Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Giveaway Congratulations and a List of Helpful Writing Books

Congratulations to Jan Godown Annino, whose entry was chosen by the Random Number Generator to win an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step!

Thanks to all your helpful suggestions, I'm adding a number of books to my Must Read list. Here are the titles contributed in the Book Giveaway entries:

Wild About Words said, "The book that influenced my writing was STORY by Robert McKee -- really helped with story structure and character arcs."

Robyn Hood Black said, "One of my favorites . . . now is Georgia Heard's AWAKENING THE HEART."

Joyce Ray said, "I also love poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge."

moonduster said, "The Artist's Way was required reading for a class of mine in college and it was wonderful at helping me embrace my creativity."

jan godown annino said, "In addition to poem crazy, which I shared last year with my poetry critique group, I am grateful for several titles. One I'd like to be bold & mention is THE CREATIVE HABIT by Twyla Tharpe. This choreographer & dancer of great stature provides us a lively guide that I try to reread every year. When she talks about collecting her posse, it makes sense for children's literature folks to especially note that this group of her advisors included Maurice Sendak. Her tips lift me up."

Linda said, "Another book I still refer back to is Lee Bennett Hopkins' Pass the Poetry, Please."

skanny17 said, "One of a number of books that influenced my teaching of writing was Write from the Start by Donald Graves and Virginia Stuart. (An oldie but a goodie.) After that all of Nancie Atwell's work and Lucy Calkins's early works such as The Art of Teaching Writing and Living Between the Lines were very helpful. Georgia Heard's books also were a big influence. Naming the World: A year of poems and lessons by Atwell is very helpful for teachers."

Karen said, "One book that influenced my writing is Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets by Paul B. Janeczko."

Lisa said, "The book I love to use for teaching about using one's unconscious mind when writing is Writing the Natural Way" by Gabriele Rico."

Thanks again to all who entered--I'm glad to see so much support for writing and teaching poetry! And thanks again to the Teaching Authors for inviting me here for the Write a Poem Step by Step Book Giveaway and guest post!

JoAnn Early Macken

TeachingAuthors Schedule

The TeachingAuthors will be taking a winter break until January 2, 2013. They'll return with a special announcement regarding the blog in 2013.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Personal Best or These are the 2012 Books I Liked

  This post was supposed to be about holiday book giving....except that Hanukah ended Saturday night, and unless you live near the world's best stocked indie bookstore (or don't mind paying an arm and a leg for expedited online delivery), it's a little late for holiday book shopping. Not only that, but in my last post on the topic, I think I expressed my unease in recommending books for you to give. You know the reading ability and taste of your book recipient.  I don't.

   In fact, I would never give a book that I hadn't read myself.  So in the interest of informed book giving, here's a list of my favorite books published in 2012 that  you should read.  This way you'll be prepared for book giving the rest of this year.

    This is a real quirky list, guided only by my own reading tastes.  I hope there's at least one book here that will ring your holiday chimes.

    Here are my favorite books of the year.

      Young adult

      1.  Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Two English girls find themselves in the middle of Nazi Occupied France with a mission to accomplish.  Mystery, intrigue, told from a double POV, this one was a real nail biter. This is available in every format you can imagine, including MP3 downloads and Audio Book.  256 pp.

      2.  We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March. When I was researching Yankee Girl. I was surprised to find how little had been written about this chapter of Civil Rights history. The arrest of 4,000 elementary through high school students, peacefully protesting inequality in Birmingham , Alabama is a story that I incorporate in my school visits...and that my audiences have a hard time believing.  This account focuses on four of the participants and their lives before, during and after the march. This is not available electronically, although it is on audio CD, and on Audible Audio. 176 pp.

      3.  Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick.  This is based on a true story of an 11-year old Cambodian boy who survived the Killing Fields by playing music for the Khmer Rouge. McCormick does not spare the harrowing details in what is ultimately an uplifting story.  Available one-book and Audible Audio.

     Middle grade

      1.  Drama by Raina Telgemeier. This hilarious graphic novel about backstage of a middle school musical (Moon Over Mississippi!) is by the author of last year's Smile (which was as dark as this book is lighthearted.) Available only in hard or soft cover. 240 pp.(Note this is for you who wonder where all the humorous books have gone.)

     2.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  Fifth grader Auggie Pullman has such a severe facial deformity that he has been home-schooled. . .until now. Beginning with Auggie's POV, the story then switches to that of his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend and others, culminating in a Big Picture of a community struggling with compassion and acceptance. Available in e-format, audio CD, Audible Audio. 320 pp.

     3.  Titantic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson.  Just when you think you have read everything there is to read on this subject, Hopkinson unearths first person accounts and archival pictures (taken by a passenger who got off at the last port before before the sinking). Guess what James Cameron got everything right! Although this is avail be in e-book, audio CD and Audible Audio, I would recommend the hardcover for the clarity of the pictures.  304 pp.

       Picture books

     1.  And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano, ill. by Erin Stead.  Illustrated by last year's Caldecott winner, a boy and his dog, tired of winter, decide to plant a garden.  But first ....there must be spring.
Any kid who has lived through a winter that lasted just a little too long will identify with this one.
Hardcover only.

     2.  Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer. Olivia, that precocious piglet, is up to her snout in princesses. In the sparkly-pink world of princessdom, how can a pig who prides herself on individuality, make her mark?  IMHO, this title is the best of the Olivia series (possibly because I too, am tired of sparkly=pink princesses.) Available in e-book.

     3.  Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.  How many kinds of green are there?  More than you could ever imagine, as this concept book proves.  This is a title to sit and savor, over and over. Hardcover only.

      Here are some more titles I liked.

Young adult:  The Fault in Our Stars--John Green;  The Diviners--Libba Bray;  Ask the Passengers--A.S. King;  Grave Mercy--Robin LaFevers;  No Crystal Stair--Vaunda Michaux Nelson;  The Raven Boys--Maggie Stiefater;  Dodger--Terry Pratchett;  Beyond Courage:  The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust--Doreen Rappaport; Bomb:  The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon--Steve Sheinkin;  Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95--Phillip Hoose;  Cinder--Marissa Meyer

Middle grade:  Legends of Zita the Spacegirl--Ben Hatke;  Nathan Hale's Dangerous Tales:  Big, Bad Ironclad--Nathan Hale; Crow--Barbara Wright;  The Lions of Little Rock--Kristin Levine;  The White Zone--Carolyn Marsden;  Hereville:  How Mirka Got her Sword--Barry Deutsch;  Summer of the Gypsy Moths--Sara Pennypacker; Liar & Spy--Rebecca Stead;  One Times Square:  A Century of Change at the Crossroads of the World--Joe McKendry;  May B--Caroline Starr Rose; Starry River of the Sky--Grace Lin;  Son--Lois Lowry; Temple Grandin:  How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World--Sy Montgomery

Picture books:  Z is for Moose--Kelly Bingham; Unspoken:  A Story from the Underground Railroad--Henry Cole;  The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse--Helen Ward;  Barnum's Bones:  How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World--Tracey Fern;  Sky Color--Peter Reynolds;
Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington--Jabari Asim;  A Home for Bird--Philip Stead;
Electric Ben:  The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin--Robert Byrd; Sleep Like a Tiger--Mary Logue

   In addition, two of my all-time favorites, Kevin Henkes and Rick Riordan have new titles this year.  I didn't include them because these two guys have yet to write a book I didn't love.  Everything by them is great!

    And if for some reason you haven't read Charlotte's Web (the movies do not come close to the book), now is the time.

  Don't forget to enter our Book Giveaway for JoAnn Macken's How to Write a Poem Step by Step.  See JoAnn's guest post for details.

Posted by Mary Ann

Friday, December 14, 2012

Light Winter's Darkness this Poetry Friday!

Howdy, Campers ~ Happy Poetry Friday!

Jama's hosting Poetry Friday today at Alphabet Soup 
(which is in case this link doesn't work)
...and if it's at Jama's it's sure to be tasty!

Update: be sure to hop over to Heidi Mordhorst's
when she hosted Poetry Friday
...Heidi's email about offering poems about light in darkness
for the solstice inspired this post.

For my last post of 2012, I'm going to break from our series on publishing opportunities (see Esther's last two posts and Carmela's post, with more to come!)...

I've been thinking about my family and our, well, interesting year (especially the part about my husband dying of a heart attack and being brought back and now being completely and miraculously fine); about hard times and hope, about sunrises, candles, glowing kitchen windows at night, and about the dark of winter and the glint of winter sunlight.

 by April Halprin Wayland

On a hard day's chill,
when my heart stands still,
Sun, oh, Sun, where do you disappear?

Then Sun answers me,
answers quietly,
Look around, little girl, I am here, I am here.

© 2012 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

I am Jewish; I just recently learned that the fifth night of Hanukkah (which can be spelled many ways) is the first night in which there are more flames than darkness, more candles lit than unlit, and represents the triumph of light over darkness. 

I love that.

Okay...ready for today's writing workout, Campers?

WRITING WORKOUT: A Light in the Darkness

1) Take a cozy moment to scribble ten ideas triggered by the phrase, "a light in the darkness" or by the 1:06 minute video above.  Jot down memories, images, or the name of someone in particular who helped light your way in a dark time.

