Friday, February 3, 2023

But Ya Gotta Have Friends! (Sorry, Bette Midler!)

January 1st means a fresh start, new resolutions for many people. The Gregorian calendar insists the New Year comes in the middle of grey, grisly, winter, with short days and long dreary nights. I think that's a mean joke. The last thing I want to do this time of year is make resolutions or "move ahead" on a project.

So what do I do to jolt myself out of the midwinter blahs? I talk to my friends As I've mentioned before, some of my best friends are books. I consult my "writers on writing" shelf.

The first book I read about writing was Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence and Spirit.  Ueland is the friend you talk to when you fall in love with writing, because she's in love with it too.  She gets it. If You Want to Write was published in 1938, but so timeless in style and advice, it could've been written last week. She believes that everyone is talented, original and has something important to say...just what a new writer wants to hear! "Try to discover your true, honest untheoretical self," says Brenda. Wow! Somebody wants to hear from the "real me"? All right!

How can you not love a book with chapters titled "The imagination works slow and quietly," and"Be careless, be reckless! Be a lion, be a pirate when you write." Then there is my favorite "Why Women who do too much housework should neglect it for their writing." (Not a problem, Brenda!) I've written journals off and on since third grade, but when I read So You Want to Write in my 20's, I was encouraged to "Keep a slovenly, headlong, impulsive, honest diary." Ueland set me free to write and write and write without fretting over what I was writing, or what it might be some day. She turned me into an enthusiastic observer and journal keeper. I re-read So You Want to Write when I need to fall in love with writing again. (Sidebar--Greywolf Press brought the book back into print in 1983...and it has not been out of print since. That should speak to the quality of Ueland's advice.)

Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird came into my life when I was trying to turn all that journal writing into actual stories...and having serious doubts that I could do it. Anne Lamott is the big sister friend, who has been there, done that and is going to tell you Get over yourself! Don't listen to your inner voice screaming, Who told you you are a writer.?You stink! Don't freak out. Take deep breaths. You can only write one sentence at a time, word by word. (Or bird by bird, as per the title.) Whatever writer's block you have, or how horribly you judge your own work...Anne Lamott has already done it, much, much  worse! (If you need a visual, think of Cher in Moonstruck, slapping Nick Cage and yelling "Snap out of it!") When I'm overthinking or hypercritical to the point of inertia, I pour a glass of wine and spend a little time with Anne.

After decades of plugging away, I began to publish. However, the myth that "once you get your first book published, the next one is easier" is just that. A myth. I sold my first book. The next one took four years. (Although in the wild and wacky world of publishing schedules, the second book came out before the first one!) I didn't have an agent. In fact, I was discovering that getting an agent was harder than getting an editor's attention.I was sure that J.K Rowling and Stephen King were not having my problems with a-hiccuping career. That's when I happened on Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. 

Personally, I'm not a fan of King's stories or style. However, I am in awe of how he has made readers out of people who don't like to read. I read On Writing, hoping he had some sort of magic formula. Of course he doesn't. However I discovered has a lovely conversational style when writing about his own life...and not homicidal Plymouth Furys or evil, sewer-dwelling clowns.

 King takes the "toolbox" approach to writing. If you don't possess and use these tools, you will never become a competent writer. His first tool: read a lot and write a lot. I'd been telling my own writing students that for years. I didn't know whether to be disappointed that his advice wasn't more exotic, or pleased that Stephen and I were on the same page, philosophically speaking. I didn't tell my students that by "writing a lot," King means that he writes every single day. That's a discouraging notion to a ten-year-old whose life is already scheduled to the gills.(He once told an interviewer that he wrote everyday except Fourth of July, Christmas and his birthday--but that wasn't true. He writes every day.) I also write every day, although not necessarily of the journaling-and-writing-project variety. I'm a moderator of a Facebook (OK Meta!) page that involves a lot of research and concise explanatory writing. This keeps my toolbox working between projects, and through the spells when my imagination seems to have dried up and blown away. (I tell my students to write on weekends and school holidays...and whenever they are happy or sad or mad. That winds up being pretty much every day...without them knowing it.)

The other "tools" King uses are so basic, I'm a little insulted he calls them tools; vocabulary and grammar. Vocabulary doesn't need to be voluminous (The last time I was required to know and use the word "salubrious" was in taking the ACT.),  varied and useful. If you get stuck, he suggests a thesaurus, preferably not the one that came with your word processing program. For grammar, nothing can beat our mutual old friend, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.  While King never does tells how he can turn out bestseller after bestseller, he does remind me that if you don't read, write, mind your vocabulary and grammar, you're never going to write anything. On Writing is that professor you regard with awe, but when you actually talk to them, find they aren't magical or mystical...just hardworking and focused. 

