Saturday, March 31, 2007
The Worst Venue for Writers?
I was warned a long time ago by many in the industry – including the children’s book buyer at a chain store where Blow Out the Moon sells really well – that if you write middle grade books, signings at bookstores is pretty much a waste of time. She named fairly famous authors who had come to her store only to wait in vain for signees…..and I’ve heard MANY children's book authors joke about bookstores being about the worst venue there is for us to sell books. Totally unlike visits to schools and libraries, which are usually inspiring for everyone.
Maybe this is NOT true at independent bookstores. Maybe it's not true anywhere in some parts of the country – I bet the farther you are from New York and Boston, the better these bookstore events are for non-celebrity authors (is this true?). But here in the Northeast, experiences like the one my friend Linda and I had at a chain store recently are probably more common than not.
We went, we sat at a table with four other authors, and we waited…and, sometimes, we watched as the pushier authors barked, in the carnival sense:
“Have you ever patted a deer? Feel this skin! No, no, the tail!”
(She had a deerskin on her part of the table.) This is not a criticism -- we should have brought attention-grabbers ourselves.
I did bark twice myself: first, when a woman was holding two books and trying to decide between them: one was What could be Better than This?
“Get that one,” I said. “The author is right there.”
(The woman did.)
The other time was when two kids looked with interest at our table, actually STOPPED to look. Their parents tried to hurry them along and I said (I hope this didn't sound as pathetic as it looks here),
“Oh, please let them look! We’re children’s book authors and these are our books!”
The parents granted the kids a minute, and in that minute, one of them took one of my brochures and one looked at a little pile of cards Linda had made and said,
This was the only interested comment a child made all day – go, Linda!
After a couple of hours, I decided to follow a rule I sometimes use at parties: “You can leave after you’ve talked to 5 people you don’t know.” So, I took my school visits flyers and walked around the store, looking for teachers. This is not as hard as it sounds: the day was publicized as “Educators Saturday” (we had been invited to give a panel discussion which never happened) and many of the educators were wearing stickers.
I wasn’t pushy (I hope!), I picked the people pretty carefully – and I had a really interesting conversation with a first-grade teacher who is starting a drama club for fourth and fifth graders. we talked about plays and my suggestions gibed perfectly with her teenage daughter’s (a budding actress). So, that was fun – and so, of course, was the chance to talk with Linda.
But was it worth most of Saturday? Because Linda and I got to talk, it was fine; but if she hadn’t been there, the answer would be: NO!…..though it’s true that for a few days both my Amazon and B&N rankings were up by a few hundred thousand, which probably means one or two people I talked to bought my book online after hearing about it at the event.
1. Ask good questions beforehand about what has been planned, how much publicity the event has received – how do those of you who do events size up the situation in advance?
2. Bring crafts & other activities, for yourself and the kids.
3. You know how if you don't have a boy friend they always say the best thing is to do things YOU find fun anyway and then if you meet someone it’s an extra? I think PR is the same way. Ideas are growing: when they hatch, I will post them. The day after the bookstore debacle I went to a REALLY FUN parade here in Mystic that included men, women, and children in great pirate outfits not only singing and playing instruments but firing a real cannon and what looked like real muskets. That gave me some ideas for fun PR.
4. You, the author, have to make the event exciting and fun. Don't count on other people to do it. My mistake here was probably that I just assumed they would--wrong. And why should they? They provided the venue; it was up to me to do something with it.
Friday, March 30, 2007
POETRY FRIDAY: Gearing Up for National Poetry Month
ESPECIALLY FOR KIDS: SCHOLASTIC’S WRITING WITH WRITERS
Poetry Writing with Writers (Main Page)
Poetry Writing with Jack Prelutsky (Grades 1-4)
Writing I Spy Riddles with Jean Marzollo (Grades 2-5)
Poetry Writing with Karla Kuskin (Grades 4-8)
POETRY RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS AND HOMESCHOOLERS
Celebrate Poetry…all year long! Find some great poetry ideas for teachers from award-winning poet Kristine O’Connell George
Favorite Poem Project’s Classroom Lessons and Projects. Find ideas for poetry activities developed by teachers who participated in the Summer Poetry Institutes for Teachers, which were sponsored by Robert Pinsky’s Favorite Poem Project and the Boston University School of Education. (I was a participant in the first institute in 2001.)
Representative Poetry Online from the University of Toronto. This site includes more than 3,000 English poems by 500 poets, a glossary of poetic terms, and a link to the Canadian Poetry website.
Teach Now! National Poetry Month (From Scholastic): Here you will find a wealth of poetry ideas and resources under the following headings: Poems and Classroom Activities, Poetry Writing Workshops and Events, and Poetry Resources.
From the Yale New Haven Teacher Institute: Three Entire Curriculum Units for Teachers
Poems That Work
Poetry for the Elementary Classroom
Reading, Writing, and Reciting
From the Children’s Book Council
Lists of children’s poetry books from 1999 to the present
Free downloadable bookmark with a poem written by J. Patrick Lewis, a popular children’s poet
ONLINE ARTICLES ABOUT CHILDREN’S POETRY
From the Children’s Book Council
Good Poetry for Trying Out Loud by Sylvia M. Vardell, Ph. D. (Sylvia served on the Cybils poetry-nominating panel. Visit her blog Poetry for Children.)
Entice Readers to Poetry by Carol D. Fiore
Classrooms Full of Poetry by Kate W. Ray and Lester L. Laminack
From The Horn Book Website: The following articles appeared in the May/June 2005 Horn Book Magazine Special Issue: Poets & Poetry.
On Originality in Children’s Poetry by J. Patrick Lewis
Purposeful Poetry (Forcing poetry into the lesson plan) by Susan Dove Lempke
I highly recommend ordering this issue of The Horn Book Magazine. It not only includes articles about poetry—it also includes poems written by Douglas Florian, Mary Ann Hoberman, Eloise Greenfield, Nikki Grimes, George Ella Lyon, Marilyn Nelson, David Greenberg, Kristine O’Connell George, Ron Koertge, Paul B. Janeczko, Marilyn Singer, Walter Dean Myers, Alice Schertle, Constance Levy, Betsy Hearne, Karla Kuskin, Jane Yolen, Janet Wong. How’s that for a lineup of great poets?
A SAMPLING OF CHILDREN'S POETS WEBSITES (Listed alphabetically.)
Kristine O’Connell George
Mary Ann Hoberman
J. Patrick Lewis
ANNOUNCEMENT: I am going to be launching my own blog, Wild Rose Reader, on the first day of April, which also happens to be the first day of National Poetry Month. That is, I hope I will be launching my blog on Sunday! Those of us kidlit bloggers who are old enough to receive mailings from AARP aren’t always the most technically savvy people. I do hope you’ll stop by occasionally and check out Wild Rose Reader—and leave a comment every now and again. I will still be posting at Blue Rose Girls from time to time.
To the Blue Rose Girls: Thanks so much for welcoming me into your circle of friendship and for inviting me to be a regular contributor to your great blog. I send a special note of thanks to Grace Lin, one of the most talented children’s book creators and one of the finest individuals I have ever met. It was she who encouraged me to become a blogger.
HAPPY POETRY MONTH !
Thursday, March 29, 2007
The constant pressure to be creative
Here’s the problem—I’m not an editorial illustrator. I’m an author and illustrator. That’s a double whammy. Right now I’m feeling some pressure. I can’t come up with text that will work with my story idea that I’ve already sold. I keep thinking—once I come up with text that will work the rest will be really easy. This isn’t always the case but I can usually pull it off. On the other hand, I usually say that the writing part is easiest. But is it? Obviously not this time. Part of the reason I’m finding writing text more difficult than I used to is that I’m doing nonfiction. I can’t change or bend anything—nonfiction is nonfiction.
I was listening to a wonderful radio interview this Sunday on NPR with Roz Chast (fellow RISD grad!). I was surprised to hear how many cartoons she submits to the New Yorker each week. I think she said it was four or five or some such. I admit that I was also cleaning and wasn’t paying absolute attention but 4 or 5? If I’m right about that number… wow. I thought to myself “How can she keep coming up with new ideas that work? Doesn’t she get tired of it?”
Then I thought of myself. How do *I* keep coming up with ideas that work? Don’t I get sick of it? The answers—I don’t know and yes.
This may be a long semi-cohesive stream of consciousness strung together with paragraphs but these are my thoughts for the day. I will conclude with this—what is WORST about being an author is the fact that to pay for rent and eat you have to keep coming up with new ideas. You can’t have lazy moments when you drag your half-awake sorry self into the office and decide to figure it all out once you get there. If I don’t figure out my current book debacle I won’t get paid. If I don’t get paid I will have two choices—1) start only eating pasta again and using the good old credit card or 2) become a full time worker as a cahier. Neither option is looking too pretty.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Calling All Artists for Robert's Snow 2007!
-website or an Amazon url to a book you have illustrated
to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass your name onto Dana-Farber. Even if you have participated in the past, please send your info again as this will be a whole new database.
Published Children's book illustrators only, please.
p.s.-I am not running the project anymore, only advising--all decisions (such as artist selection) will be left to Dana-Farber.
p.p.s.-I have been trying to contact all artists who have participated in the past to let them know, but my e-mail address book went crazy sometime during the winter so I know I am missing many people. If you have participated in the past and have not received an "invitation" e-mail from me, please don't take it personally--we still want you (as well as new people too!). Just sign up.
p.p.p.s.-I have been asked if everyone will get a snowflake. Honestly, I don't know. I am going to forward the list to Dana-Farber and let them figure it out. In the past we have capped it at 200, it is up to D-F to decide if they want to change that. But if there is no room for you this year, chances are they will put you at the top of the list for 2009.
What is Robert's Snow?
When Robert and I were married, the skies poured out a river of rain. Our wedding day was wet but it couldn't dampen our happiness. So, when Robert's aunts told me that rain on a wedding day meant good luck, I believed them.
However, it seemed that the superstition was horribly false. That winter, Robert was diagnosed with bone cancer (Ewings Sarcoma). The treatment was grueling and Robert was left listless and weak.
One night, I began to tell Robert a story. It was a children's story about a mouse that wasn't allowed in the snow, just like him. Robert became interested and it became our pet project.
I titled the story Robert's Snow; and as the story grew, so did our hopes for the future.
Nine months later, Robert was declared cancer free. Robert's Snow was accepted for publication. We felt that our good luck had finally arrived.
But, in March 2004, Robert's cancer returned. We were devastated. Our doctor told us that Robert's best chance for long-term survival was a breakthrough in cancer research.
So we decided to help the doctors the best we could. Because Robert's Snow had meant so much to us the first time, we decided to use it as an inspiration for a fund-raiser. We recruited children's book artists to paint wooden snowflakes and auctioned them off–the proceeds going to cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The response was tremendous. Robert's Snow 2004 and 2005 raised over $200,000. and we also produced a book Robert's Snowflakes which highlights the 2004 snowflakes.
Unfortunately, Robert's health continues to be complicated, so we planned on retiring the project after our 2005 event. However, because of the great interest and support, the hospital has decided to manage the fundraiser themselves (I will still be involved in certain aspects) and hold the event every other year--2007 being one of them!
So PLEASE support Robert's Snow 2007. Spread the word and keep your eyes open for it in the fall. As I wrote on the Robert's Snow website and in the book, Robert and I are continually touched by the outcome of our project. Every one of Robert's Snowflakes is a gift of love, community and kindness which we know we are so fortunate to receive. That rain that fell on our wedding day must have been a sign of good luck after all.
Virginia Festival of the Book
I can't say enough how well organized and interesting the festival was, the organizers kept me up to date on my schedule and all the events like the pros they are, and I was amazed at how many events they managed to pack into 5 days! There were lectures and events nearly every hour of the day... including talks by a writer of the HBO show The Wire (which is breathtaking if you haven't seen it), and veteran journalist Helen Thomas. I highly recommend the festival both to other authors, and any teachers or educators interested in learning about all aspects of books and publishing.
Here are some pics from my visit to St.Anne's Belfield Elementary last Friday. My dad is a professional photographer and got some great shots...
Starting with a slide show:
Kids are invited to compare sketches to paintings:
Here I am drawing a character the kids created (a flying, knitting monkey):
One of my favorite parts of visiting schools is when the talk is over and kids rush up to ask a question or tell me about a book they've made or just say hi. Because I told them all about my work, they want to tell me about theirs, its a nice way to tie everything together...
Monday, March 26, 2007
how you got here
miny spy cameras for spys that are kids and are not toys and not other things
How I Know Linda
Linda was the next Blue Rose Girl that I met. Well, I think I may have met her and Anna at the same party at the apartment I shared with Grace in Somerville, but my first memory of really talking to her was when she came into the office with her agent, Judy Sue, for lunch. Linda was signed up to illustrate a book with my boss: One Grain of Sand by Pete Seeger. I remember before our lunch either Megan or Judy Sue warning me that Linda was very shy, and was also feeling sick that day, so I was a little apprehensive about the lunch, especially since I was still very new to publishing and not yet comfortable with those types of business lunches. But lunch was fun—Linda’s boyfriend Karl came, as well as Judy Sue, Megan, me, and I believe our art director Sheila. I remember discovering that Karl was cousins with Saturday Night Live star Ana Gasteyer, a tidbit I found incredibly interesting.
I slowly got to know Linda better by working with her on One Grain of Sand (which is a gorgeous, breathtaking book, by the way), mainly communicating comments on her sketches and art from Pete Seeger, checking in with her on how the art was coming along, etc. And I got to know her socially through visits with Grace, too, especially after Grace and Robert started dating. But it wasn't until after I made the move to NY that I felt like I really started getting to know her.
One of my strongest memories of Linda was during an art show that the original Blue Rose Girls (Grace, Linda, and Anna) had at a cafe in CT near where Linda lived. I took the train up from NY and it was lovely hanging out with everyone, drinking coffee and tea, eating cafe snacks, and admiring all of their books and art on the walls. Afterwards, Linda walked me to the train station and waited for me on the platform for the train to come. I remember we talked about various different topics, including Bookcrossing, and then she showed me these wonderful painted scarab beetles. Linda would leave them places for people and children to discover and be delighted by. She gave me one to bring to NY and leave somewhere. She doesn't know this, but I kept it all this time--I couldn't let something so beautiful go. But I know its purpose is to be let free for someone else to discover, so I promise that I will! Truly. The one I have says "YOU ARE MY MUSE" on the back. Isn't it amazing?
I then got to know her even more through her blog, and I was, and am, constantly amazed at all of the magical, imaginative, creative, and adventurous things she does. I'm so glad that I've gotten to know her even better through our BRG get-togethers, as she's been such an amazing influence on my life. I hope to get to know this soulful woman even more.
Friday, March 23, 2007
"This is my written report on it," Grant said, laying in front of Bryce the neat bundle of pages that was the product of his pleasant Sunday at home.
As he laid the thing down, he remembered in a vague, surprised way that what he had intended to lay in front of Bryce was his resignation.
What odd notions occurred to one on holiday.
He was going to resign, and be a sheep farmer or something, and get married.
What an extraordinary idea. What a most extraordinary idea.
So lots of people obsessed by work have fantasies of quitting -- not just children's book writers. When I imagine what I'd do instead, I think of a job where I'd see people I REALLY LIKE every day; something interesting where I'm in flow all the time; and of course a nice fat regular pay check.
But -- the fantasies don't last -- or at least for me, so far, they haven't. But I do have them, and I absolutely believe in them sometimes. If you had asked me about my future awhile ago, I'd probably have talked about the solitary confinement
I need to write and said when this novel was done, I'd move to England and get a real job THERE.
But now my writing is going well, I'm going to a book event with BRG Linda and then a party, and (though I'm looking forward to seeing Linda) I don't want to go to the events: I'm going because I said and I would and it's ridiculous to complain to myself about solitary and then say no to everything, so I'm trying to be balanced. But what I really WANT to do is stay here and write. I don't even want to get dressed, I just want to get back to my characters. Get a job? (cube,co-workers) Why would I want to do that? England still sounds good, though. And I know that once I get to the party I will be glad I came.
POETRY FRIDAY ROUNDUP
First in the roundup is Michele at Scholar’s Blog. She's b-a-a-a-ck with Shakespeare…again! This week it’s Sonnet 130.
And Kelly at Big A, little a is in with Baudelaire…again! This time she’s bringing a little “soleil” into our literary lives.
Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect gives us a gray weather day with her “A Foggy, Froggy Poetry Friday” entry.
Betsy at A Fuse #8 production has another gem penned by the Poetry Parent Extrodinaire of the Kidlitosphere—her mother Susan Ramsey.
Gregory K. at GottaBook has GottaQuestion: Guess How Much I Love You? Well…actually…he has another oddaptation of a children’s book. Guess which book he oddapted???
Nancy at Journey Woman has a poem by Robert Creeley…and a “silly words” contest for all you folks with lexical leanings.
The Old Coot was inspired to write some submarine haiku this week. It’s sub-a-dub-dub—six poems in a tub!
Check out Cloudscome’s “March 22 Haiku” at A Wrung Sponge. You won’t want to miss this “poem & picture” post. She's also posted her favorite Gerard Manley Hopkins poem for Spring.
At A Year of Reading, Franki is into birdies and black holes with her reviews of two new children’s poetry books.
Mitali’s left brain is out on the Fire Escape today. It decided to give us poetry posters some information about fair use, public domain, and copyright issues in “Poetry Friday for Dummies.” That’s so we won’t be poetry dummies no more!!!
Little Willow gives us “To a Child Dancing in the Wind” by D. B. Yeats.
Kelly Fineman gets a little “Leary” this week with “The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.”
The Wordy Girls have a poem by Rita Dove…and their usual Poetry Friday “15 Words or Less” poems. You’re all invited to drop by and add a poem.
Anne at Book Buds is on the ball with a review of a rewrite of CASEY AT THE BAT. Just in time for spring training, she tells us all about CASEY BACK AT BAT.
Emily at Whimsy Books is definitely in a “springy mood” this Friday—and she’s got poems by two great children’s poets: Aileen Fisher and Karla Kuskin.
At Blue Rose Girls, I’ve got a review of THIS IS JUST TO SAY, the new book by Joyce Sidman, winner of the 2006 Cybils Award for Poetry.
THE MIDDAY EDITION
Jane at Check It Out is welcoming the brand new season with the poem “What I Love About Spring.”
Hipwritermama joins her Poetry Friday pals with a little Longfellow…or was that a long Littlefellow?
Susan Taylor Brown is back…and with “Sick Fish.” Honestly, it’s better than it sounds.
Susan at Chicken Spaghetti has a short, witching post from Macbeth…so get there on the double, double!
Barbara at Cats and Jammers Studio is joining us for Poetry Friday for the first time—thanks to the encouragement of the Chicken Spaghetti Chicklitterarian. Barb's taking the time machine back to her high schools days with her post about E. E. Cummings.
Liz in Ink has some “fevered up haiku” for us today.
Snow has a review of TECHNICALLY, IT’S NOT MY FAULT: CONCRETE POEMS by John Grandits.
Miss Erin has “The Frog,” a poem by Hilaire Belloc.
THE EVENING EDITION
At Lectitans, there’s an excerpt from T. S. Eliot’s “The Theatre Cat” and a link to the full text of the poem.
Liz B. has a review of THE SECRET OF ME, a book in verse.
Don’t forget to check out Poetry for Children, a blog written by Sylvia Vardell. Sylvia served as co-chair of the selection committee of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children.
SATURDAY MORNING ADDITION
Katie has weather poems by Walter de la Mare and Robert Louis Stevenson at Pixie Palace.
I'll be happy to add more links on Saturday--so leave me a comment if you have a Poetry Friday post you would like to have included in the roundup.
POETRY FRIDAY: This Is Just to Say
THIS IS JUST TO SAY, Joyce Sidman’s new poetry collection, is now available. Most of you may know that Sidman is the winner of the first Cybils Award for Poetry for her outstanding book BUTTERFLY EYES AND OTHER SECRETS OF THE MEADOW. I just picked up my copy of THIS IS JUST TO SAY on Tuesday—and couldn’t wait to write a review of the book.
On Wednesday morning, I wrote to Joyce Sidman. I told her I thought her most recent book was quite a departure from her other poetry collections. I also asked her if there was anything she would like to tell readers of the Blue Rose Girls blog about her new book of poems. Within an hour, Joyce emailed me her response! (How great is that?)
Here is what Joyce Sidman wrote:
Yes, THIS IS JUST TO SAY is very different from my other books. It is the only one so far to have come out of my work as a writer-in-residence at schools. The "sorry" poem is a lesson I do with kids, using W. C. Williams' poem as a model. They apologize for all sorts of things--things that we adults can't imagine they'd worry about! It started me thinking about the guilt we carry around--what things we regret, and why. "Sparkling Deer" is straight from my life (see jacketflap)--as are a few other poems which I won't claim!
This book came pouring out of me in a way that other books haven't; the characters seemed to come alive and talk to me. In fact, I'm still not sure which "Anonymous" student stole the lizard . . . I think my favorite poem is "The River of Forgiveness," which is such a hard river to cross, and yet so important to our growth as human beings and our ability to truly love one another.
THIS IS JUST TO SAY
Written by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
About the Book
Mrs. Mertz, a sixth grade teacher, asks her students to write poems of apology modeled after the famous poem about the cold, delicious plums written by William Carlos Williams. The children like their “sorry” poems so much they compile them in a book. Then they get the people to whom they wrote their poetic apologies to write responses. Bao Vang, one of the students, illustrates the book with the help of the art teacher.
Organization of THIS IS JUST TO SAY
- Table of contents
- Introduction written by “student” Anthony K.