2) Consider imitating the rhyme scheme of the poem above:

3) Or write a 100-word story.  

3) Or write forget #2 and #3 and write the poem or story you were meant to write today.

4) Write like a little kid who is so jumpy-excited to get a piece of paper and a pencil she can barely sit still.  Give that little kid a chance; let's see what gift she creates for you this holiday season!

And speaking of gifts, don't forget to enter to win a gift for yourself or for some lucky teacher in your life: an autographed copy of JoAnn Early Macken's, Write a Poem Step by Step. I have her book and it's terrific!  See JoAnn's guest post for details.

Not actually in Southern California where I live, 
but in Phoenix, several years ago.
Still, a pretty note of light and hope 
with which to end the year...

Happy Holidays One and All!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Building A Writing Portfolio

Most of the adults who sign up for my writing classes have the same goal: to get a book published by a traditional publisher. They're usually shocked to learn what a long, slow process book publication typically is, whether they're working on a picture book or a novel. To help cope with the wait, I recommend they work on building a portfolio of writing credits they can mention in their cover/query letters. On Monday, Esther shared links to information on how to get published in Highlights magazine. Highlights is a well-respected magazine that's been around for years, and an impressive credit to include in your writing portfolio. Unfortunately, that means they receive a huge volume of submissions, making them a tough market to break into. I like to remind my students that there are other children's magazines, many of them more open to material than Highlights or the Cricket Magazine Group, which publishes high-quality magazines for toddlers to teens.

One of my favorite lesser-known children's magazines is Pockets, published by The Upper Room, for 6 to 12-year-olds. Like Highlights, Pockets runs an annual fiction contest. They also accept a variety of material, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, puzzles, and activities. Although Pockets is a Christian magazine, not all content is explicitly religious. I recall studying a sample issue years ago that happened to include a story that had won their fiction contest. It was a wonderful story about a girl learning to accept her new stepfather. I don't believe it mentioned God at all.

As it says on the Pockets website:
"Each issue is built around a specific theme with material that can be used by children in a variety of ways. Submissions should support the purpose of the magazine to help children grow in their faith, though all submissions do not need to be overtly religious." 
The magazine's monthly themes are listed on their website, along with a submission deadline for each issue. To paraphrase something I heard Richard Peck say years ago, "A deadline is a writer's friend." When I first learned of Pockets and their theme/deadline list, I submitted some theme-related puzzles. To my delight, they were accepted! That success led me to try my hand at writing a short story specifically for an issue focusing on "prejudice." They accepted that piece, and "The Cupcake Man" became my first published children's story. Pockets also published my first children's poem. (Is it any wonder why I'm so fond of this magazine?)

Of course, the key to success when writing for Pockets or any other magazine is to study several issues so that you can draft a submission that fits with the magazine's overall feel. You should be able to check out copies of well-known magazines like Highlights and Cricket at your public library. For smaller magazines like Pockets, you can usually request a sample copy from the publisher. Instructions for doing so are often listed in the "Magazines" section of the annual Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Writer's Digest Books). You may be surprised by the number and range of magazines you'll find listed there. If you're a member of SCBWI, you can also download the latest SCBWI Magazine Market Guide, which also includes general tips on writing for magazines.

Besides magazines, another good market for building your writing portfolio is the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books. Their upcoming titles are listed on their website along with their submission deadlines. (Remember: Deadlines are our friends!) When Chicken Soup put out a call for the book Teens Talk High School: 101 Stories of Life, Love, and Learning for Older Teens, I submitted a poem in two voices called "Questions," which they accepted. My Writing Buddy, Leanne Pankuch, recently had her second Chicken Soup story published in Hooked on Hockey. Again, to place a story in a Chicken Soup book, it's important to study past issues, and also to carefully read their guidelines. While Chicken Soup stories are nonfiction, they must read like well-crafted fiction--with a beginning, middle, and end; action; dialogue; conflict, a theme, etc.

By the way, all the markets I've discussed today pay for your writing. While it's not exactly a "pot of gold," receiving payment for our work is affirming. And it has given many of my former students the confidence to say "I am a published author," even as they wait for their first book contract.

Don't forget: there's less than a week left to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of JoAnn Early Macken's, Write a Poem Step by Step. See JoAnn's guest post for details.

Happy writing!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Good Ol' Opportunity: Redux

As reported in my December 5 post “Good Ol’ Opportunity,” in which I offered my Thumbs Up  review of Melissa Ambramovitz’s guide to writing nonfiction children’s magazine articles, A Treasure Trove of Opportunity, a multitude of publishing rainbows besides those first sought await children’s book writers on their road to publication.

In other words, Opportunity knocks often and loudly in the Children’s Book World.

Check out the following pots o’gold waiting for you should you answer your door:

(1)   Highlights Magazines Current Editorial Needs – for both nonfiction and fiction

(2)  the Highlights 2013 Fiction Contest

This coming year, the judges welcome stories of any genre (mystery, historical fiction, sports, humor, holiday, etc.) as long as the stories are intended for kids ages 6 to 8.
Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for any Highlights Founders Workshop will be awarded.
Entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2013.

(3)  The 12x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge

This is the perfect follow-up to PiBoIdMo.  
Participants will be encouraged to write one picture book draft a month, for 2013’s twelve months.
Registration is now open.
You’ll receive support, motivation and accountability, not to mention insights and instruction from authors, illustrators, editors, art directors and agents.

Please note: NaNoWriMo participants can continue learning at the challenge's blog.

Be sure to check back for the first TeachingAuthors post of the New Year when we offer our readers yet one more opportunity to work their writing muscles throughout the coming year.
Good Luck! – and – Happy Holidays!

Esther Hershenhorn
Don’t forget our TeachingAuthors  autographed Book Giveaway of former TA JoAnn Early Macken’s newest, Write a Poem Step by Step: A Simple, Logical Plan You Can Follow to Write Your Own Poems.

To enter our drawing, you must follow the
TeachingAuthors blog. If you’re not already a follower, you can sign up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.

You may enter the contest one of two ways: 1) by posting a comment below OR 2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.

Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your first and last name AND tell us how you follow us (via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs). If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way: youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.

Be sure to tell us about a book that influenced your own teaching or writing.
This contest is open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. The entry deadline is 11 p.m. (CST) Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Good luck!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Guest Post, Book Giveaway, and Poetry Friday!

I used to be a regular contributor here at TeachingAuthors, but now I am a guest. In my last post, I explained my difficult decision to step away from the blog because of an overwhelming workload. Now my busiest teaching semester ever is coming to a close, and I have a new book to celebrate. Hooray! 

Write a Poem Step by Step: A Simple, Logical Plan You Can Follow to Write Your Own Poems evolved from the poetry workshops I’ve been presenting in schools for the past fifteen years or so. Poems written by students in my workshops illustrate each step in the process. I’m delighted that the TeachingAuthors have invited me back to tell you about it and to give away an autographed copy.

I used to be a regular contributor here at TeachingAuthors, but now I am a guest. As soon as I wrote that sentence, I remembered one of my earliest inspirations for helping students write poetry. Anyone familiar with Kenneth Koch’s classic Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry will probably recognize the form of the “I Used to Be/But Now I’m” poem that he used as a structure for student poems. When I started working with elementary school students, I pored over that book and his Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? Teaching Great Poetry to Children. What I took away from Wishes, Lies, and Dreams is underlined in my tattered copy: “Children have a natural talent for writing poetry and anyone who teaches them should know that. Teaching really is not the right word for what takes place: it is more like permitting the children to discover something they already have.”

A Celebration of Bees: Helping Children to Write Poetry by Barbara Juster Esbensen was an even bigger influence on my developing teaching/helping techniques. I took her words to heart: “If any one word can stand for the essence of creating a climate, an atmosphere that allows the creative impulse to grow and flourish, I think it would be the word accepting. Every child needs to feel that you respect and accept what he or she is trying to do.”  I also latched onto her practice of asking questions to draw out children’s own ideas.

For the Good of the Earth and Sun: Teaching Poetry by Georgia Heard convinced me of another important aspect of my approach. “Poems come from something deeply felt; it’s essential for student poets to be able to choose their own topics according to what’s important to them.”

With those concepts in mind, I’ve developed and fine-tuned my own approach to working with student poets over the years. What I wanted from the start was a method students could follow all the way through the process of writing a poem. I didn't want to give them a form to fill in; I wanted them to find their own way, step by step. That process is at the core of Write a Poem Step by Step.

The results in workshops have been amazing: students do have original ideas, extensive vocabularies, and creative ways of expressing themselves. Here’s an example from a long-ago series of visits with one class for which I received the Barbara Juster Esbensen 2000 Poetry Teaching Award:

My Imagination

My mind plays tricks on me
in the dark.
An invisible man
in my closet
is wearing my jacket and shoes.

Miguel Rowell-Ortiz, Grade 3

Write a Poem Step by Step is available now from Lulu, amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores. You can read more about it on my web site. Enter the Book Giveaway for a chance to win an autographed copy!

Book Giveaway!

For a chance to win an autographed copy of Write a Poem Step by Step: A Simple, Logical Plan You Can Follow to Write Your Own Poems, tell us about a book that influenced your own teaching or writing.

To enter our drawing, you must follow the TeachingAuthors blog.  If you’re not already a follower, you can sign up now in the sidebar to subscribe to our posts via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs.

You may enter the contest one of two ways:  1) by posting a comment below OR 2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.

Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your first and last name AND tell us how you follow us (via email, Google Friend Connect, or Facebook Network blogs). If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way:  youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.

This contest is open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. The entry deadline is 11 p.m. (CST) Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. I'll announce the winner on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Good luck!

It's Poetry Friday! Today's Roundup is at READ, WRITE, HOWL.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Good Ol' Opportunity!

Thanks to more years on task than I’d ever imagined, I’m personally acquainted with the proverbial carrot that swings beneath our writers’ noses whilst we bravely and anxiously navigate our Writer’s Journeys. 
Its name?
We travel here, there and everywhere, despite unrewarded efforts, creatively visualizing our stories when printed and bound, covered and blurbed – in other words, published.

But you know what?
If we stop for a second and look around at our Children’s Book World, a multitude of publishing rainbows are there for our viewing before we reach our wished-for, worked-for destination.
Each offers its very own pot o’gold, an opportunity to achieve publication and thus experience pride, satisfaction, affirmation and sometimes even $$$.
There’s a treasure trove of opportunity awaiting us writers, besides the one we first set out to capture.

For instance, what about writing fiction for children’s magazines? 
Or what about writing nonfiction articles for educational publishers?
Even better, what about writing nonfiction children’s magazine articles?!

Thanks to Melissa Abramovitz’s Thumbs-Up guide, coincidentally (and appropriately) titled A Treasure Trove of Opportunity: How to Write & Sell Articles for Children’s Magazines (E & E Publishing, 2012), we can now put our writing skills, interests and talents to work mining other paths to publication.

There is indeed a market for nonfiction children's magazine articles.
Highlights senior editor Debra Hess shared with Melissa, “While we publish roughly the same amount of fiction and nonfiction in Highlights, we receive substantially more fiction submissions than nonfiction submissions.  As a result, nonfiction has a higher chance of being purchased.  We are always looking for new nonfiction writers.”

Melissa knows all about writing – for all age groups, from preschoolers through adults.  Her publishing credits include educational books on health topics, as well as science, nature and history, fiction, poetry and five rhyming picture books.  But she especially knows all about writing nonfiction magazine articles.

In this one-of-a-kind resource based on her twenty-five years of experience and extensive body of work, as well as interviews with other nonfiction magazine writers and editors, she generously shares insights she’s gleaned, proven tricks of the trade and the tools she uses to move from generating ideas to researching to structuring, on to creating whole pieces, formatting and revising, on to querying likely publishers, considering contracts and marketing your work.

Concrete learner that I am, I was especially taken with Melissa’s “Show, don’t tell” examples when making a point.  She shares her own published articles as well as those of others.  She offers the nitty-gritty details -  of referencing references, photo inclusions, author rights, and nailing a story’s audience, just to name a few.

Her listing of “salable structures” sparked all sorts of ideas:  How-to articles, puzzles, quizzes, sidebars, nonfiction verse, personal experience articles, slice-of-life or inspirational articles, profiles and as-told-to articles.

Appendix A: Grammar Gateway even offers tips on sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and unbreakable rules – good for any writer, no matter the format, genre, audience and publishing segment.

Consider this post, consider Melissa Abramovitz's book but one knock at your Writer’s Door.

(And we all know how many times Opportunity knocks.)
Happy Mining!
Esther Hershenhorn


Monday, December 3, 2012

OH, It's a Book; or What to Give a Reluctant Reader

     The season of gift giving is here, and I know what all of you TA followers want...a book. Right?  And what is our go-to gift for the loved ones in our lives? A book.

     I learned early that those square packages that didn't rattle when you shook them were either underwear or a books.  A solid thump would eliminate the former and affirm the latter. No matter what other presents I received, Christmas afternoon would find me curled up with my gift book.  My beloved Charlotte's Web was a gift from my father when I was eight.  A biography, You Might as Well Live, my junior year of high school began a life long love of Dorothy Parker.  My dad was the book giver in my family.  He somehow knew just the right book for me, and what I had already read.  I suppose I should not have been surprised since he was an FBI agent with excellent powers of observation.

   Holiday giving was pretty easy at my house.  Both of my parents were non-fiction readers whose tastes ran to non-fiction, particularly political history and biography. They never read fiction. Christmas at my house was books, books and more books (and, from my ever-practical mother, underwear).

    When I had a child of my own, I felt blessed that she loved books as much as I. Every gift giving occasion included at least one new book, that her father or I would read to her. 

    Then my daughter was diagnosed as severely dyslexic.  While her own vocabulary and understanding of what was read to her was far beyond her grade level, what she could actually read for herself did a number on her self-esteem and willingness to persevere. While everyone in her class was reading Harry Potter, my daughter could not read the picture books that I had written about her.  It was a frustrating situation, since she still loved books and stories.

    Maybe you have a reluctant reader or one, who like my daughter, has so much difficulty reading that it is an ordeal rather than a pleasure. 

    1. Magazine subscription--My husband swears that the only reason he ever read as a child was that his parents gave him a Sports Illustrated subscription every year from third grade on. My dad, the Wizard of Gifts, didn't miss a beat when he learned his granddaughter would never be a reader. He added up her love of nature, travel and her talent as a photographer...and renews her subscription to National Geographic every Christmas. Today, Lily is a National Arts Honor Student in Photography. Her career goal?  To be a National Geographic photographer, of course.

   2. Don't overlook the e books and magazines.  I know I know...there's nothing like a book. However, for a kid, there is nothing like convenience.  When I was a librarian, I noticed that if a student had a choice between the same book in hardcover or paperback, they would always choose the paperback.  They were already lugging around pounds of textbooks; a paperback could fit in their pocket or purse, always ready for a spare minute's reading. The same goes for our kids and their various electronic gadgets.  There is nothing more convenient than a download to an electronic reader or tablet. (E formats can be downloaded to computers as well...but not so convenient.)

    As I mentioned in a previous post, Lily took to the Kindle immediately because there are a variety of applications that can provide voice-activation. Be sure to check when ordering an e-book that voice-activation is available for that particular title. For instance, both of my middle grade novels Yankee Girl and Jimmy's Stars are voice enabled. The one book Lily is dying to read, To Kill a Mockingbird, is not even available as an e-book. (And no, the movie is not the same thing. We saw it again as a family at Thanksgiving and those of us who have read it agree that as wonderful as Gregory Peck is, it is not the same experience as Harper Lee's lyrical prose.)

   As for e-magazines, it would be easier to list those not available electronically.  You can download a subscription to everything from Sesame Street to Seventeen to Sports Illustrated.  

   One word of caution.  Picture books derive much of their meaning from their arrangement of pictures and text.  Even though there are a number of picture books that are available in e format, the print to screen layout is not always the same. There are books designed specifically as e books (Lulu's Brew by Elizabeth Dulemba immediately comes to mind.)  The same is true of verse novels and books of poetry. As much as I love Ellen Hopkins' YA novels, a great deal of their meaning is derived from the way the verse is arranged on the page...something which does not always turn up in the version. 

3.  Audio books--I love being read to. So does my husband. When we were first married and our car did not have a tape player, I would read to him on long car trips. You know you are in love if you are willing to spend an 18 hour car trip reading a corporate history of the Anheuser-Busch company, aloud. 

    By the time our daughter came along we had upgraded to cars with tape and then CD players.  We made a lot of long car trips.  Enter the audio book. Both Lily and my husband ( see item one) enjoyed hearing Henry Huggins, the Ramona books, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Percy Jackson Series.
(We are still awaiting an audio version of To Kill a Mockingbird.)

   Two words of wisdom in buying reading material for anyone. One...if you don't know the person well enough to know they will be interested in your gift selection, don't give a book. If you have to ask a bookseller, "What are 12-year-olds (fill in the appropriate age) reading?" then you don't know this child well enough to give them a book. I learned this the hard way from my husbands nieces and nephew who were not readers. For years they would open my present with a fake smile and an unenthusiastic "Oh, it's a book." I also have observed the wrath of some parents whose child was given "what 12-year-olds are reading," (usually by a grandparent), only to find that the parent found the book inappropriate.  When in doubt...give a gift card to their local (independent, if possible) bookseller.

    Two...just because you loved a book doesn't mean your child will.  The only audio book that was spurned by both Lily and my husband, was Charlotte's Web! Sigh.  It happens to the best of us.

     Happy (book giving) holidays, one and all.

     Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, November 30, 2012

Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving

First, a huge THANK YOU to those readers who linked back to our Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving posts and/or wrote thankus of their own:

Linda at Teacherdance.

Betsy at Teaching Young Writers.

Linda at Write Time.

Ramona at Pleasures from the Page.

Margaret at Reflections of the Teche. And a second post.

Leanne at Leanne Pankuch - Children's Writer.

Stacey at Two Writing Teachers.

And Jan, thanks for sharing your thanku in our comments section, too.

Woot! So fun and inspiring to read all of your lovely and touching thankus. We appreciate your participation.

Gosh, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm having a hard time believing that tomorrow is December 1st. What happened to November?! Well, one good thing about flipping the calendar page is that tomorrow is "Take your child to a bookstore day." So please visit a local bookstore, if possible, and spread the love.

