Friday, June 28, 2013

Caldecott's 75th Anniversary! Poetry Friday! And Zounds--Sounds!

Howdy, Campers!

First of all, I'd like to apologize for pushing the "publish" button instead of the "save" button when I was composing this post yesterday.  As a result, my weird and clearly unfinished post went out to our subscribers above Carmela's wonderful Wednesday Writing Workout (which I highly recommend reading.)  Oy! Poetry Friday!

Thank you, Amy of The Poem Farm for hosting today!
My poem is below.  :-)

Breaking News: the American Library Association is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Award at its annual conference!  Right now--right this very minute!

Here's one fascinating fact from the ALA's beautifully put together scrapbook of all things Caldecott:

Until 1958, an artist could not be awarded more than one Caldecott Medal unless the committee's vote was unanimous. In his letter responding to the news, Robert McCloskey expresses his surprise at winning the award a second time.
Except for his first picture book and his last one, Robert McCloskey won either a Caldecott Medal or a Caldecott Honor for every picture book he published. 

And check-out Brian Selznick's design of the 75th anniversary logo.

Here's a 1:03 minute video of last year's Caldecott honor winner, John Rocco, talking about The Phone Call...the moment he learned he'd won the Caldecott honor for his book, Blackout:

and here's a funny-weird 1:49 minute video about getting ready for
this year's Newbery/Caldecott banquet...

And, yes, it's Poetry Friday!  My poem was inspired by Carmela's Wednesday Writing Workout, in which author Melanie Crowder suggests that sounds can spark writing ideas.

But where to start--what sound?  How about applause--applause for all Caldecott winners (and those hard-working Caldecott committee members)? There are so many different kinds of applause, including this and this--which is the applause before a concert begins.  That's the sound that stuck with me.  Here's my rough draft:

by April Halprin Wayland

On stage:
tune strings,
star in the wings.

In your seat:
fleet squeaks,
copious creaks.

Toe-tapping beat,
Impatient feet!

Rise in your seat,
stomp on the floor,
awaken your core!

And even before his wild art starts,
for more!
poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

TeachingAuthors will be taking a vacation from July 1-July 12, 2013.  Ta-ta!  Bye-bye!  Take time to write! See you soon, Raccoons! 

By April Halprin Wayland, who thanks you from the bottom of her little heart for reading all the way to the end. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday Writing Workout: An Audio Exercise

Today's Wednesday Writing Workout is from our guest TeachingAuthor, Melanie Crowder. If you haven't read my interview with Melanie, please go do so now, and enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of her debut novel,  Parched (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). The details are all in last Friday's blog post

Okay, now that you're back, here's a simple, yet powerful, Writing Workout from Melanie.

Find an audio clip that relates to your story. Maybe it’s the sound of a train, or crickets, or rain falling on a sidewalk (YouTube is a good resource for this). Play the clip for about one minute before you begin writing. What rhythms do you hear? What metaphors can you pull out of the sound? What kind of atmosphere does the sound create? Wistful? Frustrating? Intense?

… and GO! Play the clip on repeat for 5 minutes while you write.

* * *
Thanks, Melanie. If any of you try her workout, please let us know how it works for you.
Happy writing!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Internet: Good vs. Evil

The Internet, as we all know, can be a giant vortex of time suckage.  I have little willpower, it seems, and thus find it dangerously so.  At the same time, I can't imagine how I ever functioned as a writer without it.  Any national security agency or Internet giant personnel monitoring my search history might be alarmed by recent forays into the topics of murder plea bargains, drug dealer slang, and paramedic protocol for overdose, interpersed with "Thanksgiving party games" and  "Schoolhouse Rock."  Such an interesting life I lead...

While I am far from methodical about endeavors such as organizing, searching, schedule-making, etc., I have happened in my peripatetic Internet travels upon several useful business sites for freelance writers.  Many of our faithful readers are probably already familiar with these, but for those who aren't:

Robert Kent's Middle Grade Ninja is invaluable for any writer seeking an editor, an agent, or plain old writing inspiration.  Each week brings informative new interviews with agents, editors, and/or writers.  I've gotten a lot of great reading recommendations here.  The online "book club" is fun to follow, too.

Emma D. Dryden's drydenbks blog is full of great advice, but even better, if you friend her on facebook, she aggregates information from the best writing blogs and saves you the trouble of finding it yourself.  Highly recommended!

For those interested in digital publishing and new technology, Jane Friedman is a cutting-edge source.

Finally, QueryTracker is a informational and organizational treasure trove -- part spreadsheet, part encyclopedia, part user review site and entirely free.  If you haven't already tried it, check it out pronto.

Happy Internet travels!  And may the time saved exceed your time spent on facebook and Words With Friends.  --Jeanne Marie
Don't forget about our latest Teaching Authors Giveaway.  Follow the instructions to enter for a chance to win a copy of Parched by Melanie Crowder.  Good luck!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Giveaway and Guest TeachingAuthor Interview with Melanie Crowder

Today we're taking a break from our series of posts featuring our favorite online resources to bring you a guest TeachingAuthor interview with debut novelist Melanie Crowder. At the end of the interview, you'll be able to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Melanie's recently released middle-grade novel, Parched (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). A Junior Library Guild selection, Parched is a haunting, lyrical story told from three perspectives. Here's a little about it:
Sarel has just witnessed the death of her parents. But she is not completely alone on the drought-ridden land; Nandi is the leader of a pack of dogs who looks out for her pups and for skinny Sarel-girl. Nandi knows they are all in trouble, and she knows, too, that a boy is coming—an escaped prisoner with the water song inside him.
The Wall Street Journal called Parched, "an absorbing and strangely beautiful story of valor and survival that is all the more impressive for its restraint." And Booklist said, "The direct powerful prose in this first novel dramatizes the exciting contemporary survival story. . . . Fans of Gary Paulsen's Hatchet (1987) will want this."

Pretty impressive for a debut novel! If you don't know Melanie, allow me to introduce her: Melanie Crowder graduated in 2011 with an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Colorado, where she teaches English Language Acquisition at her local elementary school. When she's not writing, Melanie is most likely found outdoors—in her garden, in the mountains, or looking for the perfect swimming hole. Visit her online via Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and her website.

And now for the interview:

Melanie, would you please tell us how you became a TeachingAuthor?

First, let me say: Thank you so much for having me!

To answer your question, I have been teaching since 2001—all sorts of subjects (art, music, history, ESL)—but I have only been writing since 2005. I was in the middle of a particularly difficult school year, and I needed something outside of work to put my heart into. I decided I would write a book—it couldn't be that difficult, right? J

Well, eight years, several manuscripts and an MFA in Writing later, I finally have a book published. As it turns out, writing well is really difficult! But along the way, I learned to love the journey and delight in the challenge.

Does your experience as a classroom teacher affect your writing, and if so, how?

My students are amazing. They deal with challenges on a daily basis that would cripple most adults. Above anything else, my students remind me how resilient and brave and joyful children are. I take that as a challenge: if I am going to write for and about this age group, I had better honor those characteristics in my stories.

Tell us a bit about what inspired you to write Parched and your path to publication.

Parched began with a single image that appeared in my mind one day. It was an aerial shot, as if I were in a plane flying low over the savanna. On the ground below, a skinny girl and her pack of dogs walked along a narrow game track. I wanted to know who she was, and how she had come to be all alone in such a harsh place.

I wrote my way into the story when I was supposed to be working on other things. It was the third semester of my MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Little by little, in between drafts of my critical thesis, the story began to take shape. By the end of the semester, I had 20 pages ready. I crossed my fingers and sent it in to be considered for the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt prize for Middle Grade Literature. When it won, I received a request for the full manuscript and gleefully sent it in. I consider myself incredibly fortunate that I found an editor with the vision and experience to embrace the sparse quality of Parched, while at the same time patiently working with me to draw out the emotional depth and expository breadth that readers would need. Like so many things in life, turning this academic project into the beautiful novel it is today was all about balance, and trusting that if you assemble the right players, a team can produce so much more than any individual.