- This Is Just to Say, the poem by William Carlos Williams
- Part 1: Apologies
- Part 2: Responses
Sidman displays her poetic versatility in THIS IS JUST TO SAY—a book in which each poem is, supposedly, written by a different individual. The author captures a variety of tones and voices in her poetry. Because of the nature of this book, many of its poems are less lyrical than those found in the author’s other works. Sidman does, however, include quite a bit of figurative language. For example, in What Was I Thinking?, Mai Lee writes that the principal’s dress “is the color of ripe plums”; that the principal’s eyes “are like hot sparks”; and that she, Mai Lee, slinks out of the principal’s office “like a whipped dog.” Sidman also includes a number of different poetic forms. There is a pantoum(unrhymed), a haiku, a poem in two voices, and a takeoff of Roses Are Red.
Sidman provides a whole range of reasons for why the young poets have feelings of guilt: hitting a friend too hard with a dodge ball, making fun of the dress a teacher is wearing just to get a laugh in class, pilfering jelly doughnuts from the teachers’ lounge, stabbing a sister with a pencil, breaking a mother’s precious glass deer, stealing the class lizard that dies in the thief’s possession. There is a poem by Anthony apologizing to his disappointed mother for not winning a spelling bee—a poem that reveals the angst of a child who feels pressured to always be a champion. In one poem, a child apologizes to her absent father for not being perfect—for being the reason he keeps leaving home. In some of the poems, the young writers reveal a true sense of sadness and remorse; in others, the writers appear to be—at most—mildly apologetic.
Some response poems provide sincere forgiveness to the “guilty” parties who wrote the apology poems; some response poems are written by people who were not the intended receivers of the “sorry” poems. For example, Tenzin pens the response to Anthony—not Anthony’s mother—and Ricky responds to the poem he wrote to his hamster Manga in the voice of Manga, the pet he had apologized to for keeping him locked up in a cage.
Some of the poems are very serious in nature; some are light-hearted and have a touch of humor.
From FASHION SENSE
Written by Carmen to Mrs. Metz, her teacher
I am so sorry for my rude words.
The classroom was so dead.
No one had anything more to say about Old Yeller,
and we were all crazy to go outside.
The silence seemed like a hundred crushing elephants.
So I raised my hand and made that comment
about your dress,
and everyone burst out laughing.
but your smile looked like a frozen pond.
Carmen goes on to explain how she feels “like a traitor” and how the words that slipped from her mouth keep echoing in her head. Then she writes:
You are really a queen, not a princess.
Our queen. Reina de la clase.
I hope you will overlook the transgressions
of your loyal but loud-mouthed subject
and forgive me…
Mrs. Mertz responds to her student in her HAIKU FOR CARMEN
Just these few warm words,
and spring sunlight fills the room;
my dress turns to sky.
There’s The Black Spot, written by Alyssa to Carrie, in which the writer apologizes for stabbing her sister with a pencil. Alyssa explains how there are two black spots left to remind her of her nasty deed: the dark spot on her sister’s palm and “the nugget of darkness/that made me stab you.” The poem ends:
Both marks, still there.
Alyssa responds to Carrie’s apology in ROSES ARE RED
Roses are red,
violets are blue.
I’m still really
pissed off at you.
The poems in THIS IS JUST TO SAY encompass a myriad of emotions that children actually feel. Sidman has worked with youngsters and it is evident she understands their “inner world.” I think this collection of apology and response poems would be an excellent springboard for a poetry writing exercise and would also be an exceptional vehicle for helping children learn how to express their feelings on paper.
From THE RIVER OF FORGIVENESS
A Response Poem to Mai Lee from Bao Vang
Here I am,
reading Mai Lee’s poem.
I am wading into the river of forgiveness…
and the fear that crushes your heart
when you’ve done something wrong…
Will I ever make it across?
I keep thinking of a friend
who helped explain the world,
whose hand is always around my shoulder,
a friend who stands with me in the crowd.
There she is—my friend,
on the other side of the river.
This poem ends happily with words telling Mai Lee that Bao Vang has crossed the river and forgiven her.
THIS IS JUST TO SAY includes seventeen “sorry” poems and seventeen response poems. I think that it's another terrific package from one the best poets writing for children today.
Note: This is just to say that THIS IS JUST TO SAY is a great collection of poems for kids...and adults! It’s an inspiration for creative writing. I wrote a poem of apology and a response poem after reading the book.
Thanks for the inspiration, Joyce!!! And thanks for giving me permission to include excerpts from your new book in my review.
The following two poems were written by Elaine Magliaro; they were not taken from Joyce Sidman’s book.
This Is Just to Say: A Poem to My Daughter
I have eaten
the chocolate bunny
I bought you
a big-eared, brown hunk
you probably saw
in the closet
and were expecting
to unwrap and savor
on a flower-filled Sunday
it was bittersweet
and melted in my mouth
on the first warm day
A Daughter’s Response to Sweets-loving Mother
Mom! How could you???
I love chocolate, too!
You’re an adult
and should have better control
of your candy cravings.
Set an example
for your only child
who also has
a significant sweet tooth.
open your wallet a little wider
and buy two bittersweet bunnies
so we can rhapsodize
in a duet
of ooohhhs and uuummmms
in our chocolate Easter dreams
About the Illustrations
Pamela Zagarenski did the artwork for THIS IS JUST TO SAY—and I would “say” that her illustrations definitely complement Sidman’s text. Zagarenski’s mixed media illustrations are hip, playful, expressionistic, and add touches of humor in just the right spots. I'd like to add that I was really impressed with the art she did for Maxine Kumin’s poetry collection MITES TO MASTODONS, which was nominated for a Cybils Poetry Award last year.
Joyce Sidman, Part I
Joyce Sidman, Part II
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Getting the credit
Sometimes I feel that I deserve most of the credit for a book but at other times I wish my editor's name was listed as well. Even when I think the book comes out exactly as I'd wanted it to the effort is always collaborative.
There are times when the author may have agreed to put something in the book that he or she wasn’t that fond of. There’s always that give and take--the editor bends some and so does the author. It’s hard when the reviews start coming in. Regardless of who’s involved, the author is the one who gets the brunt of it. I’m sure it would stink if an author agreed to put something in a book that he or she didn’t want in there and then that thing got criticized in a review or multiple reviews. The same is probably true in reverse for an editor—suppose he/she made a great suggestion and it got in the book? Suppose the editor shaped the entire book and his or her ideas got praised? Since celebrity books are all the rage I’m sure that happens often.
Then of course there are times when the editor or publisher does have to bear the brunt of the blame. Remember OJ’s book? Somebody lost her job. And then there was A Million Little Pieces. The “behind the scenes” people were on Oprah taking the blame too!
I'd love to hear Alvina's perspective on this. What goes on behind the scenes? If a book tanks what happens behind closed doors? Alvina probably can't talk about it so this might remain a mystery....
In conclusion: Publishing can be quite secretive. Credit isn’t usually given. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s bad.
As always, Meghan aka trouble maker, tellin it like it is
p.s- stay tuned for some fun YouTube videos that will be added to my Aliens website.
i couldn't resist
I got my name in lights with notcelebrity.co.uk
thanks to fuse#8 for the link
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Gai See: What I Saw
Which I think underestimates the children's book audience. This book is a real treat; and, even more, it truly captures what a Hong Kong open air market feels like. It's rare that one can test the authenticity of a book, but I was able to do so and it passed with flying colors. Take this excerpt, for example:
glisten in the morning light.
with scarlet scales,
lychees filling woven pails
Doesn't it just match this exactly?
And then there's images like this:
The book so exactly matches my experiences in Hong Kong that I can't imagine any child not finding delight in it. The only thing that was not included was the fascinating aspects of the fish market, where live fish jumped in the air.
Roseanne told me that she did have passages dedicated to that but they were edited out, probably in fear that that it would seem barbaric. Which it is a bit, to our western sensibilities, but is also a significant part of the culture of a Hong Kong wet market. Of course, the book is not about a wet market, it's about "Chinatown," so I suppose the deletion has validation.
Regardless, this book is just plain great. I'll never look at it without remembering what I saw in Hong Kong; I hope you all take a look at it and see what I saw too.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Janet Wong at Boston College
Speaker: Janet Wong
Date: March 27, 2007
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Vanderslice Hall on the campus of Boston College
Moderator: Patricia Keogh, retired children's librarian and teacher of children's literature
To find out more, visit the website of The Foundations for Children’s Books.
Read a Blue Rose Girls interview with poet Janet Wong and illustrator Julie Paschkis.
Thinking Through Art
These are, specifically, the skills that improved:
The ability to identify:
-What something is or is not; naming or identifying something
-Action, what someone is doing; concrete and explicit actions
-How it looks; sensory & physical aspects
-Features; what it's made of & how it's made
And the ability to interpret:
-The use or function of objects
-Implicit conditions, features, characteristics, feelings and emotions, mental states, status
-Identity (who people are)
-Actions or intentions
This may sound kind of technical, but the reason I post it is it got me thinking about school visits, and how a lot of these concepts are tied into the way we authors and illustrators talk about our work when we go to schools. It was kind of a great affirmation that there are real concrete benefits for kids who are exposed to art and the creative process. Almost every time I visit a school lately I hear about how arts programs are being cut and there is just not enough time to incorporate art into the curriculum. It gives me an extra sense of responsability when I show kids my paintings, knowing that this may be one of the few times art and art making is given a serious amount of time and attention.
There is a lot more information about the program here. And lots of great ideas for concepts to integrate into your visits fellow author/illustrators.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Is this why I write nonfiction today?
Ah, picture picture. So mesmerizing. Mr. Rogers, so soothing.
Sorry, I couldn't resist!
Call me your new Picture-Picture girl. Less talk, more viewing pleaser - meghan
UPDATE: Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars...and Pluto
Here's a link to a Publishers Weekly article I came across on Sunday. I thought I would include the following link in a Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars...and Pluto update rather than add it to the review article of Douglas Florian's newest poetry collection that I posted last Friday. I didn't want blog readers to miss Whither Pluto? by Sue Corbett (Children's Bookshelf--Publishers Weekly, 3/15/2007).
Corbett's article includes Douglas Florian's original poem about Pluto--a poem he had to rewrite when the former ninth planet in our solar system was demoted to dwarf planet last summer. It's a good thing Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto in 1930, wasn't alive when the International Astronomical Union made their momentous decision to designate just eight orbiting spheres in our solar system as "true planets." (Tombaugh passed away in 1997.)
A Word with Pluto
Well, Pluto, that's what you get for horning in on Neptune's territory. You should have known better. The big gasballs don't like it when icy little spheres intrude on their orbits. Just wait till the god you're named after and Hades, his alter ego, hear what happened to you. Thank heavens news travels slowly to the netherworld.
Some Links for Astronomy Buffs
Clyde Tombaugh (Kansas State Historical Society)
Pluto and Charon: The Discovery of a Planet
Pluto Loses Status as a Planet (From BBC News, August 24, 2006)
A Little Pluto Ditty from Gregory K. at GottaBook
by Elaine Magliaro
Pluto, Pluto, once a planet.
Made of ice…and, maybe, granite,
A distant, tiny, frigid sphere
Demoted to a “dwarf" last year.
Pluto, Pluto, once a planet.
Astronomers said: “Let's just can it.
It’s much too small; its orbit’s odd.
It’s named after a nasty god."
Pluto, Pluto, once a planet.
The IAU chose to ban it
From the planetary club.
That's a solar systemic snub!!!
How I Know Anna
The group was a combination of my friends and Grace's friends, and I remember my two friends who had come were talking to Anna a bunch, while I was talking to some of Grace's other friends. My friends adored Anna ("That Anna girl is so cool!"), and on the way home it happened that Anna sat shotgun while I drove, and my friends dozed off in the backseat. Anna was working in the design department at Houghton Mifflin at the time, and had heard that I had just gotten a job in publishing (I had been offered the job at the time, but wasn't starting work until August 16), so she asked me about it and we talked about publishing and children's books and everything under the sun the hour or so ride back. I remember being struck at how thoughtful and interesting Anna was. I'm not sure how it happened exactly, but we started hanging out a whole lot more after that, both with Grace and without her.
I wish I could remember the gradual process of her becoming less of a "friend of a friend" to becoming just "friend" to me. Maybe it involved her clicking with my other friends who were on the trip, and all of us hanging out. But I remember that it seemed that Anna was so good-natured and up for anything. She's accompanied me on many outings with my friends throughout the years--a trip to Nantucket with my boyfriend at the time and his friends, a trip to the Cape with my coworker for a clambake (even though Anna was vegetarian), a James Bond theme party at a friend's apartment, a seventies Disco party at another friend's apartment, and on and on.
I think what's interesting is that I am no longer friends with those two women who came with me to the beach--they, too, were recent friends, and hang-out friends, but when our lives changed, our friendships faded away as well. But Anna, this "new" friend, this "friend of a friend" is now an old, dear friend I've known for over eight years. I know my friendship with Anna is lasting, and that we'll be friends forever.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
A Four Hour Bus Ride
"Sing,sing, it's my favorite thing!"
Last weekend I went on a town ski trip: meet at 5.30 am (it was dark except for the moon) and all get on a bus to go to Killinton, VT. I sat next to a friend's six-year old son, armed with a deck of cards and a notebook, so I could write while he watched the DVDs I knew his mother had packed for him.
We played a hand of GO FISH! and then I said,
"What do you want to play now?"
"Something that isn't cards," he said. "Let's write!"
I was a little taken aback and he went on:
"Remember that time you wrote down all my favorite foods? Let's do that."
This rapidly progressed into contests and BOTH writing, one on each side of the page. We made lists of:
* friends (the contest: to see who had more)
* favorite sports
* favorite songs
- and when my list got longer than his, he started making up songs ("Sing, sing,
it's my favorite thing!" was one) and singing them aloud -- and when that failed, scribbling on my list.
He sang a lot -- just for the joy of it, the way kids do. Earlier on the trip, I had been remembering how on long car trips when I was a child, we ALWAYS sang (not just my siblings and I, but everyone on school trips in buses, did, too), and wishing kids still did -- it's so exhilerating, even if you have a horrible voice as I do. And it hadn't even been my idea and Adam was singing. He never even took the DVD player out of his knapsack: we played, sang, talked, laughed, wrestled, snacked, and wrote the whole way to Killington.
So what's my point? Maybe kids haven't changed as much as it sometimes seems they have. It wasn't just Adam: on the way home, while he slept, the older kids very politely asked if they could borrow the cards. If people don't find it boring, my next few posts will be about real children; and I'd love to hear your stories in the comments.
This is partly inspired by Adam, partly by an NPR show on Kid Logic. My favorite was the four year old on the plane who said,
"When are we going to start getting smaller?"
This is what Will Krause said about it-- "Nine characters race off to the animation festival, with paths that cross along the way. Animated by Andy Kennedy, Fran Krause, Linda Beck, Mike Overbeck, Sean McBride, Aaron Zisman, Chris Siemasko, Erin Kilkenny, Julia Sarcone-Roach, and Max Porter. more at www.willkrause.com"
Awesome. Inspiring. This kind of film gives me some good book ideas.
JAMES BRUCHAC: Native American Author & Storyteller
In addition to being an award-winning author and the son of Joseph Bruchac, Jim is also a talented Native American storyteller, tracking expert, and a wilderness instructor and guide. In 2005, Jim and his father received a Conservation Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation—and, in 1999, the Wordcraft Circle of Native Authors and Storytellers nominated Jim as Storyteller of the Year.
A dedicated environmentalist who honors his Native American roots, Jim Bruchac is the Founder and Director of the Ndakinna Education Center in Greenfield Center, New York. “The Center offers people of all ages unique hands-on learning experiences, creative presentations, and exhibit spaces focusing on regional Native American understandings, Adirondack culture, wilderness skills and awareness of the natural world.” (Quote taken from the Ndakinna Education Center Mission Statement)
Jim and his father are co-authors of three wonderful picture book retellings of Native American tales for young children: How Chipmunk Got His Stripes: A Tale of Bragging and Teasing; Turtle's Race with Beaver: A Traditional Seneca Story; and Raccoon's Last Race: A Traditional Abenaki Story. They also collaborated on Native American Games & Stories and When the Chenoo Howls, a collection of Native American terror tales.
I sat in on one of Jim’s storytelling sessions with second graders at the Eveleth School in Marblehead on Thursday. Jim encouraged lots of student participation as he related two Native American pourquoi tales: the story of how brown squirrel (chipmunk) got his stripes and the tale of how rabbit lost his long fluffy tail. Jim also explained why he and his father had added the grandmother character to their written version of the chipmunk story. It was a literary device to help convey the story's message to readers.
As children presented their story ideas to Jim, he drew pictures—and Carol Arnould, one of the teachers, wrote down the tale on chart paper. At the end of the drawing/writing process, the students helped “retell” the tale they had just created.
I should add that Jim also brought some plaster casts of animal tracks he had made. He asked the children to look at them carefully and to try to deduce what animals might have made the tracks he showed them. Altogether, Jim’s session of storytelling, story writing, and discussion of animal tracks added up to a truly enriching educational experience for this interested and well-prepared group of youngsters.
Jim Bruchac and Carol Arnould
(Carol and I worked together at the Malcolm Bell School in Marblehead in the 1970s.)
You can read more about James Bruchac at his website.
Visit the Ndakinna Education Center website to learn about its wonderful programs for adults and children.
Jim Bruchac, as Director of the Ndakinna Education Center, is also responsible for overseeing the Saratoga Native American Festival. The 2007 festival will be held on the grounds of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on September 29 & 30.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Past the town the desert rolled out and out like a pale green ocean, as far as you could see, to the Coso foothills, then behind them, the huge black Coso Range like the broken edge of a giant cup that held tiny Hard Pan at its bottom. The sky arched up forever, nothing but a sheet of blue, hiding zillions of stars and planets and galaxies that were up there all the time, even when you couldn't see them. It was kind of peaceful and so gigantic it made your brain feel rested. It made you feel like you could become anything you wanted, like you were filled up with nothing but hope.
Friday, March 16, 2007
POETRY FRIDAY: Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars
“It's an unfortunate fact of life-in-print that books get overtaken by events, and Horn Book editors have been busy blue-penciling reviews of all the astronomy books that haven't caught up with the events of August 26th of last year…”
I assume most of you bloggers who reside on planet Earth know that poor Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet last summer. Now it’s just considered an insignificant cosmic sidekick for the big galactic gasballs—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Pluto was a planet.
In his poems, Florian writes about the EIGHT planets, the asteroids, the phases of the moon, the names of constellations, the different shapes of galaxies, a comet, the gravitational pull of a black hole, “the great beyond”…and, of course, the once-upon-a-time-but-no-longer-a-planet-anymore Pluto. This book is traditional Florian. Its poems are rhythmic, rhyming, and light-hearted. He coins some inventive language: super-dupiter Jupiterterrific and Saturning. And while his verse may be playful in nature, Florian is adept at including tidbits of astronomic information in his poems. Let me provide you with some examples of this:
Gaseous like Neptune,
But slightly more wide.
Heaven knows how
It got knocked on its side.
The painting that accompanies this poem illustrates how Uranus’s rings "appear" to spin around the blue-green gassy sphere--or sideways planet--from pole to pole rather than its equator because of the odd way in which the planet rotates.
From THE SUN
Ninety-three million miles from Earth.
Nearly a million miles in girth.
4.6 billion years old.
Core eight times as dense as gold.
From THE MOON
A NEW moon isn’t really new,
It’s merely somewhat dark to view…
A HALF moon is half dark, half light.
At sunset look due south to sight.
Florian aptly ends this book with the poem The Great Beyond—and ends the final poem with a little “play” on words.
Great galaxies spin,
While bright comets race.
And I’d tell you more,
But I’ve run out of space.
Here is a poem of address that was written by one of my second grade classes on March 3, 1996:
shooting around in space,
whizzing past the sun,
your long tail glowing,
where are you going?
Click on Budding Poets and you will slip through a wormhole and emerge in an outta this world galaxy of prize-winning children’s science poems written by my second grade students in 2000.
I will leave you with a silly little ditty that I wrote many moons ago. I just changed the last line yesterday.
Hickory dickory docket,
I sped into space in a rocket.
I traveled past Mars
And seventeen stars
With a picture of Earth in my locket.
Just one more poem from an astronomy buff! I wrote the following old moldering poem nearly twenty years ago.
together in a cosmic kindergarten
holding hands in a circle
playing Ring around the Sun
yearning to grow up
and have orbits of their own
Thursday, March 15, 2007
a follow up
I want to thank you all for your comments on the blog and to those who wrote to me privately. Your encouraging words mean a lot!
The anonymous poster has revealed him or herself to me and explained what his or her intentions were. There was no malicious intent. I’ve come to realize (and perhaps this needed to be beat into my head) that there are certain in-house things that I just can’t discuss and/or post. It didn’t occur to me that posting part of the actual letter would be problematic especially since it was a form letter. I don’t want to come across as a snotty, hard to work with person because I really think I’m not (if my editors are out there and disagree please say so!). From now on I’ll ask before putting part of a letter on here.
My intention of the letter, as I explained to the anonymous poster, was to inform and educate those who haven’t experienced that part of the publishing process. I got my first book deal a year after graduating from RISD. I was pretty young and naive and didn’t know how publishing worked. I was DESPERATE to learn the ins and outs. But where to go? Who to ask? There wasn’t much out there in the way of books—they say the basics. Onliine forums were much better but there was still some mystery to solve. That’s why I talk a lot about some publishing things that perhaps I shouldn’t. I think people need to know!
You all have convinced me to continue posting. I will admit that sometimes I don’t trust myself. I can be very impulsive. Hopefully I can stay within limits but continue to talk about things that I think are important. Of course, I will also continue to post stupid comments because I have a talent for the stupid.
I will end by sharing this commercial with all of you. It was created by my friend Mike who used to live in NYC but moved to CA. I think we illustrators and writers can learn a lot by watching short animations such as this one. Short animations have to be clever and have the right amount of information contained just as a picture book does. Good animations also utilize unique visual perspectives to tell the story (look closely at the sideways perspective in Mike’s ad from the head’s POV). My friend Julia went to RISD as an animation major (her animation is amazing!) and now she’s crossing over to kids’ books. Look at Mo Willems who is also a cartoon guy turned book author. Then there are the kids’ books that become cartoons…
Without further ado—
Pioneer ad by Mike Overbeck