This is my last post for awhile, so have a happy holiday season and a beautiful and blessed 2013.

Happy writing!

Jill Esbaum

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A long-over-due ThankU...

What fun to see my October 12, 2011 Thanku post blossom and bloom in such original and meaningful ways.
What an honor (and surprise!) to be a Thanku recipient too.

Thank you, Carmela, and my fellow TeachingAuthors, for growing this idea.
And thank you, our TeachingAuthor readers, for both nurturing the concept and transplanting the poetic form via your students, colleagues and website visitors.

As for who receives my Writer Thanku this year, I really and truly grew a very, very VERY long list of all those who helped me become a Writer, especially a children’s book writer.
Alas, the bounty of companions who kept me traveling my Plotline boggled  my brain.

Mentors, such as Barbara Lucas.

Teachers, such as Bernice Rabe and Charlotte Graeber.

An entire international society of children’s book creators! 

Editors (Assistant, associate, senior and executive.)

Publishers, such as Holiday House and Sleeping Bear Press.

Children’s Librarians, such as Wilmette, Illinois’ Lynn Persson.

Booksellers (of the independent kind), namely Pat Wroclawski and Jan Dundon.

Reviewers, including Ilene Cooper and Mary Harris Russell.

Academicians, such as Drs.  Roxanne Owen and Marie Donovan.

The Kiddos for whom I write, of course (last, but not least).

It turns out, the World in which I do my heart’s work each day gave me Everyone – thus Everything - I needed and wanted.

So, here’s my sincere Thanku, a cornucopia of thanks, to those who continue to keep me keepin’ on.

The Children’s Book World!

Seeders, feeders sunning all

                                     Seekers of story.

Good News!  There’s  still time for you to share your  writing-related Thanku with us in one of three ways on or before November 30:

(1)   post a comment to one of our posts
(2)  send an email to us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com, OR
(3)  write a thank-you blog post of your own and then share the link with us via 1) or 2).

Feel free to copy and paste the image below into your blog post. We'd love if you'd also link back to this post and invite others to participate.

We’ve got a horn of plenty waiting!

Esther Hershenhorn


Monday, November 26, 2012

My Teacher, My Mentor, My Friend

Like Mary Ann, I am alas incapable of incorporating Esther's cool thanku format as I acknowledge the teachers who have inspired me on my journey as a writer.  For one thing, there are too many to thank.  For another, there's just too much to say (and I've never been very good at following the rules, I must admit).

There's my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Micklos, who helped me to believe that I could write -- and who also taught me the scientific method that provided the backbone for my first novel.  There are my wonderful high school English teachers, Mrs. Weingarten and Mr. Bennett, as well as the one (he who shall not be named) who taught me everything NOT to be as a writer or a teacher.  There's my first editor, Olga Litowinsky, who was generous and demanding and funny and smart.  Then there are my Vermont College advisors. 

Randy Powell had two small children, a full-time job, and a writing career, yet he took the time to write me amazing 10-page editorial letters each month.  From Randy, I learned that hard work pretty much trumps all. 

I worked with the inimitable Jane Resh Thomas the semester that I was writing my critical thesis, and my biggest takeaway lesson that semester was honesty.  I remember Jane recounting with regret that she had become a nurse based upon the fantasy world that the Cherry Ames books had cultivated.  Jane said indignantly, "Books lie."  As a parent, I often remember her words about the harm we do when we keep the truth from children who need to hear it.  And coming from a soap opera background where it's second nature to go for the easy shock (back-from-the-dead, serial killers, demonic possession!),  I learned from Jane that I must always put the emotional truths of my characters first. 

Susan Fletcher was my mentor in my last semester, when I had cancer surgery and radiation.  In her compassionate way, she inspired me to work as hard as I ever had.  Read anything she has written, and you will see how her kindness spills onto every page.

Children's book writers are, by nature, a nurturing lot.  Soap opera writers, not so much.  With hefty-ish salaries and limited jobs to go around, backstabbing tends to be the way of the world.  So while this blog is ostensibly about writing for children, I feel compelled to use this space to give profuse thanks to one Frances Myers Newman.  I was a lowly intern and then writers' assistant when she was a seasoned scriptwriter at DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Fran fought for me to get my first job.  When I was fired, she prevailed upon friends to help me to get another job.  She and her husband, Roger, gave me continuous feedback and encouragement, support and friendship.  When my husband and I were on the cusp of either parting ways or entering a serious relationship, I asked her advice and took it without second thought.  And here I am -- eight years married and two kids later.  I tell Fran that I would have no job, no husband, no kids without her.  She thinks I exaggerate.  I do not.  Fran taught me a favorite expression of her mother's that I will forever carry in my heart. "God is the good in each of us."  And God has been very good in giving me the gift of Fran and her family in my life.

