018

CWIM Giveaway and a Challenge for the New Year

Happy New Year!
I have the pleasure of kicking off our TeachingAuthors posts for this year with a giveaway of the 2018 edition of the Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (CWIM), published by Writer's Digest Books and edited by Cris Freese. Read on to learn how you can enter for a chance to win this great resource. (A BIG thank you to Writer's Digest Books for providing our giveaway prize!)

Last fall, I mentioned that I have an article in the 2018 CWIM on "Working with Small Presses." I happen to have a second article in the same issue: an interview with award-winning picture book author Carolyn Crimi. In the interview, Carolyn discusses, among other things, the use of humor and wordplay in her books, her writing process, and her next release, the middle-grade novel Weird Little Robots, which will be published by Candlewick Press in 2019. Weird Little Robots was billed as Carolyn's "debut middle grade" in the Publisher's Weekly announcement of the sale.

Full disclosure: I met Carolyn Crimi when we attended Vermont College together years ago, and I consider her a good friend. When I proposed the interview to the CWIM editor, I pitched it as a piece about a "bestselling picture book author turned novelist." But I knew that Carolyn had previously ghostwritten two novels in R.L.Stine's Ghosts of Fear Street Series, a fact she discusses in the article. Even though Carolyn is working on another novel, she says in the article that she will continue writing picture books, too. She's not afraid to wear lots of different hats: picture book writer, novelist, illustrator, teacher, improv artist, actress, etc. 

One of the things I admire about Carolyn is that she likes challenging herself, which leads to the topic of our first series of posts for the New Year:

How will you challenge yourself as a writer this year?

My self-imposed challenge? To revise the nonfiction picture book biography of mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi that I wrote years ago. If you follow our blog, you know that working on the biography led to my young-adult novel Playing by Heart. The novel is based on  the lives of Maria Gaetana and her younger sister, composer Maria Teresa Agnesi. To write Playing by Heart, I had to immerse myself in the life and culture of 18th-century Milan.  I now feel better equipped to again tackle the true story behind my fiction.

As I type this blog post, I'm thinking that rather than revise the biography I originally wrote, perhaps I'll start from scratch and try coming at it from a completely different angle. We shall see. My goal is to bring Maria Gaetana Agnesi's story to life in a way that will connect with young readers--something my earlier drafts didn't accomplish.

Now it's your turn:
What writing challenge will you take on in 2018? I invite you to share your answer in the comments below or on our Facebook page. (If you haven't already "liked" our Facebook page, please do so today!) Your answer can serve to enter you in the CWIM giveaway if you follow the instructions below.

First, though, I'd like to share a bit of good news about Playing by Heart (Vinspire Publishing). Leslie Lindsay, a Goodreads "Top 1% Reviewer," gave the novel a
5-star review! She enjoyed the novel so much, she invited me to do an interview on her blog. You can read the interview and her complete review here. I'm grateful Leslie also posted her review on Goodreads and Amazon. (The heading of her Amazon review reads "Historical YA Fiction Appeals to Readers of ALL Ages.") My publisher wants me to have at least 50 Amazon reviews and the book currently has only 31. So if you've read the book and enjoyed it, I'd appreciate if you'd post your honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, or both.   

By the way, I included this info and other good news in my latest Creativity Newsletter, in which I also discussed being creatively inspired at the movies recently. You can read that issue here. If you enjoy it, I hope you'll become a subscriber in the right sidebar of my website's home page.

And now, for the instructions on how to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the 2018 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (CWIM):

You must use the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post to enter the giveaway. You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options. 

If you choose option 2, you MUST leave a comment answering the question:
What writing challenge will you take on in 2018? either on this blog post or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page.

If you have trouble posting your comment, you may submit it 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 the message to access the entry form.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA THE RAFFLECOPTER WIDGET BELOW.
The giveaway ends January 24 and is open to U.S. residents only.

Winners will be notified via email, so watch your inbox!

By the way, congratulations to Jeanne S. on winning a copy of Paul Mosier's Train I Ride in our last giveaway!

Don't forget: today is Poetry Friday. This week's roundup is hosted by Catherine at Reading To The Core.

Finally, remember to always Write with Joy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway