Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Progressive Poem's denouement!

Howdy Campers!

Remember to enter to win in our 4 x 4 Blogiversary Celebration!
Today I have the absolute honor and (as Esther would say) knee-buckling responsibility to write the last line of 2013's Progressive Poem.  Yay!  And yikes!

The brainchild of Irene Latham, this Progressive Poem has been moving from blog to blog, growing poet by poet, for 29 days until it's come here for one final line.  For the poem and a list of contributing poets, see below.
At the end of a month posting rough drafts of poems about dogs, I think you could say that this, too, is a rough draft.  As Laura Puride Salas says, it's poetry improv.  Yes, and a poetry game.  It's been fascinating to read the process of those who've proceeded me.

When I got the line by Denise Mortensen, it's such a great line, I thought I should just write THE END.  Then I could talk about how a poet needs to know when to quit and when a good line's a good ending.  That would be funny. If only I had the courage!

But I don't.  So off we go!

Here is the list of the poets who each contributed a line (in this space, some appear to be a line and then some, but they are all really one line each), and below their names is the (yikes!) finished poem.  Take a bow, poets!

by Thirty Poets on a mission in the Kidlitosphere...see list above

When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and
the rhythm that you’re rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until
smiling, you’re beguiling as your love comes shining through.

Pause a moment in your dreaming, hear the whispers
of the words, one dancer to another, saying
Listen, that’s our cue! Mind your meter. Find your rhyme.
Ignore the trepidation while you jitterbug and jive.
Arm in arm, toe to toe, words begin to wiggle and flow
as your heart starts singing let your mind keep swinging

from life’s trapeze, like a clown on the breeze.
Swinging upside down, throw and catch new sounds–
Take a risk, try a trick; break a sweat: safety net?
Don’t check! You’re soaring and exploring,
dangle high, blood rush; spiral down, crowd hush–
limb-by-line-by-limb envision, pyramidic penned precision.

And if you should topple, if you should flop
if your meter takes a beating; your rhyme runs out of steam—
know this tumbling and fumbling is all part of the act,
so get up with a flourish. Your pencil’s still intact.
Snap those synapses! Feel the pulsing through your pen
Commit, measure by measure, to the coda’s cadence.

You've got them now--in the palm of your hand!
Finger by finger you’re reeling them in—
Big Top throng refrains from cheering, strains to hear the poem nearing…
Inky paws, uncaged, claw straw and sawdust
Until… CRACK! You’re in the center ring, mind unleashed, your words take wing--
they circle, soar, then light in the lap of an open-mouthed child; the crowd goes wild.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

* Barnum's circus was originally called "P.T. Barnum's Great Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Hippodrome," which is pretty much what our poem is. ("Greatest Show on Earth" was added later...that's us, too!)

It never hurts to join forces...

...ask all the thirsty pooches at the dog park!
Let's play some more!

Hey--where'd everybody go???

G'bye to Poetry Month 2013!  See you next year!

Posted by April Halprin Wayland

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pat Wroclawski: A Bookseller Extraordinaire to the 4th Power!

What better way to continue celebrating our 4 x 4 Blogiversary Celebration by introducing our readers to the incomparable Pat Wroclawski, Bookseller Extraordinaire to the 4th Power.

Sadly, Pat left the world way too soon in March of 2005 but her Spirit lives on in the countless individuals she touched – readers, writers, parents, teachers, me.
So many times I finish a novel, or page through a picture book, or wonder at a biography and think, “Oh, how Pat would have loved this book!”

I knew of Pat long before I – boldly – introduced myself to her. She’d managed the Chestnut Court Book Shop in Winnetka for 15 years, then headed the Children’s Department at Kroch’s and Brentano’s flagship store in Chicago before returning to the renamed Bookstall at Chestnut Court as a consultant.  (FYI: Kroch’s and Brentano’s was the largest bookstore in Chicago and at one time the largest privately-owned bookstore chain in the U.S.  It closed in 1995.)

Everything I’d heard about Pat proved true and then some.
Her never-ending knowledge of children’s literature.
Her impeccable taste in books.
Her love of reading.
Her respect for and interest in writers and illustrators.

Pat’s passion for All Things Children's Book glowed from within.

The Bookstall’s Children’s Book Section became an invaluable resource for me as I traveled my Writer’s Plotline.  The best of the best lined the section’s shelves.
Of course Pat herself proved the best resource of all.

She cheered me on as I made my way, introducing me to esteemed authors and illustrators, to books I should know, to opportunities that helped me grow as a writer, and to the Association of Booksellers for Children, which Pat helped found, now a part of ABA re-named the ABC Children’s Group and a most vital piece of the Children’s Book World.
I shall always remain grateful for how warmly Pat welcomed and embraced my fellow SCBWI-Illinois members.

Pat oversaw my very first Book Signing for my very first book, There Goes Lowell’s Party!
She personally decorated the store’s windows and greeted each and every guest.
And she was there in the audience of Northern Illinois University’s March 1999 Children’s Literature Conference keeping me strong in my first-time-ever speaking presentation to 500 educators and librarians (!)
Seeing Pat’s smile undid my buckling knees.

Bookseller, yes.
As well as mentor, teacher, advocate, friend.

Pat somehow made time too to help found in 1989 yet another important children’s book organization, Winnetka’s and Northfield’s Alliance for Early Childhood “a community collaboration that promotes the healthy growth and development of children from birth to age eight by providing resources, programs, and support for the parents and professionals who teach and care for them.”

For years Pat wrote the organization’s monthly column “At Home with Books.” In the Fall, 2005 issue, her daughter Margaret Wroclawski Griffen shared with readers what her mother taught her about children’s books. 
Titled “Everything I Know About Children’s Books I Learned From My Mother,” this beautiful tribute keeps Pat’s Spirit alive.
The Margaret Wroclawski Memorial Collection now holds some 100 titles at the Winnetka/Northfield Public Library.

Like the books they hand their readers, booksellers change lives too.
Especially extraordinary ones, like my Pat Wroclawski.

Esther Hershenhorn

Don’t forget to celebrate our 4th Blogiversary by entering our 4 x4 give-away!  You can win one of 4 $25 gift certificates to Anderson’s Bookshop!  All you need do is share the name of your favorite independent bookstore, and maybe even bookseller.
Click HERE for details.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What's YOUR fav Indie Bookstore? And Happy Poetry Friday!

Howdy, Campers!

We're jumping up and down and popping balloons, celebrating our Fourth Blogiversary...and you're invited to join in the fun by entering to win one of four gift certificates to a fab independent bookstore.  Details?  Read all about it here!
And it's Friday, so happy Poetry-Friday-in-the-midst-of-Poetry-Month! Thank you, Laura Purdie Salas, for hosting PF today!

And now...on with the show:

In keeping with our blogiversary celebration, we're talking about indie bookstores.  Here's my riff:

I was a long-time active member of the Southern California Children's Booksellers Association (SCCBA), a feisty organization of indies who generously shared knowledge on how to run a bookstore among themselves and with those thinking about starting a children's bookstore. These newbies could have seen as their competitors, but instead they were embraced as colleagues and became friends. 

SCCBA was a leader among children's independent bookseller associations and in 1984 SCCBA was the midwife in the birthing of the national organization, American Booksellers for Children (ABC) (which has since merged with the American Booksellers Association.)

SCCBA itself folded into the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association just a few years ago. All this merging was hard for many of us, and sad, so sad...but SCIBA has proven itself to be a lively, engaged and strong non-profit trade association.

So which are my fav indies?  Must I choose just one?  A longtime favorite, just up the freeway from me, is Children's Bookworld, founded in 1986 by Sharon Hearne, and still going strong.

I am still mourning Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore, which closed in 2008.

BUT there's great news: indies are making a comeback and I'm lucky to have not one but two fabulous indies just a few miles from my home, both opened within the last few years:

 The marvelous Mysterious Galaxy 
and the absolutely wonderful {pages}!

Here's my rough draft of a book poem in honor of indies today:

HOOKED ON A BOOK (The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore By Benjamin Hale)
rough draft poem by April Halprin Wayland

I’m reading the autobiography
of a classically educated, erudite

I stay up too late reading it.
Rather than listen to NPR’s Morning Edition,
I prop the book against the fish bowl as I brush my teeth.

His story
sticks to the souls of my hiking shoes
as I clamber up a steep slope in Arizona.

While buying half a head of Napa cabbage at the farmers market,
I wonder what will happen to his owner, Lydia
and why he’s writing the book from a jail cell.

Through a dinner of grape tomatoes, Napa cabbage,
juicy chicken and roasted potatoes, baby turnips and carrots,
it haunts me

like cookie dough ice cream
haunts me
from the freezer.

poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

Hats off to Indies that offer us so much! Please DO NOT wander around an indie and then go home to order online.  Here's why (under two minutes and worth watching...):

And remember to enter our indie bookstore gift certificate giveaway!

I'm trying to remember to put my name at the end of these posts...this is important because those who subscribe don't see the byline which automatically posts our names for us. So...
tah-tah from April Halprin Wayland!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Grade Yourself

The end of the semester is nigh in the higher education realm (can we have a collective cheer?).  As my classes approach the dreaded research essay, we spend a fair amount of time discussing the importance of using pathos, logos, and ethos in concert in persuasive writing.  [I would argue that the same precept applies to writing fiction.]

I like to give my students an exercise to practice these techniques, using a subject with which they are already well acquainted.  I ask them to write me a letter (another important skill for this generation of digital natives) describing what they feel their final semester grade should be.  While their information needs to be fact-based (logos), students who may not be strong expository writers are often expert at applying these persuasive strategies. [On the other hand, last semester I had several students who tried to appeal to my sense of ethos with the contention that it was my duty to give every student at least a B.  If their rhetorical purpose was to persuade me to grade more leniently, they achieved quite the opposite, as I subsequently took great care to explain.] 

I find that self-evaluative assignments tend to be quite valuable for students and for me, too.  Those students who chafe at the strictures of an expository writing class often respond positively to an assignment that allows them an unaccustomed measure of creativity.  I suspect I get a fair amount of fiction in these responses, as well. :)

Happy end of semester, one and all!  And, if you haven't done so already, don't forget to enter our Fourth Blogiversary Gift Card Giveaway for a chance to win some great summer reading material!
-- Jeanne Marie

Monday, April 22, 2013

Turn the Page

This week we continue to celebrate our Fourth Blogiversary (the official date is today!) with our giveaway extravaganza.

From Carmela's Friday post:
Today, I'm thrilled to announce an extra-special giveaway in honor of our FOURTH BLOGIVERSARY. To show our appreciation to our blog readers AND to one of our favorite independent booksellers, we'll be giving away FOUR $25 gift certificates to Anderson's Bookshops! And, as a bonus, Anderson's is generously offering our winners a 20% discount, which will help defray the shipping costs if you're unable to redeem your gift certificate in person.

If you haven't already done so, hop on over and read the rest of her post for entry details as well as more information about our blog, Anderson's, and a terrific bonus poem from our very own April (who's also celebrating a birthday this week).

In follow-up to our ode to D.E.A.R. and Beverly Cleary, we Teaching Authors are discussing the great independent bookstores that play such a crucial role in getting the right books into the hands of the right readers.  I will never forget my first visit to the Tattered Cover in Denver.  I was on a business trip, and I got no other business done on that day.  [I owe a debt of gratitude to my patient boss, Stan Cohen.]

Here in exurban Maryland, we have nothing like the Tattered Cover or Anderson's.  Washington has the great Politics and Prose, but my visits to DC with kids at this point in life typically involve the Air and Space Museum, the National Mall, and a stroller.

If you ask me, the coolest and most accessible independent bookstore in my neck of the woods is Turn the Page Bookstore, owned by the husband of local (and international) celebrity Nora Roberts.  Roberts lives in rural Washington County and has singlehandedly turned the tiny town of Boonsboro into a Destination (with a capital D).  Visitors from around the country flock to the bookstore for signings by a variety of authors and may stay overnight in Roberts's nearby bed and breakfast, stop by her gift shop, or have a meal at her son's taphouse. 

In my job as an adjunct instructor at Hagerstown Community College, I am fortunate to be a part of the advisory committee for this summer's Nora Roberts Writing Institute.  Before a recent meeting at Dan's Taphouse, I slipped into Turn the Page for some speed shopping.  Unlike the sprawling Tattered Cover, it's a tiny space, with a nook devoted to children's books, a coffee bar featuring a local roaster's brews, and a terrific assortment of popular fiction, with the literary book club du month selections shelved beside the "beach reads." 

As someone who writes in what may certainly be considered marginalized genres (soap operas and children's books), I greatly appreciated the equalizing effect of this shelving method.  As a child, I fell in love with reading because it was fun and transformative.   There is much good writing in popular fiction, and I love the idea of celebrating the books people read because they want to rather than the ones they feel they have to.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Nora Roberts.
--Jeanne Marie

Friday, April 19, 2013

4th Blogiversary Gift Card Giveaway--Celebrating Independent Booksellers!

Today, I'm thrilled to announce an extra-special giveaway in honor of our FOURTH BLOGIVERSARY. To show our appreciation to our blog readers AND to one of our favorite independent booksellers, we'll be giving away FOUR $25 gift certificates to Anderson's Bookshops! And, as a bonus, Anderson's is generously offering our winners a 20% discount, which will help defray the shipping costs if you're unable to redeem your gift certificate in person.

In case you're not familiar with this family-owned company, in 2010, Anderson's celebrated their 135th year in business, with six generations of the family now working in their stores. Among their many accolades, in 2011, Anderson's was named Publisher's Weekly Bookstore of the Year. Anderson's has a long history of supporting teachers by providing educator resources like mock Newbery contests, arranging author visits, and sponsoring special events such as their upcoming Teacher Open House, where educators can learn about the best new releases for classroom use. And educators always receive a 20% discount off the list price of books to be used in the classroom or library.

Anderson's also has a reputation for hosting wonderful (and numerous!) author signings, and for championing local authors. After many years of attending Anderson's marvelous author events, I was honored to have my first signing at the Naperville store when my novel, Rosa, Sola, came out. That day, the Anderson's staff made me feel like a real star! I couldn't help getting a little teary-eyed as I addressed the crowd of family, friends, and fellow writers, telling them what a thrill it was to have my signing in the bookstore that felt like my second home.

If you're ever in the Chicago area, I encourage you to visit one of Anderson's stores. But even if a physical trip isn't possible, you can visit them virtually via their website, where you can order print and ebooks online. As you'll see below, the winners of our giveaway will have the option of using their gift certificates that way.  

The TeachingAuthors are fans not only of Anderson's, but of independent bookstores everywhere. For the next few weeks, we'll be sharing stories of our appreciation for independent booksellers. Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised by the encouraging news the Salon article "Books Aren't Dead" had about both print books and independent bookstores: 
 ". . .  the Christian Science Monitor recently reported [you can read that article here], there are now many indications that a once-beleaguered portion of the bookselling landscape, independent bookstores, are enjoying a “quiet resurgence.” Sales are up this year; established stores, such as Brooklyn’s WORD, are doing well enough to expand and new stores are opening. Indies have been helped by the closure of the Borders chain and a campaign to remind their customers that if they want local bookstores to survive, they have to patronize them, even if that means paying a dollar or two more than they would on Amazon."
I confess, I'm one of those book buyers willing to pay "a dollar or two more" to support my local independent. I want to help ensure they'll still be around when I finally have another book signing. :-)

In addition to celebrating independent booksellers, we decided our blogiversary was a good time for a little spring cleaning here on the TeachingAuthors website. I've created two new pages, which you can find links to under our logo at the top of the page: Links and Writing Workouts. The Links page now contains all the links that used to be in the sidebar, grouped under the following headings:
  • Websites of Note
  • Children's/YA Lit Reading Lists
  • Graduate Programs in Writing for Children and Young Adults
  • General Children's/YA Lit Blogs
  • Agent Blogs
  • Author/Illustrator Blogs.
The Writing Workouts page explains the history and evolution of our Writing Workouts, and allows you to access all of them from one place. I've also shortened the names of our resources pages to simply "For Teachers," "For Young Writers," and "Visits." And I've updated our bios on the About Us page. I hope you'll take time to explore these revised pages and give us feedback on what you think of the changes.

You may also notice a new button in the sidebar labeled "Follow this blog with bloglovin'." I recently learned that Google will be retiring Google Reader on July 1, 2013, and I wanted to provide other options for those who currently read our posts via Reader. Bloglovin' allows you to easily import all the blogs you currently follow with Google Reader. I've also seen positive reviews of the RSS service Feedly (see, for example, this recommendation in Jane Friedman's newsletter, Electric Speed), so I've included a Feedly link in the sidebar, too. You can read a quick comparison of Bloglovin' vs. Feedly here.

If you don't already follow our blog, I'll hope you'll sign up to do so today via email, Bloglovin', Feedly, or one of the other options in our sidebar. (Hint--our blog subscribers automatically qualify for FOUR entries in our blogiversary giveaway. See below for details.)

Before I explain how to enter the giveaway, I want to share a poem the AMAZING April Halprin Wayland wrote in honor of our blogiversary, which actually falls on Monday, Earth Day.

            A Blooming Blogiversary

     Sheaves of paper, leaves of prose
     Typing wobbly rocky rows

     Planting tender inkling seeds
     Sowing words on glowing screens

     Underground the spark is struck
     Growing with some care and luck

     First a shoot, then a sprout
     Weeding all the adverbs out

     Seedlings reaching toward the sun
     Readers, writers we are one

     Blooming in the blogisphere
     Post by post, year by year

poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

A special "thank you" to all the readers who have stuck with us here at TeachingAuthors "post by post, year by year."

Now, for our Blogiversary Giveaway details:

As I said at the beginning of this post, in honor of our Fourth Blogiversary, and to celebrate independent booksellers, we're giving away FOUR $25 gift certificates to Anderson's Bookshops!  
Note: if you're unable to redeem your prize in person at one of Anderson's stores, you will be able to do so online. AND, you'll receive a 20% discount on your purchase!

Please bear with us as we try something new for this giveaway--we're using Rafflecopter for the first time. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, you may want to read their info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and/or the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Once you've logged into Rafflecopter below (via either Facebook or an email address) you'll see that we've provided four different options for entering the giveaway--you can pick one or up to all four. The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. While we haven't made it a requirement, we hope that everyone will choose to subscribe to the TeachingAuthors blog.

If you're already a TeachingAuthors subscriber, you need only click on the first option and tell us how you follow our blog to receive FOUR entries in the giveaway.

As it says in the "Terms and Conditions," this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. You must be 18 or older to enter. And please note: email addresses will only be used to contact winners. The giveaway will run from now through the end of Children's Book Week, on May 19. Winners will be notified May 20, 2013. 

I hope that covers everything. But if you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.

Good luck to everyone! And don't forget--it's Poetry Friday. When you're done entering our giveaway, check out the Poetry Friday round-up over at Live Your Poem

Happy writing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Deadly Twelve, or Let's Get Specific: Wednesday Workout

    Here in the South, there is an all purpose word that drives me nuts. The word? "Nice." Depending on the tone of voice, "That's nice" can mean something really wonderful, or truly venomous.  It's a phrase that doesn't translate well in print. You have to hear the tone of voice that goes with the statement.

     "Nice" is just an example of any number of words that sound perfectly fine spoken aloud, but are rendered meaningless on the page. Here are my Top Ten Useless Words in Writing. 1. Nice  2. Very
3. Cute  4. Sweet  5. OK  6. Cool  7. Good  8. Bad  9.  Fun  10.  Sad/happy (I cheated...that's really eleven words).  There are a lot more, but these are the ones that show up the most often in my students' work, and the ones that set my teeth on edge.

    All of these words work fine  in conversation, both spoken and written. As descriptors, they leave a lot to be desired. They are junk food words. They just lounge around your writing, doing the least amount of work possible. So how do you get those words off the couch to carry their share of your writing?  

    For today's workout, I turn to one of my all-time favorite craft books, Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8  (2nd edition) by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi.  This is an exercise that can be adapted for any age student, or for your own writing. For the purpose of today's lesson, I will pretend I am working with first or second graders.

1.  Have the students write a short description of a person. Let's say, little Courtney has chosen to describe her best friend, Emma.  Here is what Courtney writes.

     I like my best friend Emma. She is fun. We like the same things. (Uh oh...I just hit word number 12..."thing").

  2.  Ask Courtney to close her eyes. "Courtney," you say. "What makes Emma fun?" Closing the eyes is the important part of the exercise. For some reason, if you look a student in the eye and ask the same question, you will get a defensive "I dunno. She's just fun." (Subtext; what's wrong with you, Adult Person? Don't you understand the word fun?)

3.  Hopefully, with her eyes closed, Courtney can see Emma doing fun things; she snorts when she laughs, she only eats the icing off her cupcake, she can do cartwheels. If Courtney really gets into her description, she may go on to describe fun things that she and Emma have done together; gone to Six Flags and gotten soaked on the Log Flume Ride, bake cupcakes (but only eat the icing), ice skate.

4. Now have Courtney re-write her description using some of her new fun details. Maybe it will read something like this:

     Emma is my best friend. She snorts when she laughs, and that makes me laugh, too.  We like doing the same things like ice skating and baking. Emma makes the best cupcakes, but she will only eat the icing.  I don't mind, because I like to eat the leftover cake part.

   5.  Ask Courtney to compare her first and second versions of her description of Emma.  Which one would make her want to know more about Emma (that is if she didn't already know Emma?) Cross your fingers that she picks version two. 

     In my writing workshops, I go so far as to forbid the use of the Deadly Twelve Do-Nothing Words, unless they are being said by a character in dialog.  It can be a laborious task to get even older writers to give up their "comfort words".  But after practice (lots of practice), one fine day your writers will discover that they have written a whole page without using any of the Deadly Twelve.  They don't need their training wheel words any more.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Monday, April 15, 2013

D.E.A.R. for Grownups

     I first met Beverly Cleary's memorable character Ramona Quimby as a supporting character in Henry and the Clubhouse where she all but stole the book. I was in graduate school before I discovered that after Cleary finished the Henry and Beezus series, she had gone on to give Ramona her own literary stage, where Henry and big sister Beezus were the background characters. The notion of D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) was something I would've loved in my childhood. I had to fashion my own notion of D.E.A.R. It was called Stick a Book in Your Lap and Look Like You're Paying Attention in Class. (OK, it isn't much of an acronym.) It did not make me popular with my teachers.

    As adult writers and teachers, we need to make time for our own D.E.A.R.  I'm not talking about reading the latest (adult) best seller, or flipping through whatever literary dregs are in the doctor's waiting room. I am talking about reading the newest children's books that interest you. You know....the kind of book you want to write?

     I assumed that writers, especially children's writers, are readers. However, I never gave much thought as to what they were reading until last month. I was teaching an adult Writing for Children's workshop and had brought in tons of books from my personal collection (not the books I wrote; the books I own) to use as examples of different styles of writing. I have a very expensive book buying habit, because for the last fifteen years I have either lived where there was no library, or very poor ones. Books have changed since we were kids, even if you are a lot younger than I am (which is probably almost everyone reading this.) Yes, there are classics, like Ramona and her friends who will never die.
The first Henry Huggins book was published in 1950, Charlotte's Web, 1952  A Wrinkle in Time 1962.   These are timeless books although I sometimes wonder, given today's publishing climate if any of these three would be considered "commercial" enough to be published today.

