Friday, July 29, 2011

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Book Aunt.    

My selection is "Cats Vanish Slowly" written by Ruth Tiller and illustrated by Laura Seeley.

Tiller shares memories of cats on her grandmother's farm in this collection of twelve verses and long the way lovingly resurrects a bygone era of rocking chairs on front porches.  Light-hearted, dramatic, funny or tender, the poems are as varied as the personalities of the cats are diverse. Careful attention to word choice and rhythm captures each.  What cat lover hasn't known a cat like  Bad Penny, the "criminal cat" who always comes home.   

Seeley's  art brings the grace, stealth, humor, and mystery of Tiller's felines to life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

I don't have time to write --



    The job that pays the rent,

      Household chores,

        Yard work,




                 Checking email --

What's your excuse?

Yes.  You're busy.  So am I.

Maybe it's time to make the time to write.

I'm taking the day off from blogging to focus on my manuscript. 

What about you?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Check It Out.

Raczka has found an interesting format for introducing young -- and not so young -- readers to eighteen famous nineteenth and twentieth century painters by pairing their work with actual quotes from the artist.  Raczka provides a thoughtful range of artists across both time and artistic style from Grandma Moses to Juan Gris, Klee to Kahlo, Degas to Dali,  

Each quote provides a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of these well-known painters.  Van Gogh "The only time I feel alive is when I'm painting." is paired with "The Sower." Raczka enhances the learning potential on each page by making unexpected choices rather than always selecting the artist's most recognizable work.  One might have expected "Starry Night" or "Sunflowers" -- two of Van Gogh's most often discussed works, but "The Sower" is a lovely surprise.  The book concludes with black and white photographs and a paragraph of interesting facts about each of the featured artists .

Friday, July 22, 2011

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference.

Summer is beach time so here is "At the Sea Floor Cafe: odd ocean critter poems" written by Leslie Bulion and illustrated by Leslie Evans.

Bulion's poems celebrate some of the oceans more unusual creatures and sidebars provide scientific information about them as well.  A variety of poetic forms are explored as Bulion descends through the ocean depths in search of worthy subjects for her verse. 

Evans utilizes block prints to capture the beauty and diversity of sea life.  A glossary and additional reading conclude the book.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

Why do you write?  A simple enough question, but the answer is often more complicated than you'd first expect.

My experience as a mentor has taught me that many aspiring writers are often uncertain about their writing goals.  Some writers haven't even decided if they want to write fiction or nonfiction.

People write for many different reasons.

  • They may write as a form of therapy.
  • Some write because they get a boost out of telling friends, family, etc. that they are authors.
  • There are writers who simply enjoy the process without any real goal of seeing their work in print.
  • For many, writing is about having themselves or their life experiences validated by being published.
  • People write in pursuit of fame and fortune -- good luck with that!
  • There are writers who have valuable knowledge and/or personal experience to share.
  • And those who are storytellers at their core and write because they must.
Everyone has a story to tell.  A writer must ask the question -- For whom is the story being written?

  • If the story is for the writer, then perhaps journaling is the answer. 
  • Are you writing to share memories or experiences with family or friends?  Consider memoirs. 
  • Do you want to connect with others who have had similar life experiences?  Perhaps blogging is the option for you. 
  • If financial security is your goal, then you might want to keep these words from John Steinbeck (1902-1968) in mind: “The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.”
  • Can you offer readers a fresh viewpoint on a well-known topic or a knowledgeable look at a new topic?
  • Do you have a gift for storytelling and are you willing to do the work required to develop that gift?

Many writers can benefit from a beginning writer's course or even a one day workshop where many of these issues can be brought into focus. While it's not possible to teach someone to be an effective writer in a day, writers can discover and clarify their motivations and develop some clearly stated goals to enable them to write more successfully.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Chapter Book of the Day.

My selection is "How Baseball Managers Use Math" written by John C. Bertoletti.  Here is an answer to that perennial question in math lessons -- "Why do I have to know this?"  Bertoletti sets mathematics in the context of a baseball manager's job in 13 chapters with titles such as --  The Manager and His Percentages, Intentional Walks, and Keeping a Close Eye on the Pitch Count.  Utilizing graphs, statistics, and charts, Bertoletti challenges students to do the math that is essential to a baseball manager's decision making process. 