You mentioned that Parched started with an image. Do all your stories begin that way? Are they images that come to mind on their own, or do you actively look for images to inspire you, and if so, where do you find them?

My stories do often begin with an image, but it’s not something I go looking for. I think I have my subconscious to thank here; they are often images I wake up with. And because they fill my mind in that hazy space between dreaming and waking, the images are endowed with emotion and sensation—the best story starter I could ever ask for!

Do you have any suggestions for teachers on how they might use your novel in the classroom?

Absolutely! I think Parched would make a great book study, either for a small group or the whole class with all of its cross-content potential. It is a slim volume, and an adventure story, so it will appeal to some of your reluctant readers, too!

Here is a link to the discussion guide for Parched; it’s a really comprehensive resource for teachers.

And check my website in the fall when school starts up again—I am putting together a field guide for Parched, where students can track and research the flora and fauna found in the book as they read.

Oh, I love the idea of a "field guide" for a novel with such a distinctive setting as yours. I hope the teachers in our audience will check it out. So tell us, what's next on the horizon for you?

My next project is a YA verse novel about labor activist Clara Lemlich. She was an amazing woman who was instrumental in reforming working conditions for women in the early 1900s. This book is completely different from my debut--and a great challenge! My editor for this project will be Liza Kaplan at Philomel, and we are working towards an early 2015 release date.

Congratulations, Melanie! We're looking forward to seeing that. Finally, would you share about a moment when you knew you were a writer?

Well, I’ll show you a picture of a time when I had all the confidence in the world about my own writing. (I must have had a good teacher!) This is a book I wrote and illustrated in 4th grade. A sequel to Julie of the Wolves:

Don’t you think the white-out dress is a nice touch?

Very clever, Melanie. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Readers, you can enter below for a chance to win an autographed copy of ParchedIf you enter via a comment to this blog post, please tell us what you'll do with the book should you win: save it for yourself of give it away? The giveaway ends on June 26. After you've entered, feel free to check out the other stops on Melanie's blog tour, which you'll find listed on her website.

And don't forget--today is also Poetry Friday. This week's round up is at Carol's Corner.

Good luck and happy writing!

If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address. Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday Writing Workout--STAND ON YOUR HEAD and revise!

Howdy Campers!   Welcome to another edition of TeachingAuthors'

TeachingAuthors--and most writing teachers--have taught and discussed versions of this exercise over the years—and it's worth repeating.

Last week I tweaked it just a bit and the raw results in student writing was much more personal than when I've used this exercise before--their stories were notably stronger.

In my UCLA Extension Writers' Program class on Writing the Children's Picture Book, I spend one of the three-hour classes on rewriting.  I tell my students, "the information I'm about to tell you may be a tad depressng."

Then I show them a stack of revisions of my 1087-word picture book. I read an early draft, a middle draft and the final published book.  I show a PowerPoint which details the long journey to publication:

•    April 2000: interviewed expert on topic; wrote first version
•    April 2002: additional interviews
•    October 2004: accepted by publisher
•    January 2005: author’s revision sent to Dial
•    July 2005: editorial notes promised
•    December 2005: editorial notes received
•    January 2006: author’s revision sent to editor
•    January 2006: line edit promised “soon”
•    March 2006: line edits promised “May at the earliest”
•    May 2006: no line edits yet
•    May 2006: illustrator accepts offer
•    September 2006: considerable line edits received
•    September 2006 (about 12 days later): edited ms. sent off with new title
•    May 2007 titles still under discussion—August 2008 projected publication date
•    September 2007—book delayed until summer 2009 because illustrator is delayed.
•    April 2008—tiny edit: five small word changes
•    Fall 2008: illustrations arrive—wow, wow, WOW!
•    June 2009: book ship—yippee!
•    Summer 2009 lots of PR
•    September 2009: official launch—bricks-and-mortar and blog tour

      = 38 versions from start to finish.

