Friday, July 29, 2016

Coping with Your Inner Critic

If you've been reading our recent blog posts, you've had glimpses of how we TeachingAuthors are spending our summer, from researching to reading to teaching.

This week, I'm attending the Catholic Writers Guild Convention in Schaumburg, Illinois, where
on Wednesday I gave a presentation on "Coping with Your Inner Critic." Much of my talk was based on the book Wrestling with Your Angels: A Spiritual Journey to Great Writing (Adams Media) by Janet O. Hagberg. Unfortunately, the book is out-of-print, but you can still find used copies online.

Hagberg says,
“We all have strong inner critics standing on one shoulder, reminding us of our failures, telling us to stop before we embarrass ourselves . . . .”
The critic’s fundamental goal is to destroy our confidence. But Hagberg also reassures us that:
“If on one shoulder we have the critic, on the other we have an angel . . .  providing answers to the critic.” 
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay
Hagberg encourages us to get to know and befriend our critic. The critic tends to be sharp-tongued, but if we set boundaries and give the critic specific assignments, we can get it to keep quiet long enough for us to get some work done. As Hagberg says:
“The critic loves to be needed, and the grooming, editing, and polishing aspects of writing lend themselves to the critic’s skills. . . . Critics are also great at sorting out how to use feedback. . . . "
I promised the conference attendees that I'd share some additional resources on dealing with the critic in today's blog post. Here are several from our TeachingAuthors blog:
The following articles may also be of interest:
I'll still be at the conference when this post goes live. But when I get back, I'd love to know how you, our TeachingAuthors readers, cope with your inner critic. Please share in the comments below.

Happy writing,

Monday, July 25, 2016

Making Magic in Vermont!

Today’s post marks my official return to and I am smiling.
Both the timing and the blog’s current “Summer Doings” theme couldn’t be better.
I’ve been dying to share news of the Vermont Manuscript Workshop I was lucky enough to facilitate July 10-15 at the Landgrove Inn in Landgrove, Vermont.
It was truly a “Wish you were here!” postcard waiting to be written.

The Workshop’s location in the Green Mountains was something to write home about.
Non-stop green everywhere you looked, up, down and all around.
Crayola Sky Blue skies.  Puffs of cheery white clouds.
Crystal-clear brooks. 
Rolling hills and peaks.
Wooden bridges.
Think: a Currier & Ives print of Vermont Summer come to life, sound-tracked by bird songs that stopped you in your tracks.

More noteworthy, though, were my five talented, committed, smart and personable picture book writers – (pictured, from left to write) Dorothy Wiese, Shelley Smithson, Jean Horrigan, Donna Brown and Becky Hohensee.

Their travel to Vermont from, respectively, Hampshire, Illinois, East Lansing, Michigan, Baltimore, Maryland, Rutland, Vermont and Houma, Louisiana, paled against the staggering metaphorical distance they traveled in coming to know their stories, honing their craft and readying their manuscripts for readers.

They became a supportive, caring Writers Group abracadabra, just like that.

Speaking of which, Magic of all sorts filled our days and nights.
Mornings we gathered after breakfast in the Inn’s sunlit Studio up on the hill to focus on character, plot, writer choices, revision and reader considerations.
Most afternoons after lunch writers worked independently and/or worked one-on-one with me on a bench by the pond.
Evenings after dinner were reserved for reading-aloud the day’s work.
Author/editor/teacher Barbara Seuling, who founded the Vermont Manuscript Workshop 23 years ago (!), gifted us one afternoon with her insights and experience.
SplashingCowBooks Publisher Gordon MacClellan, who happened to live 20 minutes down the road in Manchester, stopped by to acquaint us with his publishing company as well as his new venture in marketing and distributing independently-published children’s books (DartFrog) and the New England Children’s Review.

At our opening Meet-and-Greet, I’d gifted each writer with her very own magic wand.  P. L. Travers’ words graced each writer’s folder.

“We are all looking for magic…..But indeed we have to wave the wand for ourself.”

I’d toasted to a week of magic when we’d first gathered and raised our glasses and that toast proved prophetic.
Watching these talented writers discover their magic as well as the magic in their stories was nothing short of magic for me.
Each connected with her world, her story, herself, ensuring readers connect as well.

Though I surely do not excel at iPhone picture-taking, the Good News about the photos that follow is: there are no pictures of my index finger!

Here’s our very own Landgrove Inn Round Table at which we dined 3 times a day on gourmet meals cooked by (to my surprise) the Cubs-hat wearing Chef Joe Kapitanski.
(My favorites included blueberry pancakes with Sugar Bob’s maple syrup, shrimp salad, flat iron steak and Chilean bass, mouth-watering rolls, scalloped potatoes, apple crisp, key lime pie and brownies and chocolate chip cookies baked daily.)
Note the Cubs cup  in the middle of the table which held writers’ favorite inspirational quotes extracted daily.

Here’s a photo of Gordon and me, showcasing the final art for the cover of my Missouri writer Joe Lawson’s mg novel TACKLING TIRES, out next month.

 Here’s that gorgeous pond and bench beside the Studio.
How could we NOT stop working late one afternoon to visit and sample our way through the Vermont Country Store?

And how could I NOT bring chocolate to our Studio gatherings?  (We’re writers, right?)

I pinched myself for 6 days straight, so grateful for the opportunity Barbara Seuling afforded me in inviting me to continue her Vermont Manuscript Workshop, for the support and hospitality Innkeepers Maureen and Tom Checchia  showed me and best of all, for the five writers  whose stories claimed my Hard Drive and Heart Drive.

And I’ve been pinching myself ever since.
Next year’s dates are now on the calendar: July 9-14, 2017!
I’m counting down the days to again making magic in the magical Green Mountains.
I’m wishing you ’ll be there!

Esther Hershenhorn

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer: Reading, Writing, and Wrens

On a recent visit to the library, I was happy to find two delightful picture books, perfect for reading anytime.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano celebrates the seasons with soothing, child-friendly poems titled with dates. Gentle illustrations of kids enjoying nature by Julie Morstad perfectly fit the tone.

I especially enjoyed "august 5," which explores the memories of playing on beaches brought back by the treasure "the ocean can carry / with outstretched arms, palms up and pushing forward."

"january 5" describes falling "like snowflakes / (more drift and swirl / than tumble thump / more gentle float / than ouch and bump)."

And I understood perfectly the need to politely speak to the snow ("thank you very much, but no") in "march 13." 

Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater succinctly describes twenty common North American birds in child-friendly rhyming verse that captures the essence of each bird in one line. Simple, colorful cut paper illustrations by Dylan Metrano and helpful back matter will appeal to young and old birdwatchers alike.

This summer, we've seen very few monarchs, so instead of watching caterpillars turn into butterflies in our backyard like I usually do, I'm focusing on growing more milkweed.

On the positive side, after hanging numerous birdhouses in our backyard summer after summer, we finally have our first nesting wren family. Their joyful-sounding burbling is a musical treat all day long. Here's a shape poem I wrote years ago when I hoped they'd stay.

Congratulations to Lois D., who won our Teaching Authors Giveaway of Mary Ann Rodman's First Grade Stinks!

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Books 4 Learning. Enjoy!

JoAnn Early Macken

Monday, July 18, 2016

Behind the Curtain: My Research Process on Short Videos

 It is a strange thing to write long nonfiction books. 

I am working on my next nonfiction book with the working title of


Holiday House will publish this book with the projected release date fall 2017. 

By the time the finished book comes out and I’m invited to speak at schools or conferences, the work is over.  I love talking about the book then.  But when I’d really love to tell people all about it is when I’m in the middle of the research and writing of it.  That is when the thrill of discovery is new and exciting for me.  In some ways, that is when the most interesting things happen. 

I work hardest while doing original research and trying to figure out how to tell this very complicated story.   Every day, I follow leads and piece together bits of information that help me tell it.  Most of the details I learn along the way do not end up in the book.  But they are fascinating details. 

I suspect this is the time that classroom teachers could use my experiences to teach research and writing.   For this book, I decided that I would make very short videos to talk about some of these details. 

Below you can view my two short videos.  (If you can't see the video below, go to Oney Judge Meets Miss Langdon )

(If you can't see the video below, go to Oney Judge Sails From Philadelphia )

Carla Killough McClafferty