Each double page spread describes a real-life scenario then looks at the data and the related math that the manager uses.  In "A Night Game On The Road" Bertoletti explains how a manager studies batting averages to help him decide which team members will play.  The chapter concludes with a section titled "You Do the Math" that challenges readers to answer questions by interpreting a table of batting averages.

Related photographs enhance each chapter and the book concludes with an answer key, glossary, and related reading for additional information.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by A year of Reading.

My selection is "Mirror mirror : a book of reversible verse" written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Josee Masse.

I'm always on the lookout for another creative way for teachers and children to explore poetry and word play and Singer's invention of "reversos" (poetry which has one meaning when read in one direction and another interpretation when read in a different direction), was just the ticket. Singer's poetry provides a new look at fairy tales as she plays with plot and characters from Cinderella, Goldilocks, The Ugly Duckling and other favorites.

I could immediately see the classroom potential for discovering how reordering language changes meaning.  Singer invites students to create their own poetry styled like these word puzzles by employing strategies similar to her own.  Author notes are included to explain her process.

Masse employs bold color and clever visual tricks to mirror and enhance the content and structure of the text.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

I'm focusing on a couple of my own manuscripts today -- researching material for a new book and spending time on a new story that needs plotting.

Which brings me to the subject of alternative plot choices.  Take a few minutes to read this insightful post at by guest contributor, Ingrid Sundberg a current Vermont College of Fine Arts student.  Her article is titled "Time to Punk Rock With Plot: Discover Alternative Plot Types."

Ingrid provides some good food for thought. Check it out.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Proseandkahn.

How well do you know your foods? 

Here is an entertaining way to answer that question and learn some interesting details about some of our most popular foods.  Ball poses the question of which came first for a ten pairs of foods: Peanut Butter or Jelly, Ketchup or Salsa, Popcorn or Pretzels and so on. 

In answering the questions, she provides information about the history, science, and social context of the foods under discussion and adds some fun facts to entertain her readers. 

Did you know that the world's largest PB & J sandwich was made November 6, 1993 in Peanut, Pennsylvania and used 150 lbs. of peanut butter and 50 lbs. of jelly? 

Ball includes a scorecard to track your guesses, a list of additional facts, timeline, glossary, bibliography, together with print and online sources of information for readers.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Wild Rose Reader.

Amber and Essie don't have an easy life. 

Daddy is in prison. 

Mom works long hours and sometimes there isn't enough to eat. 

Despite the hardships, these two sisters find strength in each other and joy in simple triumphs.  
                    "Essie could thread a needle
                     cook toasted cheese sandwiches 
                     make cocoa . . .
                     Amber was brave
                     She could get the grocery man
                     to trust them for a container of milk
                     though their mother
                     couldn't pay him till payday . . ."
Williams' free-verse poems tell a story of these two young girls that is realistic and hopeful without being sentimental.  Color portraits of the girls and their family open and close the book.  Simple black and white pencil sketches in the text keep the focus on Williams' inspired use of language.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Writer's Wednesday

On the subject of Query Letters to Agents...
Multiple Submissions is a topic that often comes up during workshop Q and A.  At first thought, multiple submissions rather than single submissions seems like a good idea. 

Writers may have an anxiety-filled wait for a response from a single agent.  Although with most submissions now done via email, response time is much quicker than in the days of snail mail.  With single sumissions, if the agent passes on the work, then the writer needs to make the next submission, wait again and so on in the quest to find the perfect match.

It's important to keep in mind that the perfect match is the reason for submitting in the first place.  So the questions is whether or not multiple submissions are the way to find that workable agent/author relationship. 