April, we are all so thankful for Gary's recovery.  (And yes, we are fond of induced comas on soap operas, but I've never known anyone in real life who'd been in one.)  God is good, indeed!
-- Jeanne Marie

A reminder from Carmela:
You're invited to share your own writing-related thank-yous with us. You can do so on or before Nov. 30 in one of three ways:
1) a comment to one of our posts,
2) an email to us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com, OR
3) by writing a thank-you blog post of your own and then sharing the link with us via 1) or 2). Feel free to copy and paste the image below into your blog post. We'd love if you'd also link back to this post and invite others to participate. (As the lovely Linda Baie has done on her TeacherDance blog.)

Your thank-you needn't be written as a Thanku, or even as a poem, but if you're posting it as a comment or email message, please limit it to 25 words or less. We'd especially love for teachers to send us thank-yous written by their students. We may share some of them on the last day, November 30, along with our round-up of links to Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving blog posts.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My husband's alive! What are YOU thankful for? Write a Thanku for Poetry Friday!

Howdy Campers ~  Happy Poetry Friday!  I hope your Thanksgiving was all that you hoped for.  Mine certainly was...

But first, Franki and Mary Lee of A Year of Reading are our Poetry Friday hosts today--thank you, ladies!

And speaking of thank you: for two weeks, we TeachingAuthors are extending the celebration of Thanksgiving by giving thanks to those who've made a difference in our writing lives.  We'd love you to join us: in a Thanku or in prose, 25 words or less, due November 30th.  See Carmela's most recent post for the specifics.

I've taken a break from blogging these last few weeks; this is the most incredibly appropriate topic with which to dive back in.

In a nutshell, on the afternoon of Monday, October 29th, my best friend/husband collapsed and stopped breathing.  After 11 days in the ICU, he is fabulously, miraculously, terrifically, fine and dandy.(October 29th is also the date that Hurricane Sandy struck.  We didn't notice.)

My husband, apparently, has all sorts of angels keeping him on the grassy side of our galaxy. 

Angels, angels, angels.  I picture them pushing him back, denying him entrance on that October afternoon.  

Today I thank all those angels...and the humans who saved his life. I've been thinking a lot about the movie Sliding Doors, starring Gwyneth Paltrow.  The movie itself wasn't my favorite, but the premise was wonderful.  Essentially the movie splits into two stories--in one, she barely makes it onto a London train. In the other, she misses it.

There are so many to thank for putting my family on this train.  My 23-year-old son (aka my rock.)  Relatives. Friends.  Strangers. His friend and partner who started chest compressions.  The police officer. The paramedics who did that paddle thing on him.  Twice.  Everyone at Little Company of Mary hospital--wow.  Those awesome ICU nurses never sit down.  

(Everyone, except, perhaps, the cheerful man who greeted me in the ER with a form to fill out, before I knew if my husband was dead or alive.  I've had the experience of going to a hospital and being informed my father had died.  I was 22 then.  This time I knew what to ask.  I looked him in the eye and said evenly, "You are handing me a registration form.  That means he's alive, right?"  "Oh, no," he said brightly, "we register everyone.")

I want to write a Thanku to the people who invented and perfected therapeutic hypothermia, a protocol in which the patient's body is cooled and placed in a sort of medically induced coma for a few days, to let the body rest and to prevent further damage to the brain and heart.

I just looked up this treatment in Wikipedia and see that I owe thanks to a whole slew of folks who developed this over the ages, beginning with Hippocrates.

Here, then, is my Thanku to all of them:


Together, you rolled
the snowball down the hill that
saved my friend.  Thank you.

I especially want to thank Dr. Robert Chang, who was in charge of my husband's care.  He is accessible, caring, direct, genuine and brilliant.
                                             WRITING WORKOUT--
                                           Who would you like to thank?

Now it's your turn.  We're focusing on those who helped us in our writing life, but you can see that I've interpreted this broadly.

1) Who has helped you on the writer's road?

2) Write a Thanku or a 25-word-or-less thank you in any form, poetry or prose.

3) Share it with us.  You can do so in one of three ways:
a) a comment on one of our posts,
b) an email to us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com,
c) by writing a thank-you blog post of your own and then sharing the link with us via 1) or 2). Feel free to copy and paste the image below into your blog post. We'd love if you'd also link back to this post and invite others to participate. 

4) And don't forget to send it to the person you're thanking!

 And thank YOU, Frankie and Mary Lee of A Year of Reading, for hosting Poetry Friday today!