My last friend is my teacher friend, Ralph Fletcher. (I don't personally know Mr. Fletcher, but after reading everyone of his many books, I feel as if I do.) I rely on Fletcher to inspire me as a teacher.  He is a master teacher of writing as well as a writer for children. He knows how kids think, and how to jazz their imaginations, free them of their writing hang-ups. His books contain writing exercises and topics (he doesn't use the word "prompts") for every age group--including adults. I've never taught a class without Ralph Fletcher at my side, in spirit. 

No one gets through this writing life alone. As the great Bette Midler sings "'cause yah got to have friends." Please feel free to introduce me to some of your writing friends. 

Posted by Mary Ann. Rodman 

Friday, January 27, 2023

Congratulations To Our Latest Giveaway Winner!

This is just a quick post to congratulate the winner of our latest book giveaway: The Stories Behind the Stories: The Remarkable True Tales Behind Your Favorite Kid's Books, by Danielle Higley (Bushel & Peck Books).

 And the winner is:  

                                        Margaret S.

Thank you to all who took time to enter our giveaway. And special thanks to Bushel & Peck Books for providing the book for our winner.


Friday, January 20, 2023

1 WORD FOR 2023

Howdy from California, Campers ~

Soggy California! Sorry about the drips on this page (I'm in Southern CA and we're fine, thank you).

And Happy New Year and Happy Poetry Friday to all! (The links to Poetry Friday, my poem, and my upcoming class are all below.)

Our theme for this round is Moving Forward in the New Year. We began with Esther's enticing review of the book, THE stories BEHIND THE stories (read her review here and enter to win it in our first BOOK GIVEAWAY in this fresh new year)

I'm up next.

In the 13 years I've been privileged to be part of TeachingAuthors, I've learned rain barrels-full about writing, teaching, poetry, and friendship from my fellow TeachingAuthors, from many of you, and from the Kidlitosphere and Poetry Friday communities.

One thing I've learned is that many of you move forward by choosing a word for the year.

So I tried it. Sometimes I'd choose a word and then discard it because it didn't seem to move me forward. But one year the magic happened. That was the year I chose the word CAPABLE.

I chose it because the nasty noises in my brain continually convinced me that I was never going to be capable of doing whatever it was I was doing. 

That word set me on the road to discovering I was, indeed, capable.

                                drawing (c)2023 by April Halprin Wayland

Good old CAPABLE. We're still very close. 

Usually, instead of choosing a word for the year,  I choose a word for the day. The book I read each night has one page for each day of the year. The page begins with a quotation, followed by a paragraph expanding on the quote, and then a gentle resolution for the day.

For example, one recent quotation was: "Competitions are for horses, not artists." ~ Bela Bartok

The words from that reading that resonated in me were: "People who have developed the art of living...are as respectful of their own values and opinions as those of others." (underlining is mine)

Every night I read a page and every morning I forget what that page was about.

So I decided to condense the whole page into one or two words. In this case, my word for the next day may have been "self-respect." And guess what happened when I woke up the next day? 

Nada. Nothing. 

Even if I created a visual for my word--for "self-respect" (which might be someone looking in a mirror and liking what she saw) even then, I still couldn't remember what I'd read. 

Finally, I decided to write that word on the top of my foot each night. In the morning, before I sat up, I'd challenge myself to remember the word, and sometimes I could. But if I couldn't, I'd lift my leg and read my foot. 

I write my word on the TOP of one foot. I do NOT draw faces on my toes. But, boy, it sure looks like fun...maybe I'll try it. (photo: Pixabay)

All day long my word walks with me. And if I feel scrambled, I'll stop and focus: what's my word? I rarely need to take off my shoe to remember it. 

Here's the draft of a poem I wrote about it:

by April Halprin Wayland

I write the word I'd like to think

on the top of my foot each day in ink.


Absurd, absurd, some friends may say,

to walk with that ink on her foot all day!


How odd, so odd, some will assert,

to write on one's foot—imagine the dirt!


You know what I mostly wish from this?

to tune out the voices and follow my bliss.

          poem © 2023 April Halprin Wayland. 

(That last stanza is super corny, but that's what I've got for you today ~ says this recovering perfectionist)

As this new year rolled around, I thought I'd try a word for the whole year again. I sifted through many. The word that felt exactly right is SIMPLIFY.

It's already working its magic: each time I'm overwhelmed by too many emails, too many TO DOs, too much noise, I think: SIMPLIFY. A calm washes over me. I focus.  And guess what? In simplifying the tasks I take on, I've begun writing a picture book I'm totally in love with!💗

I haven't felt this excited about writing in a long, long time. 

What's YOUR word for today or for the year? I'd love to read it in your comments.😊

And hey, Campers ~ my one day, three-hour Introduction to Writing Children's Poetry will be held again on January 28 from noon to 3pm PST. We read a variety of poems and have time to write our own. Come join the fun! It's offered through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program

Thank you for hosting Poetry Friday, Marcie!

posted by April Halprin Wayland, with help from Monkey and Eli, posing with one of their favorite, very old poetry books.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Heaps of Heart and Hope for 2023 + OUR BOOK GIVEAWAY!

 What better way to launch the New Year than with a Book 


And not of just any book.

 IMHO: Children’s books gift Readers with Heart and Hope.

Katherine Paterson described story as “one heart in hiding 

reaching out to another.”

"A good book,” venerable Atheneum editor Jean Karl shared, 

"…respects a child’s capacity to become.”

But when a children’s book offers us the true and remarkable 

stories behind the stories we’ve come to love – as does Danielle 

Higley’s THE stories BEHIND THE stories (Bushel & Peck 

Books, 2021), how could we not reap EXTRA heaps of Heart 

and Hope?

Think: twenty-nine writers’ hopeful hearts waiting to be



I guarantee our Giveaway Book will fortify you fully so you 

can keep keepin’ on in 2023.

And Good News! It will also inspire one lucky Young Reader 

because the publisher honors its Book-for-Book Promise: for 

every book sold, Bushel & Peck donates one book to a child in 


Be sure to enter our Book Giveaway! Instructions follow this post.

To nominate a school or organization to receive free books from 

Bushel & Peck, click here.

In her Author’s Note, Danielle Higley shared an important insight 

she gleaned while researching the how and why her chosen 

children’s book creators told their stories. Yes, creativity and 

imagination played a role.

 ·       J.R.R. Tolkien, while editing a student’s blank paper, penned, 

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – and then promptly 

built a bigger world.

·       A young librarian patron queried Beverly Munn Cleary, 

“Where are the books about kids like us?” and her answer, 

fortunately, was Henry Huggins.

·       Dr. Seuss believed, “Nonsense wakes up the brain cells… If you 

can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in 


But most treasured children’s books were born from extraordinary 

persistence and grit.

·       Beatrix Potter self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit when 

multiple publishers rejected the manuscript.

·       Librarians offered a storm of protest, though to no avail, 

because the children in Gertrude Chandler’s original Boxcar 

Children series “were having too good a time without any 

parental control.”

·       Every day for thirteen years, Christopher Paul Curtis worked 

on a General Motors assembly line, taking turns with his partner 

to hang thirty doors in a row to earn a thirty-minute break to write 

his stories.


From Mother Goose rhymes and Clement Clarke Moore’s The 

Night Before Christmas to Rick  Riordan’s Percy Jackson and 

the Olympians and Jeff McKinney’s Wimpy Kid series, each of 

the true tales behind the featured books magnifies the treasure 

these beloved stories hold.

David Miles’ beautiful illustrations, many collage-like boasting 

photographs and original art, the many meaningful author and 

illustrator quotes throughout and the shared research resources 

on the last pages enrich the book’s enjoyment.

Thanks to Bushel & Peck Books for generously gifting one of 

our lucky TeachingAuthors readers with a copy of THE stories 

BEHIND THE stories.

Thanks, too, to Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core for hosting 

today’s Poetry Friday.

May Heart and Hope accompany you through the New Year!

Esther Hershenhorn


I need to shout HURRAH! for my writer Amy Neeren and her 

recently-released debut chapter book Nellie in Knots published by 

Bushel & Peck Books! The story behind her story offers bushels 

of Heart and Hope.

. . . . . .

To enter the giveaway drawing for The stories BEHIND THE storiesuse the Rafflecopter widget below. (Note: if the widget doesn't appear, click on the link at the end of this post that says "a Rafflecopter giveaway" to enter.)

You may enter via up to 4 options. The more options you choose, the better your odds! 

If you choose option 3, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY’S blog post or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page. If you haven’t already “liked” our Facebook page, please do so today!

If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST 
STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA RAFFLECOPTER BELOW.  The giveaway ends January 20, 2023 and is open to U.S. Residents only.

If you’ve never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here’s info on how to enter 
a Rafflecopter giveaway.  And a second article explains the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Good luck!

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