After depressing them with the timeline, I did something different this time.  I read them the touching picture book, I Remember Miss Perry, written by Pat Brission, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch (he's also the illustrator of New Year at the Pier).  It's about the death of a beloved elementary school teachers and how her students work through it by sharing happy memories of her.  It's a delicious book about a topic no one wants to talk about--the kind of book that every school needs in its library, because when you need it, you need it immediately.

I want my students to feel they can tackle any topic in a children's picture book as long as it's written honestly.  As long as it rings true.

So, here's the exercise:

1) Have your students brainstorm for five minutes, writing a list of experiences from their childhood that rocked their world. 

Tell them to jot down whatever comes to mind, writing quickly. They don't need to worry about neatness or spelling or complete sentences--they're making notes for themselves.

Here are some possible topics:

When did you do something that made you feel grown-up?

Maybe you helped paint the kitchen.
Maybe you did something that helped someone older than you solve a problem.

When did something scary happen to you?
Maybe your dog ran away.
Maybe your parents separated.

When did something joyous happen to you?
Maybe your family moved into a nice home for the first time.
Maybe you learned how to skateboard or read.

2) Give them just five minutes to circle one of the things on their list that they want to write about and then write a brief outline of the whole story. 

3) Tell them to change one thing about this story.
Tell them: BE WILD!  
They might change:
~ Point of view.  Instead of first person, try third person.  Or perhaps the family dog tells the story.
~ Time period.    Instead of the present, try setting it in ancient times, in the 1920s, in the future.
~ Place:              Instead of on a farm, try setting it underwater, in a volcano, on an island, in New York.
~ Characters:      Instead of people, try ground hogs, lightning bugs, elevators, a jar of pickles or cows.
~ Plot:                Instead of the cricket finding his home at the end, perhaps he gets even more lost.  Or instead of the bully getting her comeuppance, throw a party for her and see what happens.

As I said, this is the first year I've read my students that book before we launched into this exercise; the stories were more heartfelt than in the past.
They tried riskier subjects, subjects that were closer to their skin--and every idea was worth pursuing.
I hope you try it--either in your own writing or with students.  Then let me know what happens!
And, hey--thanks for reading this!
April Halprin Wayland

P.S. : Don't forget to enter our current book giveaway for our own Jill Esbaum's Angry Birds Playground:  DinosaursSee Jill's post for details.   Entry deadline is TODAY!

Monday, June 17, 2013

So Many Books, So Little Time

  This will be a shorter post than usual, guys. I had emergency eye surgery the day after I wrote my last post, and I am still essentially working with one and a half functioning eyes.

   We've been talking about what the blogosphere holds for the writer. You already know the answer to that....a lot. You can spend all time trolling the Internet just reading writer's blogs, advice columns or sites that will help you do this, that or the other better. Unless I have a specific problem, I don't spend a lot of time cruising the virtual highway. I just don't have time.

     If I am online, it is to find out what is being published and what is worth reading. There was a time when I read everything that came out, good, bad or indifferent...but again...I don't have the time any more. (I should also add that as a librarian, reading everything that came in was part of my job.) Another part of the job was reading the review sources....Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book, etc.  All of these are available online for free, in condensed forms.

    However, I have been relying on these sources since my library school days, and I have learned that not every book makes it to the "the Bigs" of the review world. That's when I discovered bloggers-who-review.  Some bloggers drop a review or two into their posts from time to time.  I like lots of reviews, all in one place. (Again...that time-saving thing.)

    Once a month I check my two favorite sources, Richie's Picks and  Goodreads. Goodreads has recently become affiliated with Amazon in some fashion which seems to annoy my fellow readers. I am not going to get into a political debate over book reviewing. I scan through Goodreads not so much for the quality of the reviews, but mainly to see what people are reading. If there are a thousand plus reviews or likes of a book I've never even heard of, I check Amazon for the review.  That is, I check Amazon if it is an adult book.  If it is a children's book, I click on over to Richie's Picks

    Richie Partington doesn't so much review books as to write short essays about them.  He includes lengthy passages from the book (so you can get a taste of the writer's style) , compares them to other books (not necessarily books of the same genre or author...just books that ring a bell in Richie's head.) He keeps a year's worth of "recent" reviews online, but has an archive of his "Richie's Best of the Year" going all the way back to 2005. Richie's selections are eclectic. He reviews whatever floats his boat (I am still waiting to have one of my books in Richie's Picks). What I like about this blog is that Richie gives you more than enough information for you to decide whether this book is worth your time or not. Like I say, so many books, so little time. That's why Richie is my reading guru.

    Don't forget to enter our latest book giveaway for our own Jill Esbaum's book. See Jill's post for information.   This is one of your last chances, since the deadline is June 19th.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman

Friday, June 14, 2013

Apps and Resources for Writers and POETRY FRIDAY!

Howdy, Campers and Happy Poetry Friday!

Thank you, Margaret, for hosting today
at Reflections on the Teche

I stress when I have a blog post to write on a favorite online writing resource and no time to write it.  Can you relate?  In that case, it's nice to have a caring blog-buddy name Carmela who has extra resources in her big floppy bag and tosses me one as I frantically run by.

 This is not Carmela Martino.

In the spirit of generous blogging, Carmela has handed me
20 Inspirational Apps and Online Resources for Writers.  How cool is that for a hot summer writing resource?

Yep, there are lots of great resources on that link.  However, may I express a nagging uneasiness about certain apps?  Based on several friends' recommendations, I downloaded Evernote, which is included in this list.  I was looking for a useful To Do List app and this apparently fits the bill.

What creeps me out was that in order to access this marvelous and free app, you have to allow it to access all of your contacts. 

ALL OF MY CONTACTS?  Evernote wants the phone number of my vet?  Of my dead podiatrist who I loved so much I cannot bring myself to delete from my phone?  Of Uncle Davie? 

 Uncle Davie and Eli.

Evernote wants/GETS all these precious people?

I couldn't do it.  I couldn't surrender my peeps for a free app.

by April Halprin Wayland
I'm not openin'
my phone book 
to apps.
And I'm hopin'
your phone book
is snapped.
poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

Now I'm off to my critique group.  Wish me luck!  And if you find that one of these resources is particularly wonderful, please let us know...and remember to enter our contest to win a copy of our very own Jill Esbaum's newest book!  Click for all the dino details: Angry Birds Playground: Dinosaurs. You still have time--the contest ends June 18th!
Dive into your summer writing!

drawing © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

April Halprin Wayland

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wednesday Writing Workout

When my kids were young, they'd often find nests on the ground after violent spring storms. Sadly, doomed baby birds were sometimes lying in the grass nearby . . . vulnerable to hungry barn cats.

Once, we tried to save a little robin that was hopping around, only a week or so from being ready to fly. I put a ladder against the tree and climbed up, holding the little guy gingerly in one hand, and returned it to its (too low) nest. Trouble was, he jumped right out again. One of the kids ran inside for an Easter basket. We tossed in a few handfuls of grass, tied the handle to the branch near the nest, and, once again, I took the little bird up and placed him inside. Ploop! He was back on the ground before I was.

                                                                             Photo by Sande LaFaut (used with permission)

Four or five cats were closing in fast, and one snatched the little guy before we could retrieve him, then streaked away. Nature can be cruel, or at least it would seem so to us humans.

But it always bugged me that that little bird, so close to independence, met such a tragic end. Which is why I wrote Tom's Tweet, a story in which a curmudgeonly cat's impulsive good deed goes wildly haywire when he ends up having to babysit a demanding little nestling all day. This time, I made sure the story had a happy ending, the one I wished had happened in real life:  the two become friends.

So for today's writing workout:

Think back to a real-life situation, one in which you made the wrong decision or that you simply wish had ended differently, then create a story around the incident – not the way it really happened, but with a happier or more satisfying ending.

Meanwhile, remember to enter our contest to win a copy of Angry Birds Playground:  Dinosaurs. Contest ends June 18th.

Jill Esbaum

Monday, June 10, 2013

Links for Easy Summertime Living and Learning

Why not make the living – AND – the learning easy this Summertime by signing up to receive daily and/or weekly emails from three of my very favorite all-year-long online services?

(1)   A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg

The New York Times called A.Word.A.Day “The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace.”

Monday through Friday, subscribers receive a new word, one of five purposefully grouped words that underscore a particular teaching point.
This past week?
Selected words were those that appeared to be misspellings:


How fun to learn why and how they weren’t!

Take a look at Friday’s post for jargoon to see all that each post offers:

noun: A colorless, pale yellow, or smoky variety of zircon.
From French jargon, from Italian giargone, from Persian zargun (golden). Earliest documented use: 1769.
"The genial jeweler then suggested white jargoon."
P.G. Wodehouse; The Intrusion of Jimmy; W.J. Watt and Co.; 1910.

Explore "jargoon" in the Visual Thesaurus.
The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. -Daniel J. Boorstin, historian, professor, attorney, and writer (1914-2004)

I especially enjoy the Visual Thesaurus.
I especially appreciate the added inclusion of previous days’ words, just in case the definitions and pronunciations had somehow lost their place on my brain’s Hard Drive.

Click here to increase your vocabulary on a daily basis.  
You can send a Gift Subscription too!

(2)  TransparentLanguage – Learn a New Word a Day in a Foreign Language!

Thanks to my bi-lingual Brazilian-born grandson, Brazilian Portuguese is my Transparent language of choice.

Truthfully, I still don’t speak this language well – and my sweet, sweet lindo namerado (handsome boyfriend) recently turned three.
BUT, I do understand his words and conversation.

I especially love the ability to hear a native speak the word, not only by itself but in a sentence.
And like A.Word.A.Day, I can always return to previous words that – somehow – refused to stick.

Today’s entry?
Portuguese word:          Amanhã
English translation:      Tomorrow
Part of speech:              Adverb
Portuguese examples:  Meu filho chega amanhã de sua viagem.
English examples:         My son arrives tomorrow from his trip.

I have always relied on Booklist, the bi-monthly review journal of the American Library Association, available at most libraries, to keep me sharp and smart when it comes to the best of children’s books being published.

I’m happy to report that many free Booklist offerings are now available online.
For example,
the Great Reads page, with terrific book recommendations for both kids and adults,

the Bookends blog by Cindy and Lynn,
the monthly youth e-newsletters Quick Tips, aimed at connecting books to the classroom, and the new e-newsletter focused on YA Books, Booklandia,
and the free Webinars. 

Maybe amanhã you'll check out the above, then sign up to subscribe, thus making your summer's living and learning link-easy?!

Esther Hershenhorn
P.S. Don't forget to enter our current giveaway for a chance to win a copy of Jill Esbaum's brand new nonfiction book, Angry Birds Playground: Dinosaurs (National Geographic). See Jill's post for details.


Friday, June 7, 2013

New Book Giveaway! What I Knew About Dinosaurs...

...would've fit on the head of a pin. Or maybe a thumbtack. One of my sons was dino-crazed, back in the day, and I stepped on my share of spiny plastic stegosaurs. But it's been awhile.

So when my National Geographic Kids editor asked me to author Angry Birds Playground:  Dinosaurs, I hesitated for a second before jumping in. But only a second.

(Re)learning all things dinosaur was a blast. New species are being discovered all the time, often by everyday folks. I had no idea how far we'd come in our dino knowledge. A tiny sampling:

-Scientists know what certain dinos ate because they sometimes find bones from smaller animals lying   in the stomach area of a dino skeleton.
-Slower-moving dinos often had deadly, whip-like tails to fight off predators.
-Dino bones have been discovered on every continent – including Antarctica.
-Scientists used to believe a Stegosaurus could flap the plates on its back to keep itself cool.

So where do the Angry Birds come in? Here's the copy from the back cover:

"It's an extraordinary day on Piggy Island because the Angry Birds haven't lost their eggs, they've FOUND something amazing:  a bone! Not a plain old bone – a HUGE and very old bone. What kind of giant creature could this bone have come from? That's a question for Mighty Eagle – the wisest bird they know. Join the Angry Birds on their imaginary trip through time to discover the most awesome animals ever to roam this planet:  the dinosaurs!"

As Mighty Eagle helps the Birds imagine prehistoric times, they all wear tiny animals skins and bones in their head feathers, ala Bamm-Bamm Rubble. Very cute.

The book also answers these questions . . . 

-What was Earth like in the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods? 
-How are fossils created? 
-How do scientists determine a fossil's age? 
-How are dinosaurs related to modern birds?
-How are all those dino names pronounced?  

Throughout the book, Franco Tempesta's spectacular paintings give kids an idea of how dinosaurs might have looked (click on his name to see for yourself!). His colorful and realistic dinos (48 of them!) all but leap off the pages.

Back matter includes a world map showing where various dinosaur bones have been found, a fun-filled quiz, a glossary, and dino-related activities for kids.

If you know a dinosaur-loving kid, or one who is nuts about the Angry Birds, enter below to win a copy of Angry Birds Playground:  Dinosaurs (National Geographic). In your comment, please let us know who you'd be sharing the book with.

Entry deadline:  June 19th

Jill Esbaum

If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, you may want to first read their info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and/or the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address. Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wednesday Writing Workout: Your 30-Minute Novel

Returning to my recent obsession with outlining, I would like to offer a cool exercise from author Alicia Rasley that allows you to lay out the key points of your novel in a mere thirty minutes.  It covers many basics that I typically consider for months and collects disparate pieces of information in one place. [I suspect that this would be a great exercise to complete in preparation for NaNoWriMo.]  The timer aspect is also compelling in that it requires you to figure out all of the broad strokes in short order before you are tempted to sit down and try to fill in the details.

I particularly appreciate the fact that this exercise focuses on making the main character likeable and helps you figure out where to begin telling your story.  While I have not yet tried this particular approach to the outline, it also seems that it would be extremely helpful in determining how external and internal conflict intersect (a particular difficulty of mine). 

If you try this technique, please let me know how it works out for you. Look for me to do the same.  Happy outlining! --Jeanne Marie      

Monday, June 3, 2013

Plotting My Summer

Happy summer vacation to those of you who have already begun!  My college students have finished their semester, but my husband and kids have two weeks to slog through. We are currently in major countdown mode, and my little bookworm has piles of library books all over the house in earnest preparation for lots of reading time. 

I tried to sucker Kate into writing a "guest post" today to give some insight into the mind of an 8-year-old who loves to read (and write), but she was not so inclined. She did tell me, after much consideration, that she reads to "find out what happens next."  While she talks to us primarily about snippets of scenes or dialogue or characters (Allie Finkle's BFF has come up often recently in real-life analogy), it's the plot that gets her to turn the pages.  She added that the chapter titles often entice her to keep reading.  I was somewhat surprised to hear this tidbit, but then I remembered her methodology for writing stories of her own.  She scrawls out chapter titles and then writes content to bear them out in fulfillment of a nebulous plan that she somehow manages to bring to fruition. I suppose this is her personal method of outlining.  [Kate also says that she likes to write stories because "you can write whatever you want instead of having to write what your teacher tells you."]

The topic of outlining reminds me of a graphic I've seen floating around on facebook recently, showing handwritten outlines of famous authors' works:

(I'm sure many of you have seen this, yes?)

I outline in narrative form (akin to a screenplay treatment), so I was intrigued by the depth and complexity of this spreadsheet format.  I was particularly interested in JK Rowling's outline, and google helped me find this analysis:

Wow!  She not only relates each main even to each subplot, but she knows the day on the week that it happened.  As well she should.  As well I should!  It seems I have a lot of work cut out for me and, thank goodness, finally some time to do it.

Wishing a happy, relaxing, and productive summer to all!  I am about to dive into a friend's WIP and give myself a major dose of inspiration.  And, in the spirit of "reading is writing," don't forget to enter our latest giveaway contest to win a copy of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh. I can't wait to read this one, myself. :)  -- Jeanne Marie