   But back to my workshop.  My students devoured my books, then asked. "Where did you get these books?  How did you even know about them?" These writers were mostly young mothers who read to their children....whatever happened to be on the display counter in the picture book section of the library.   "These books aren't at (fill in the name of your local chain bookstore).  How could I find them in the library, if I don't know they exist?"

    Valid points. Chain bookstores, the only ones available to a good chunk of us, feature "sure sellers"...movie tie-ins, "celebrity" picture books, books that have become TV series or movies. A few of the books I brought were Newbery/Caldecott winners. Those are always front and center in bookstores and libraries, but for the rest of us hardworking, writers, just finding our books is a real challenge, let alone reading them.  They are out there....it's  just knowing where to look.

    That's why I spend thirty minutes of my D.A.R.E. each week scouting out the newest books online. Where?  Goodreads is one of my favorite places to see what other readers (and not professional reviewers) think of a book. (I do not know what effect it's recent acquisition by Amazon will have on this site, if any, but there are already thousands or reviews that have been written before this happened.)
I also like Kirkus Reviews.   Kirkus is a subscription service with a pretty hefty price tag. Their selling point is that they preview books up to two months pre-publication, which is great if you are a book store and need to know two months in advance if you are going to order the book. If you are willing to wait a whole week after publication, you can read the review online, for free. Kirkus is issued biweekly, except for a week mid-summer and one the first of January.

     You can also sign up for Publisher's Weekly online. Another print publication with a steep subscription price, you can get daily digests of articles, news as to what editor has been promoted, demoted or moved to another publisher. Thursdays is there special children's edition.  All free.

    There are tons of bloggers (including us!) who interview authors when they have a new book coming out. However, I would be amiss if I did not mention my favorite source of quality reading recommendations.  That is Cooperative Children's Book Center located at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to interviews and news about programs and lectures (if you happen to live in Wisconsin), b they review a "Book of the Week." The BOW is always a recently published book the staff at CCBC think is outstanding. They don't waste their time on junk. You may not agree with all of their choices but you will read them knowing that their selection was carefully considered by a group of people whose only "agenda" is to expose the children's literature community to the widest and best range of the newest books.

   So why are you still reading me? Right now, drop everything and scout out your next list of D.A.R.E. books.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Note from Carmela: With the impending demise of Google Reader, I'm looking at different ways our readers can follow our blog posts. (I'll be talking about this in my post on Friday.) Meanwhile, today I discovered the Bloglovin' site. In case you're interested: 
you can now follow the TeachingAuthors blog with Bloglovin' .

Friday, April 12, 2013


If, like me, you occasionally feel the need to spend a little time with the endearing, funny, innocent characters forever residing on Klickitat Street, please join me in a shout out:


You can read about this iconic American author here, on a HarperCollins site devoted to her and her books,

here, in an interview with Highlights for Children,

here, in an article by Jim Trelease,

and here, in The New York Times:

What an inspiration!

Not only is today Ms. Cleary's birthday, it is national Drop Everything And Read day. After Ms. Cleary mentioned D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby Age 8 in 1981, the practice spun out across the country faster than the wheels of Ralph Mouse's motorcycle. I first heard of D.E.A.R. when it was a daily event at my kids' elementary school. Oh, how they loved when their teachers stopped in the middle of another subject to shout, "Drop everything and read!" Oh, how I loved seeing every kid in school carrying a library book.

According to HarperCollins' website, D.E.A.R. is "a national month-long celebration of reading designed to remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives. Because, what's more fun(damental) than reading, really?"

Educators and parents, you'll want to visit the D.E.A.R. site, where you'll find "reading lists, activity ideas, digital assets, and other resources to get you started and keep you busy."

Also, be sure to check out the Ramona Journal, released just a few weeks ago. I would have LOVED this book when I was a kid. Okay, I'd love it now. I'll have to buy one for my great niece in order to get an in-depth look.

I'm off today to attend the SCBWI-Iowa spring conference to spend the weekend talking books. What could be better?

Jill Esbaum

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wednesday Writing Workout: Drawing Inspiration from poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Howdy, Campers!

Lucky you!  It's time for another...
Today's WWW comes from Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, whose debut poetry collection, Forest Has A Song illustrated by Robbin Gourley, was just published by Clarion.  I talked about it in my April 5th post and included one of the poems.

Amy calls her project for Poetry Month 2013 "Drawing Into Poems" and explains it this way:

Each day of this month, I will slow myself down, look closely at something, draw it, and take notes around my drawing. I'll photograph and share the drawing and notes here each day. From time-to-time, at least on Fridays, I'll share a poem inspired by my drawings and notes. The purpose of this project is to help me see more clearly and to help me linger on images.  My goal is not to become a great artist, but rather to become more in tune with my sight, more deeply connected with the world, more slow, more thoughtful.

Here is her first sketch and accompanying notes:
drawing (c) 2013 Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.  All rights reserved.

Isn't this cool?  I'll bet you're salivating to begin your own drawing now, right?  Right!

So, Campers, Be Amy. 
Slow down. 
Go outside or look around the room. 
Find an object. 

This process may or may not trigger a poem or a story...try it and see.  Stay in the process, don't worry about the product.

Ready?  Begin.
Let us know what you discover. 

posted by April Halprin Wayland with a little bit of mischief

Monday, April 8, 2013

Celebrate Children's Book Week!

It's Children’s Book Week -- yay!  Of course, we at Teaching Authors celebrate all year long, but this week is truly a coast-to-coast party.  If you're a teacher or librarian, you may already be planning to stage a read-in, have a poster contest, or dress like a Hoo. Find more resources and tips here.

In equally exciting news, students can vote for the Children’s Book Award.  This is  the only national book awards program where the winning titles are selected by young readers of all ages. Voting is open from 3/19—5/3/2013. Check out the finalists, listed by reader age group, and then tally your class vote!

If you're a writer, you can spread the word, too! 

My daughter turned 8 yesterday, and the only thing she wanted for her birthday?  Books!  Thus, here's how the Fords heralded the start of Children's Book Week (along with the belated appearance of spring):

Charlotte's Web, Phineas and Ferb, and a side of fruit salad.  Bliss!  - Jeanne Marie

Friday, April 5, 2013


Howdy Campers!
Happy Poetry Friday!
Hop over to Robyn Hood Black's blog,
Life on the Deckle Edge
for all the Poetry Friday doings!

Thanks for hosting today, Robyn!
National Poetry Month is finally here!

Please bookmark Jama Rattigan's blog, Jama's Alphabet Soup
which lists kidlit blog events celebrating National Poetry Month

and run, don't walk, to Renee La Tulippe blog's
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School Poet-a-Palooza,
featuring short videos of poets and their poems.  A work of art!

And speaking of celebrating, today I'm pleased to celebrate Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's debut poetry collection, Forest Has A Song (Clarion), irresistibly illustrated by Robbin Gourley. (Many of you know Amy's blog, The Poem Farm.)
In honor of Amy's debut and Poetry Friday and Poetry Month, I offer you one stunning poem from this beautiful duet of a book.  Can you guess why it's one of my favorites?

April Waking
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Ferny frondy fiddleheads
unfurl curls from dirty beds.
Stretching stems they sweetly sing
greenest greetings sent to Spring.

Copyright © 2013 Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. All rights reserved.
From Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.
Art copyright © 2013 Robbin Gourley
For more on this book, race over to Jama's post where she has outdone herself with fabulous costumes in which to venture into the forest, and knock-your-socks-off stunning food to welcome Forest Has a Song into the world. 

In years past, I've posted an original poem each day of National Poetry Month.  But this year I faced a conundrum.  Lately when poetry anthologists solicit poems, they ask for poems that have never been published, not even on the internet.  Not even on a blog.  ACK!

So: which poems do we post on our blogs--understanding that it's possible we may not be able to sell them? And why would we want to post second-string poems for all to read?

My solution?  Every day in April I am posting rough drafts of canine-themed poems at RuffDrafts.com

Many of the poems feature Eli, who regular readers have met before.
Eli looks forward to seeing you at RuffDrafts.com

~ Happy Poetry Friday and Happy National Poetry Month one and all!~

P.S. to my son: Happy Birthday! 
You are Awesome, says Eli (and I agree).

posted by April Halprin Wayland with a little bit of mischief

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wednesday Writing Workout: The Grimm Way

To celebrate International Children’s Book Day, today’s WWW comes courtesy of Mina Witteman, a true TeachingAuthor, the Regional Advisor of the SCBWI Netherlands Chapter
and a co-organizer of last weekend’s first-ever international conference,SCBWIEurocon.

Mina lives in Amsterdam with her husband and son. In addition to writing and teaching creative writing to middle graders and young adults, she works as a freelance subeditor/copy editor for some of the major publishing houses in the Netherlands and reviews for booktunes.net.
While writing, Mina found out that she was a true boys and tomboys writer. Her novels are without exception bloodcurdling adventures with lots of survival in them. She weaves myths and legends into her stories and often makes you wonder if there is more to this world than meets the eye.
Her debut DEEDEE'S REVENGE was published in 2005, followed by THE SUN SPIRIT in 2007 and THE SOUL SNATCHER in 2008 (Van Goor Publishers). The latter two are the first volumes of an adventurous fantasy tetralogy Warriors Of The Sun, based on native-American myths and legends.
                                                             * * *  * * *
Last week, I attended the Grimm Symposium in the Efteling Fairytale Forest in the Netherlands.  The symposium celebrated 200 years of Grimm fairytales with lectures and the unveiling of a statue of the two famous brothers.
We ended the day with a stroll through the Fairytale Forest, past the Frog Prince, past Snow White and Cinderella and past Little Red Riding Hood.

Why is it that in real life we wish for our roads to be paved with gold and lined with daisies or roses? Why is it that we need the sun to warm us during daytime? Why do we long for gentle, quiet nights that bring us sweet dreams? Roadblocks, potholes and other hurdles upset us, make us yearn for the days that life rustled by like poplar leaves in a gentle summer’s breeze. But when it comes to stories, we want the complete opposite. We love it when our protagonists are locked in a frog’s body. We thrive when they get to eat poisoned apples. We are glued to the paper if they stumble and fall. If it comes to stories, we want conflict. But why?

The answer to this question is that conflict is the beating heart of a story. Without it a story falls flat. Without it characters are destined to spend wax figure lives: beautifully crafted on the outside, empty on the inside. It is when life becomes grim that characters come to life and show us their true colors. It is when life turns against them that their story grabs our attention.

In my beginners’ course, I show my creative writing students what conflict does to a story through what I call The Grimm Way. It is a writing exercise that reveals the importance of conflict in story.

Remember Little Red Riding Hood’s tale? The girl sets out to pay her ill grandmother a visit. She strays from the path and into the woods and meets the wolf. The wolf finds out where she’s going, rushes ahead, eats the grandmother and, upon her arrival, Little Red Riding Hood, too. A hunter then cuts the wolf open and the girl and her grandmother emerge unharmed. They fill the wolf with stones and when he wakes up he collapses and dies.

Now I want you to write a new story line for Little Red Riding Hood, but this time you leave out the wolf. NO wolf in this new story! Keep it short and sweet, just some key words, the odd sentence, nothing more.


Read it and tell me: Is it a thrilling or gripping story line? Do you think that it’s a story that readers would want to read?

When the answer to that question is “no”, you will, most likely, have Little Red Riding Hood just frolic through the woods and arrive at her grandmother’s safe and sound. A sweet, little story, but nothing more. The easier her journey, the less appealing it is to us, the reader. We get bored and lose interest in our red-hooded friend pretty quickly.

But what happened with your story line, if your answer to the question is positive?


You substituted the wolf for another obstacle on poor girl’s path.

That is where the importance of conflict surfaces. Something out of the ordinary happens, something that keeps the girl from reaching her goal, and it instantly grabs the reader’s interest.

Let’s make four lists of new obstacles for Little Red Riding Hood, raising the stakes with each list. We want a list with petty problems, a list with slightly bigger problems, one with substantial problems, and one with catastrophic problems. Try and come up with at least five problems per list (or, when in a group, let each group member come up with one problem per list).


Allocate the problems on your lists to the four types of conflict that we distinguish in narrative structures:

Internal or intrapersonal conflicts (Man against self);

Conflicts between persons or interpersonal conflicts (Man against man);

External conflicts caused by force of nature (Man against nature);

External conflicts caused by society (Man against society).

Which type of conflict yields the most thrilling, most exciting story for you? Don’t worry! There is no better or worse type of conflict. Each has its own merits. Some writers prosper when the perils of nature descend upon their protagonist, when they have to rescue their characters from the grapes of wrath. Others blossom when they can make sure their protagonist is up against the cruelest society that has her fight to the death on live TV, or when they craft an intricate story of vindictiveness and guilt clashes and of how great expectations are shattered.

As a last exercise, I would like you to write two new short stories with Little Red Riding Hood. For the first one, you pick the problem that fits you best as a writer. For the second one – and this is the hard one – pick the problem that fits you least as a writer. Challenge yourself and raise the stakes for both Little Red Riding Hood and yourself.

Talking about raising the stakes: when Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm compiled the first fairytale anthology back in 1812, Wilhelm was quite taken aback by the wickedness of the mothers in the tales. He thought it educationally unwise to burden children and their mothers with these grim excesses of motherhood and he changed all the evil mothers into stepmothers. Can you feel the tension grow if it hadn’t been Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters, but her mother and sisters teaming up against her? And how high would the stakes be if Snow White’s mother had ordered the Huntsman to kill her, instead of her vain stepmother?

                                              * * * * * * * * *
Thank you, Mina, for sharing your smarts, your experience and yourself with our TeachingAuthors readers as well as introducing us to the Efteling Fairy Forest.

And Happy International Children’s Book Day readers and writers all around the world!

Esther Hershenhorn