Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Belated Post: The Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival

So, all the way back on April 10th (you'll see why I note the specific date),  we went to the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival  in Hattiesburg, MS. Even though Rain Dragon had flown before,  this time she was much more cognizant. I think she was a bit stunned:

Luckily, when she is stunned she is also speechless so she was a well-behaved baby for most of the flight. 

We flew into New Orleans, where our guardian angel/hostess Anna met drove us to Hattiesburg...

the most hospitable hostess you'll ever meet! She even took us on a tour of New Orleans after the festival!

after a quick stop for some fried oysters:

And it was in Hattiesburg that we realized that Anna's completely and amazingly warm and hospitable nature was not just exclusive to her. Everyone who was a part of the Book Festival was incredibly thoughtful and kind. They set up a conference room all full of toys just for Rain Dragon to play in!

When I first saw the room, I asked if there were other children at the festival...but it was all just for Rain Dragon!
She absolutely LOVED it. She didn't want to leave!

And perhaps because she knew everyone was so friendly that it was at the conference, right before my keynote speech that Rain Dragon decided to take her first steps! She had been stumbling and standing for days before, but it was at the conference that she finally strung together three or four steps--walking from the stage to table and grinning the whole time. Needless to say, the conference will always be a happy memory for me.

Because it really was a great honor to speak at the Festival! For those who might not know, the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival  is not only a celebration of children's literature (they give the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer & Illustrator Award), but also a celebration of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection. There are so many children's book treasures there! From the amazing mural by Esphyr Slobodkina:

to sculptural studies by the Reys:

to a complete set of the original OZ books (which I admit I covet! I might have to start collecting these myself):

One of the funnest things about the Festival and the Collection is how they honor a different children's book creator every year with a special coin. The author/illustrator chose what image they'd like embossed for the back (the front is always their image). 

There was Beverly Cleary with Ramona:

Ernest Shepard with  Winnie the Pooh:

And, of course, there was Ezra Jack Keats, whose entire works (or at least most of it!) is housed at the de Grummond:

including the beautiful art from The Snowy Day which I adore (and I admit  kind of inspired these photos):

which was also  epitomized in the last of the many kindness the festival showed us. Yes, they gave Rain Dragon a Peter doll!

Though she does treat him rather roughly:

She loves him!
and now that she's walking she's impossible to get a still photo of, too!

Thanks so much!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Best Books for Babies! (or at least for mine)

So, things are finally starting to calm down and I'll be able to start blogging again soon! Yay! I've missed connecting with all of you.

While I get things in order, I thought I'd share this guest post I did for the "What to Expect When You are Expecting" website, ( yes, it a website for the book all expecting moms know!).  I wrote about Rain Dragon's five favorite baby books!  After all the baby book testing we've done, I thought I should share!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


I wrote this on my other blog but I thought I'd post it here too. It's something that I think is important to discuss:

Sorry for the silence. I've been traveling quite a bit. But back to business. I've seen some great books that I'd like to share but first I want to briefly talk about the situation with B&N and S&S. This really bothers me. B&N is asking that S&S pay more money to display its titles and it wants a higher discount for S&S books. S&S doesn't want to give in to BN's demands... so... BN has limited its stock on S&S titles in its stores. This, to me, seems like a monopoly. BN doesn't have any competitors any more (not brick and motor stores anyway) and now has decided to make these demands because it can get away with it. Why not? Borders isn't around any more to say, hey: we'll take your books for the standard deal.

I read an article that pitied BN, saying that Amazon was a big competitor so now BN needs to get its money in other ways. I have a different perspective and this is coming from experience. Trust me. BN is making TOO MANY MISTAKES and this is its own fault. Because BN is making these mistakes, publishers shouldn't be punished.

1) Amazon has a far superior search engine. Books are easy to look up. You can misspell things and still find what you're looking for. Go to BN and try to look up something when you get the title slight wrong or you misspell the author's name wrong. Ooops! Nothing comes up. This has been like this for years! BN has had PLENTY of time to hire the right people to fix this. They haven't. Mistake number one.

2) Trying to compete with the likes of Apple. Apple has been around for a good long time and makes amazing products. It's unclear to me as to why BN thought it could come along and produce a product in a few years and think it could compete with that. Loss of market share there.

3) BN has no competitors and sells books yet it instead has decided to focus on toys, soap, dumb gift items, and so on. The one thing BN has that Amazon and other online retailers do not have is BOOKSELLERS. People who are there to recommend great new titles and HANDSELL. But instead of advertising that key element... instead of making sure that the good and knowledgable stick around, they treat the employees like inconsequential elements: people who are there to stock shelves and pick books up off the floor. BN could be a force to recon with if they got the right employees and advertised as such. Heck, they even HAVE some but don't care to use them properly. Example: having a trained opera singer working with the literature books even though she asked to be put with the music. Having a school teacher working with travel books. Huh? The stores aren't run right. It's sad. It could be game over faster than it has to be.

I'm siding with S&S on this one. Sorry BN.

Monday, May 06, 2013

The flip side of getting published


A few months ago, I got a ms. of mine back from its publisher -- NOT Little, Brown. The publisher had:
  • rewritten most of the book
  • added two pages of text that contradicted the main message
  • completely changed the ending
  • changed the title

-- and all without asking the author, me.  By the time I saw the edits, the book was in pages, with all the art in place. This wasn't a work-for-hire project; it was a contracted book.

I wrote a couple of emails to the publisher, requesting changes as politely and firmly as I could; the first was ignored. They replied to the second saying they had, in an editor's words "gone as far as we can" (which wasn't very far: they changed a few words). At that point, I let it go.

EVERY author, I think, has high hopes for every book -- but sometimes, you have to just move on. Thanks partly to the wise advice of friends,  I did. I put it out of my mind and went back to the novel I'm now rewriting.

Luckily, my agent will be the one submitting this, not me.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

a little busy

You might have noticed that I haven't posted  at this blog lately.  Well, not only is my school visit schedule in full swing (I promise posts about my trips to MS and MD), I've sold the apartment(as long as nothing falls through, knock on wood)! The real estate market has definitely bounced back, it was a little crazy how quickly and how much interest there was. I'm happy the apartment has sold  but I wasn't prepared for it to go quite so fast...and now the schedule is even crazier!  I promise to return once things calm down a bit...