Ideally, you've done your homework in preparation for seeking representation by thoroughly researching a number of agents. 
  • You've honestly assessed your work and have a clear understanding of where your book fits in the market place. 
  • You know what categories and genres of books the agents represent: fiction or nonfiction, picture books, beginning readers, MG, YA, adult, graphic novels, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, historical, biographies, self-help, etc. 
  • You know what percentage of each type of book the agents have sold. 
  • You know what is of special interest or what the agents are specifically looking for in the current market.   
  • You've checked the agent's website to insure that all of your information and submission requirements are up to date.
  • You've used all that information to create a list of potential agents ranked in order of preference. 
Now you are at the point of decision.  Do you send your work to the first person on your list or to the first five?

Might as well send the book to the first five.  After all, not everyone is going to want your book.  So why not send several submissions and hope at least one gets you a request for the manuscript.  You're right.  You are going to be rejected, but approached with that mind set the problem is one of the glass half empty.  You multiple submit with the hope that one of the five is positive.  However, if you've polished your manuscript until it is brilliant as diamond, crafted a smart query letter, and really fine-tuned your list of potential agents, your odds of a positive response should be good. 

What happens then if more than one agent requests your book?  Most agents, even those who accept query letters in a multiple submission situation, will only accept a manuscript for their exclusive reading.  This means that as soon as you decide to send your manuscript to one agent, you must immediately withdraw the work from consideration by any other agents you've queried. 

And there is another what if . . . Let's say the first agent to respond positively is number five on your list.  Good practice and basic courtesy says to respond to that request for your manuscript ASAP.  But you're still hoping to hear from number one or number two.  Now what?  Do you withdraw your manuscript from their consideration or try to stall agent number five.  It gets complicated very quickly, ethical dilemmas abound and ultimately you can find yourself indulging in bad business practice.

What to do? If you query one agent at a time, beginning with your first choice, you'll know you gave yourself and your manuscript the best chance.  If your manuscript is requested, great!  If the agent passes, at least you won't wonder if you missed a better opportunity.  Yes, you'll be rejected by some.  Yes, single submissions are slower.  And in hindsight you may look back and decide you could have submitted to all those agents simultaneously and been able to move on.  That feels like a negative approach to me.  It's almost as if you're counting on being rejected and just want to get if over with quickly. 

On the other hand, multiple submissions will get your query in front of more agents, more quickly.  If the agents on your list are fairly equal in your estimation so that you'd be happy with any one from your list then multiple submissions may be the fastest route to an agent.  Just keep in mind that when it comes time to submit your manuscript, exclusive reads will most likely be the rule.

Whatever your decision -- Best of Luck!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday is hosted today by Bookmuse.

In honor of our American holiday, I've selected "Ballet for Martha : making Appalachian Spring" written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan with illustration by Brian Floca.

Greenberg and Jordan relate the creation of the great American Ballet, Appalachian Spring, which is a tribute to American Frontier Life and a remarkable collaboration between Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, and Isamu Noguchi.  Graham, a pioneering choreographer known for her simple yet powerful style of dance, brought her idea for a new ballet to Copland with a request that he compose the music.  Copland, a child of immigrants, drew inspiration from an old Shaker hymn.  The extraordinary sets for the ballet were created by Noguchi, a Japanese-American sculptor. 

The collaboration between Greenberg, Jordan, and Floca have, in turn, produced a book that is equally powerful in its description of how these three talented artists combined their unique talents and perspectives to produce a quintessential American work.  It wasn't always easy, and readers will note the tension that had to be worked through as these three determined artists struggled to understand and accommodate varying viewpoints.  Greenberg and Jordan include source notes, bibliography, and photographs to provide added depth to their work.  Floca's use of line and watercolor give readers a very real sense of movement with each page turn.

As a special treat, here is Simple Gifts from Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring paired with photographs by Ansel Adams via YouTube.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Poetry Friday

Summer seems like the perfect time for a visit to Trinidad so my selection is "Earth Magic" written by Dionne Brand and illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes.

Award winning poet, Dionne Brand visits her birthplace as she provides her readers with many-faceted glimpse of island life from a young girl's point of view. 

Fernandes' artwork is brilliantly alive with the vibrant colors of the tropics making this a get-away to be enjoyed by children and adults.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer