Summary/SCBWI LA Summer Conference, 2014: A Night in Old Italy

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference:

Thursday:

Drive. Drive. Talk. Drive. Drive. Talk. Talk. Stop. Drive. Stop. Drive.
Find room.

Meg Rosoff was the first keynote speaker. She's great at speaking and writing. More details later

Meg Rosoff was the first keynote speaker. She’s great at speaking and writing. More details later

Park.
Eat.
Sleep.

Friday:

Sign in.
Meet.
Welcomed.
Informed.
Inspired.
Book purchase!
Laugh.
Informed.
Enthused.
Meet. Meet. Meet.
Elevator snafu.

Panel speakers on diversity--inspiring!

Panel speakers on diversity–inspiring!

Ten flights of stairs. !!???

Depressed.
Inspired.
Laugh.
Informed.
Informed.
Depressed.
Consider acknowledging defeat.
Inspired.
Inspired.
Book-buying binge!
Cheese, crackers, support.

Lovely book by a lovely woman.

Lovely book by a lovely woman.

Book purchase!
Crash.

Saturday:

Informed.
Self-doubt.
Inspired.
Inspired.
Learn.
Connect.
Idea—new ending.
Feel too old.
And overwhelmed.
Laugh.                                         OS & WT
Inspired.
Book purchase!
Informed.
Not sold on the selling.
Fascinated.
Art. Art. Art. Wowed!
Costumed.

I'm the dragon. I'm a little embarrassed, but it was fun!

I’m the dragon. I’m a little embarrassed, but it was fun!

Pose. Pose. Pose.
Pasta and champagne.
Talk. Talk.
Meet. Talk. Meet. Talk.             mask

That’s Amore, Tomie!
Dance. Dance.
Dance. Sing. Dance. Dance.
Collapse.

Sunday:

To market, to market. Impressed.
Taught.
Inspired.
Anxious to write.
Inspired.
Wow!
Brain too full!
Know it already.
Eat. Talk. Eat. Talk. Eat. Talk.

A wordless book by Tomie DePaola

A wordless book by Tomie DePaola

Clap! Clap! Clap!
Bored.
Tomie Skype.
Cry.
Laugh.
Load car.
Drive. Drive. Drive.
Emotions careen.
Give up?
Keep trying?
Kiss. Kiss.
Snore.

Monday:

This is a cutting from an epiphyte that belonged to my grandmother. I took the photo a little after I started uploading post tonight.

This is a cutting from an epiphyte that belonged to my grandmother. I took the photo a little after I started uploading post tonight.

Non-meteorological fog.
Lunch.
Better.

Tuesday:

Throw out old new idea.
Ideas! Ideas! Ideas!
Wahoo!
Decide—keep trying!

Details later.

Thank you SCBWI!!!!!
My heros and peeps

About an hour later, the blooms are open a little more. It will be fully open later tonight. By morning, it will be closing and wilting after it's one night of bloom.

About an hour later, the blooms are open a little more. It will be fully open later tonight. By morning, it will be closing and wilting after it’s one night of bloom.

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Something Old and Something New

 

Part of one out of seven bookshelves in our home.

Part of one out of seven bookshelves in our home.

Nothing opens one’s eyes to how much stuff she herself has accumulated as helping someone else downsize. That was the project last summer. My overall goal now is to not have too much stuff. My day-by-day goal is to reach an average net loss of one object per day. It will be a long time before I’m going lightly through life.

In the last blog I mentioned decreasing my fabric stash. And, you probably won’t be surprised, my bookshelves also overfloweth. I’ve had to ask myself the hard questions like: “How many of these are you realistically going to reread in your lifetime? and “What about the books you bought and never got to the first time?”

So I’m learning to let go and pass many of my books on to someone else. The Little Free Library is a good outlet . . .

Our Little Free Library, opened and dedicated on 11/10/13

Our Little Free Library, opened and dedicated on 11/10/13

Here’s how the process works in reality. I pull a book off the shelf that I’m pretty sure doesn’t need to stay with me forever or be reread.

But maintaining one’s resolve—aye, there’s the rub. I waver and decide to read the first chapter hoping to confirm that I don’t really want to read it again.

Sadly, that’s only worked on a couple of books. And, in the meantime, new books are being written all the time. What is a reader to do?

Read.

It’s interesting reading some of my older middle grade books. They take more time getting to their destination than current books tend to, and I’m really not sure how well they’d fare in today’s marketplace. But two past Newbery nods reminded me of what an old friend used to say. He had loved the Hardy Boy mysteries as a kid because he always learned something. (I liked Nancy Drew mysteries, but mostly remember being it annoyed that she always stopped for “luncheon”, not lunch like a regular person. But, once again, I digress.)

                                                                     The Old

. . . and now Miguel was written by Joseph Krumgold (who also wrote Onion John) and published by Harper & Row in 1953. Twelve-year old Miguel’s goal is to go to the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Each summer the men in his family take the sheep to higher pastures for the summer. The book depicts rural mid-20th century life in New Mexico.

Miguel does everything he can think of to show he is ready to help as a man. Some attempts are more successful than others, but along with rooting for Miguel, the reader learns about sheep.
Miguel
MIguel has the job of keeping track of the branding numbers. The same number is painted on the ewe and her lamb. This is very important since if a ewe is separated from her lamb for too long, she doesn’t recognize it and won’t feed her baby.

Part of a shepherd’s work is to keep the sheep matched up and make sure no one is alone. Kind of a nice thing to know.

Girl DisasterI was pretty sure I wouldn’t need to read all of A Girl Named Disaster, written by Nancy Farmer and published by Puffin in 1996. Nhamo is an orphan who lives with extended family in a village in Mozambique. When the family decides to marry Nhamo off to placate an angry ngozi or spirit, Nhamo’s grandmother encourages her to run away. The story is about Nhamo’s struggle to survive the journey to find her father’s family. It reminded me in some ways of The Island of the Blue Dolphins. (I couldn’t stop myself.)

Both of these books had stretches where nothing much happened to move the plot along. But readers will learn a lot about the daily ins and outs of different lives. They remind us that handling the boring daily stuff is part of how we move and grow.

So much for my average net loss.

                                                                     The New

Have you seen Flora & Ulysses, written by Kate DiCamillo   and published by Candelwick in 2013? It’s a treat! You, or more accurately I, wouldn’t call it a graphic novel, but it has enough illustrations to make it a hybrid and a good choice for a reluctant reader.

And it’s funny!  Flora & U

The flap tells you what you need to know. “She is a natural-born cynic! He is an unassuming squirrel! Together, Flora & Ulysses will conquer villains, defend the defenseless, and protect the weak. Or something.”

                                                                 The Surprising

My kind of fireworks--morning glories--and no traffic to contend with.

My kind of fireworks–morning glories–and no traffic to contend with.

I just put that there because after The Old, The New, my brain hears a flute playing the theme to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” So I needed a third category.

Other than 2014 is already half way over, I don’t actually have anything else to add right now.

Please comment on anything that is currently surprising you—especially if it’s a good book.

And happy 4th!

Peacock at the zoo setting off his own brand of fireworks

Peacock at the zoo setting off his own brand of fireworks!

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Quilt Trip

I have a confession to make. Instead of writing, I’ve been stitching for our annual quilt show.

Ode to Joy, Redux

Last year the theme was “Ode to Joy” so I made a quilt with that title. Some months after

Last year's Ode to Joy. You can play the song on the chimes at the bottom . . .hey, hey, hey.

Last year’s Ode to Joy. You can play the song on the chimes at the bottom .

that I heard a PBS story about protests outside of prisons where women sang the Spanish version of “Ode to Joy.”

My quilt would need another layer.

I tried, failed, and gave up trying to locate photos of the event.

But I have a hard time letting go of an idea and the deadline pushed me to look for photos again.

So I looked again. Again no luck finding photos of the event. But other information and leads showed up.

Ode to Joy with next layer

This year’s quilt looks suspiciously like last year’s. There’s a swath of netting with butterflies carrying photos.

Friedrich Schiller originally wrote his poem in 1785 as “Ode to Freedom.” He later changed it to “Ode to Joy” possibly for fear of sounding too political. Beethoven completed his Ninth Symphony in1824.

And then—Wow! Talk about traveling the world. The song was chosen as the Anthem of Europe and the official Anthem of Copa Libertadores de America, the annual football/soccer competition.

Kerry Candaele made a documentary called: Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony. You can view a portion of it at the website for Deceptive Cadence: NPR, 1/14/14.

Every year the Ninth is performed in Japan with choirs of as many as 10,000 people.

“Ode to Joy” is used as an anthem for freedom. Students played it in the Tiananmen

Guelaguetza procession

Guelaguetza procession

Square protests of 1989 to drown out the government loudspeakers. A protestor said it gave “a sense of hope and solidarity.”

Renato Alvardo Vital heard it sung when he was a political prisoner under Pinochet. He talked about the hope the music gave him. Poet  Isabel Lipthay called it “a shield against the fear, against the pain, against the darkness.”

But wait, there’s more! But you’ll have to find it.

I couldn’t get permission to use certain photos, but was able to find others that represent some of the impact of this song.

“Ode to Joy (Freedom)” works again with this year’s quilt show theme, “The Sweetest Sound I Ever Heard.”

Photos of Caracas march, Mexico City rally, and 1966 Copa de Libertadores champions

Photos of Caracas march, Mexico City rally, and 1966 Copa de Libertadores champions

Om, Abba, and Hummingbird Fractals

An idea for a “sweetest sound” quilt rattled around my brain but none of my sketches worked. Then the reality of how little time was left struck. (Deadlines are so helpful.)

I have a hard time getting down to just one sweetest sound. Children's voices aren't named, but they're in the quilt too.

I have a hard time getting down to just one sweetest sound. Children’s voices aren’t named, but they’re in the quilt too.

The hummingbird is there because . . . well, I’m a little embarrassed to admit what my brain obsesses about . . . it’s there because for years I’ve tried to figure out how to describe the sound a hummingbird makes. It has always sounded like a spiral to me, but what word to use? I think I’ve finally got it: a sound fractal.

But I only know a little about fractals. So if you know more, please give me feedback about whether this is an accurate way to describe their auditory spiral.

Tablecloth for the group Women Together. There are two quilted panels. Only one is visible in the photo.

Tablecloth for the group Women Together. There are two quilted panels. Only one is visible in the photo.

Pillow Quilt

Back of the quilt using Eric Carle fabrics from his books. The photo of the front came out too blurry.

Back of the quilt using Eric Carle fabrics from his books. The photo of the front came out too blurry.

A recent invitation to a baby shower asked for favorite books to build a fantastic library for the baby. This is my kind of baby shower.

When I was little, I loved the nursery rhyme “Hey, Diddle, Diddle.” I couldn’t fine a copy of The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon (tell you about that book another time) so went with Mother Goose Picture Puzzles by Will Hillenbrand and published in 2011 by Marshall Cavendish. Love the art work, the rebuses, and how he labels some of the items in the illustrations. Plus it includes “Hey, Diddle, Diddle.”
Mother Goose
I used Eric Carle fabrics on the back so had to include one of his books. The Very Lonely Firefly wasn’t in stock, but I was able to get a baby board version of The Very Busy Spider published by Philomel Books!
Carle, spider
And to finish off the books that will go into the quilt pocket: Look, Look! a baby board book by Peter Linenthal, published in 1998 by Dutton’s Children’s Books. The art work uses the black/white contrast that catches a little one’s eye.
BB Look, Look

Pillow quilt folded up into its own pocket and filled with the books.

Pillow quilt folded up into its own pocket and filled with the books.

A

Blatant Brag
(Skip if you’re not in the mood.)

Everything I did this year was made almost completely with scraps and pieces of fabric  already in my stash!!! Only two bolts were harmed in the making of these quilts.

Orchids to the photographers who share their photos. Thank you!

Orchids to the photographers who share their photos. Thank you!

And credit where credit is due. The photographs on the new layer of “Ode to Joy” came from Wikipedia. Thanks for permission to use their photos goes to (from left to right): Zfigueroa, Gisela Ishihara, Revista El Grafico, and Hseldon 10.

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Three Books and an Embryo

MartianSettings can be characters. I sort of understood before, but finding three books with terrific place characters helps me really get it.

The Martian, written by Andy Weir and re-published by Crown in 2014, isn’t specifically for young adults. But I think that young men and science geeks of all genders will really get into it.

All signs show that astronaut Mark Watney, the narrator, died in an accident as he and the crew race to escape a Martian sandstorm before the MAV (Mars ascent vehicle) is blown over. Long story short—Mark isn’t dead. He must survive a contest with the hostile atmosphere of Mars. How would you deal with limited water, air, and food and no working communication system?

Otherworldly creature? Nope, we're not sure what, but its made from tree parts.

Otherworldly creature? Nope, we’re not sure what, but its made from tree parts.

Although I can’t claim to be a science geek, this novel had me on the edge of my chair promising to go for a walk in just a little bit . . . just a little bit more . . . ok, tomorrow. Talk about throwing one thing after another at your main character. The author must have had a great time figuring out what kind of problems Mark would face and what in, or out of, the world solutions could a person find.

Maybe "the creature" is a giant preying mantis?

Maybe “the creature” is a giant preying mantis?

Also, great voice—the book had me laughing and reading lines to my husband, who had finished the book the day before. (On top of that, he didn’t even mind hearing them for the second time.)

Warning to those of sensitive ears: four-letter words, but nothing that most kids wouldn’t have heard or that most of us wouldn’t use if we were in Mark’s situation.

Note to writers: This is one of those books we hear about. Author independently published in 2011. It was picked up by Crown and put out in 2014. It can happen!

Midnight Gulch, the town in A Snicker of Magic, written by Natalie Lloyd and just published by Scholastic, is a town drained of its magic . . . supposedly. I learned about this book at a recent SCBWI event, where it was mentioned by an excited editor as a great example of voice. It’s also a great example of a setting as a character.
Snicker
Felicity, the narrator, loves stories and collects words that only she sees. A Snicker of Magic has more than a snicker of wisdom for those of us who feel rescued by stories and/or are shy about saying what we’re thinking.

A snicker is just the right amount of magic in this book. Don’t expect wizards or witches on broomsticks. Instead you’ll find magic that just might be within our grasp.

I’ve read this wonderful middle grade story twice and found it even better the second time. There are a goodly number of characters. (I made a list on the second reading to keep track of the past and present relationships. If you want it,  let me know.)

We had our own Southern California magic this week--RAIN . . . finally, a little

We had our own Southern California magic this week–RAIN . . . finally, a little

And, fellow writers, pay attention to the voice. It’s engaging and practically perfect. There was only one three-word phrase in the book that didn’t feel right. Please let me know if you identify the same phrase and have the same response.
Green House
 Welcome to the Green House, a picture book poem written by Jane Yolen, gorgeously illustrated by Laura Regan, and published by The Putnam & Grosset Group in 1997, stars . . . the setting.

An epiphyte that grew from a small pot up into a tree. It's about 20 feet up. A plant you could see in the rain forest.

An epiphyte that grew from a small pot up into a tree. It’s about 20 feet up. A plant you could see in the rain forest.

The supporting cast consists of rain forest inhabitants. Good book to support environmental concerns and the love of beauty, both visual and spoken. Make sure you read the book aloud to get the full impact of the language.

And now—the continuing saga of the embryo book in a years-long pregnancy. (See the post of 3/14/14 on dealing with rejection for the beginning of this story.) Quick summary is that I received a critique of a story (one that has been rewritten and “polished” multiple times). The new critique brought up issues that no one had mentioned before.

The lower part of the epiphyte in the tree. It's growing around Mother Nature. A second epiphyte in the foreground has buds.

The lower part of the epiphyte in the tree. It’s growing around Mother Nature. A second epiphyte in the foreground has buds.

I rewrote the story using the one arc idea and liked the result. I asked a former writing teacher to read the new version. She didn’t agree with the recent critique and liked the previous version.

What’s a girl to do?

Go to ready-made focus groups, my critique groups, who are probably sick of the tinkering and multiple versions of these three pages.

The members of one group write for adults. They all liked the newest version best. The members of one of the groups that all write for children liked the older version best . . . with some elements from the newest version.

A bromeliad, another plant you could find in a rain forest. See how a little rain fuels my delusions?

A bromeliad, another plant you could find in a rain forest. See how a little rain fuels my delusions?

What’s a girl to do?

Rewrite the older version, submit it for the next round of critiquing, and be grateful for other writers who willingly read and give feedback until all the words are just right.

To quote my memory of an old song, “You’ve got to laugh a little, cry a little, let your poor heart sigh a little. That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.”  And what’s a good story if not a story of love?

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Four Ways to Handle REJECTION! Without Chocolate

Drought tolerant plants in bloom

Drought tolerant plants in bloom

I’ve been thinking for awhile about how writers deal with rejection letters and about how grateful I am for some past rejections—how they forced me to grow as a writer, to improve my stories bit-by-bit, and to move closer to the emotional truth I want to communicate.

That’s what I was going to say the day before yesterday . . . and, actually, I will again someday . . . just not today.

I received an evaluation (not the first) of a picture book manuscript I’ve worked on for more years than I want to admit.

Any clues why this came out so blue?

Any clues why this came out so blue?

Yesterday I felt caught in professional opinions revolving in different directions. Do I truly need to take out what someone else (equally knowledgeable and professional) thought I should put in?

I feel bruised and in need of a whine—I have worked long and hard on this piece—and made my long-suffering husband read so many versions, his head is probably spinning too.

So here are the options:

Throw self on bed and kick. (Didn’t help.)

Choose to believe the reviewer didn’t know as much as the other readers who didn’t identify the same problems she did. Send the manuscript out as is.

Music to my ears

Music to my ears

Accept it’s time to pull up the big-girl panties, and face what she said. Rereading comments almost always helps me see them a bit differently.

On the plus side, she did say “ . . . illustrators (sic)* dream!” and “The imagery and simile is (sic) lovely,” and “You have such a nice way with language.”

When I think about the negatives, I can, after a day, see what she’s saying. The story is written with two arcs*. The important one, the one that conveys what I’m trying to say, is fine.

A weed in my garden!

A weed in my garden!

But the story that supports the telling of the main arc is weak. I didn’t think that second arc needed to have the same problem, tension, resolution as the first.

I guess it does. And she’s right, it will be difficult to do.
The reviewer did give me an out: simply take out that second story arc. Make the story shorter than it’s current 522 words. (Fewer words add up to a plus in picture books.)

I was sure my main character had spunk . . . but truthfully, she’s no Olivia (Ian Falconer’s character). Maybe I need to go deeper into my inner child?

My inner child clung to stories as to a life-line. She now wants to pay that forward with something both true and beautiful. But my scaredy-cat inner child wasn’t that great of a model for a character in a story that’s not about dealing with fearfulness. Her character needs to wait for a different story.

If this critique helps reach my goal, I will be grateful, but not until, at least, tomorrow or the day after that.

If "rocks" can bloom, I can handle a bit of constructive criticism.

If “rocks” can bloom, I can handle a bit of constructive criticism.

In the meantime, I’m thankful for the now-successful writers who share the number of rejections they accumulated. I’m not even close to those numbers yet so I’m not ready to exercise option 4) Give up.

*sic: A mistake in the original that the quoter is aware of but stays true to the original. In this case, tiny errors that do not confuse any issues.
*arc:  The curve of the story plot from presentation of the problem, rising tension, and resolution of the problem.

Ok, ok. Sometimes, like buds, stories need time to open.

Ok, ok. Sometimes, like buds, stories need time to open.

Note: If so desired, chocolate can be used in conjunction with any of the above options.

P.S. I’m getting some ideas . . .

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Freaks

One of the roles in the play is The Wall. Here is one actor's portrayal.

One of the roles in the play is The Wall. Here is one actor’s portrayal.

Did you ever see the play The Fantastics? In it, the female (adolescent) character says something like, “Please God, don’t let me be normal.”

We spend much of our adolescence, our lives, actually, trying to be just that—a normal, regular, part-of-the-gang kind of person.

Heart from Ellen

And yet, the stories that pull us into the deepest emotional waters concern misfits, freaks, and odd-balls. Maybe the stories about people with external “abnormalities” speak to internal parts of ourselves we often try to hide.

Freak the Mighty, written by Rodman Philbrick and published by Scholastic, Inc. in 1993, is a book my sister used with her mostly middle school students in an alternative classroom. She described these students as “beyond” reluctant readers. Every day they asked to read another section. She feels the book was a bridge to those kids on the periphery.

The story is told by Maxwell, a student in L.D. (learning disabled) classes. Max is much larger and stronger than his peers, and he bears a strong physical resemblance to his father, who is in prison for killing Maxwell’s mother.

Max starts his story with, “I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for awhile, and that’s the truth, the whole truth. The unvanquished truth.”

FreakFreak is Kevin, a bright, imaginative kid, whose skeleton cannot keep up with the growth of his internal organs. But Kevin is ready to go on quests, slay dragons, and replace his defective body parts with robotics.

When Maxwell first puts Kevin on his shoulders and they run from school thugs, the two become Freak the Mighty.

That’s all I’ll say now, except, if you read the book, I suggest saving the dedication for last. If you read it first, it will just be a dedication. If you go back to it at the end, it will probably make you cry and wonder.

WonderWonder, written by R.J. Palacio and published by Knopf in 2012, starts and ends as August’s story. August was born with severe facial deformities. He is about to leave the protective nest of home-schooling and enter middle school. August has no illusions about how he appears to other people or even about how he would react if he was in another’s shoes. He’s had to learn to differentiate between real smiles and “shiny” smiles, between thoughtlessness and cruelty, between pity and real connection.

The story grows and morphs into the story of August’s older sister, Olivia, whose brother’s needs have always been more immediate and more demanding than her own; and the story of Summer, a girl at school who befriends August; and Jack, friend or fake; and Justin, Olivia’s new boyfriend; and others who must decide the kind of people they will be.

Heart-shaped rock with heart buttons

Heart-shaped rock with heart buttons

Heartache, ambivalence, growth, and love abound. It is no wonder that Wonder is a best seller.

These two books, written almost 20 years apart, are timeless, deeply-moving valentines to people who connect despite painful differences, who find their strength within what seems to be weakness. Isn’t that what we all want?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Happy New Year 2014!

Mama bear ornament

Mama bear ornament

At the beginning of December, I went to my favorite children’s bookstore, The Yellow Book Road, and asked the question I ask Ann every Christmas season, “Is there an especially touching Christmas book this year?”

Ann led me to several books—neither one specifically a Christmas book.

I looked for new children’s Christmas books at three other bookstores and found several  I liked and could visualize children enjoying.

So which books did I get?

I bought The Blessing Cup, written and illustrated

The Blessing Cup

The Blessing Cup

by Patricia Polacco and published this year by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. As in many of her books, Polacco writes about her family’s history. When her ancestors are forced to leave Tsarist Russia, the family carries a tea set that brings a blessing. Most of the set is left behind when they come to America. Only one china cup is left to pass through the generations.

The emotional and spiritual wealth of Polacco’s family is shared with people in the past and with us, her readers. The Blessing Cup was the first book Ann showed me.

Once Upon a MemoryI also promised myself the second book Ann showed me.

Then I found Once Upon a Memory, by Niria Lorden, illustrated by Reinata Liwsha, and published by Little, Brown, & Company in 2013 under our tree!
2013 Christmas Tree
This book simply asks a series of short questions. “Does a feather remember that it once was . . . a bird?”

Wait ‘til you read the wondering about what you will remember.

Once Upon a Memory can be read to the youngest children who are ready for stories and by the oldest of us. The Blessing Cup is an illustrated story (so longer and more complex than many picture books) that will be most suitable for elementary school-age children and up. I’m planning on reading The Blessing Cup to a group of adults next Monday.

Good news/bad news:  The hard cover edition of The Grizzly’s Christmas is sold out.
Linda and EmmyThe Grizzly's Christmas - Postcard (Rev. 1)
Good news:  The e-book is still available through Amazon. Even though Christmas is over for this year, the information sections of the book are multi-seasonal.

Bad news:  Another independent book store, The Open Door, had to close its doors as of 12/24/13. It was an establishment with a mission rooted in the love of books and readers. Just a reminder that if you also value independent book stores, support them with your business so they can continue to exist.

On this, the first day of 2014, I wish you a Happy New Year. May the best of your dreams come true!

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The Grizzly’s Christmas e-Book

The Grizzly's Christmas - Postcard (Rev. 1)Ann, Miranda, and I are excited to let you know The Grizzly’s Christmas e-book is here! Well, actually it’s there . . . on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GVHSDZU 

Since it’s newly up, you’ll probably have to put in “The Grizzly’s Christmas” by Malcolm F. Farmer if you’re just looking around on the site.

Irving, a grizzly, doesn’t know why St. Nicholas wants his help or why St. Nicholas thinks Irving has special powers. But by helping St. Nicholas, the grizzly regains a deep sense of himself and his importance to people.

The story is written for children as young as five or six and is designed to grow in meaning as a child matures. Notes about bear lore and ancient beliefs from many areas of North America, Europe, and Asia explain aspects of our long and complex relationship with these amazing creatures.

Please take a look and, if you read the book, please leave a review. Thank you! Thank you!

To read more about the book, go to the page under the Hundred Book Pile Up photo.

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Got Attitude?

Thankful for green and for plants = more green, more plants or at least more because I actually see them

Thankful for green and for plants = more green, more plants or at least more because I actually see them

My wise friend Ellen says that we get more of what we are thankful for. I think true thankfulness goes hand-in-hand with joy.

My Amazing Day, by Karin Fisher-Golton, Lori A. Cheung, and Elizabeth Iwamiya, is a board book for the youngest readers. Their goal is to teach very young children about gratitude through the transformation of the simple joys of Lily’s day into thankfulness.

The journey of this self-published book to my hands started with my sister-in-law sending m a link to a Kickstarter campaign:   http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1015918712/my-amazing-day-a-celebration-of-wonder-and-gratitu  Although the campaign is over, if you’re a writer contemplating self-publishing, take a look.
Amaz Day
The writer, photographer, and designer set out to raise an amount just under $10,000 to finance the printing of their book. Fisher-Golden, Cheung, and Iwamiya already had the product to show. They shot a video explaining and promoting the project, and they offered different rewards for different contribution levels. I liked what I saw and contributed enough to receive a copy of the book when it came out.

The book designer for The Grizzly’s Christmas talked about doing a similar campaign if weThe Grizzly's Christmas - Postcard (Rev. 1) decide to re-publish. My tech knowledge is pretty limited and I couldn’t quite grasp how this worked until I started following the progress of My Amazing Day. The trio sent periodic updates about the production stages. I learned the point at which you would start a campaign—you need more than just an idea; how to use different media to present your project, show you are willing to work, and connect as people.

What a statement of support to find others willing to make your dream a reality!

My Amazing Day is now in my hands. It’s lovely and loving. The first spread hooked me. “In the morning, I heard singing” with a photo of a bird are on the left side; and, on the right, a photo of the fourth collaborator, Lily, Elizabeth’s young daughter, sleeper-clad, hair-akimbo, eyes closed—asleep . . . with just a hint of a smile on her face.

The photos will make you smile. The words feel just right. I have long planned to send this book to the youngest nephew in the family. Now I’m wavering . . . but I will be strong and mail it.

You can find the book at  OurAmazingDays.com

A grand opening at our launch party—go to littlefreelibrary.org to find out more.

A grand opening at our launch party—go to littlefreelibrary.org to find out more.

Another book to celebrate thanksgiving without being a Thanksgiving book is Splat Says Thank You, words and illustrations by Rob Scotton, published by HarperCollins in 2012.

In this story, Splat’s friend, Seymour, is sick. Splat wants to make him smile, by thanking him for all the things Seymour has done to help Splat out of jams. Did I mention that Splat is a cat and Seymour is a mouse? The book and its illustrations are funny and truly convey thankfulness at the same time.

Back to Ellen’s words and an old book I’ve just started to reread, Love is Letting  Go of Fear, by Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D., Celestial Arts, 1979. (Celestial Arts. Celestial Seasonings. The dawning of the Age of Aquarius. You remember. I don’t miss the bell-bottoms, but flowers in rifle barrels should never go out of style. But I digress . . .)
Love, Fear
One of Jampolsky’s lessons is “All that I give is given to myself.” When we are thankful, we get to relive the joy we first felt; we sustain the cycle of giving and receiving; we prolong our celebration. I used to tell my first graders if they can be happy for good things in a friend’s life, they get to be lots happier than if they are only experience happiness for the good things they get themselves.

So have a happy Thanksgivukkah, the first official time Thanksgiving and Hanukkah share the day. Don’t miss this unique celebration, since it won’t happen again for about 77,000 years.

Ann, Malcolm Farmer's wife, and I at her launch party

Ann, Malcolm Farmer’s wife, and I at her launch party

Meanwhile, Miranda, Ann, and I are thankful for the response to The Grizzly’s Christmas at our two launch parties. Thank you to all the friends who made those days so special. We are nearly sold out of our first edition. The e-book had hit several snags. I thought switching over was supposed to be a snap. Evidently not, but as of this afternoon, it looks like I’ll be able to let you know soon that it is available on Amazon.

P.S. Dear readers in Poland, thank you for reading my blog. I would love to hear from you. Please let me know what you are most interested in, and thanks again.

 

We served Grizz Fizz—cranberry juice, lemonade, and ginger ale with a Swedish salmon

We served Grizz Fizz—cranberry juice, lemonade, and ginger ale with a Swedish salmon

Miranda and I signing books at our party.

Miranda and I signing books at our party.

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Yikes! It’s Halloween!

 

The Grizzly's Christmas - Postcard (Rev. 1)

Please click on “The Grizzly’s Christmas” in the black bar above to find out more about the book.

 

 

Have you ever caught yourself looking at a signal light two blocks ahead and then realizing there’s a red light between your car and the light you’re looking at? If you haven’t, then I’m just embarrassed. But if you have, you’ll understand how my focus on The Grizzly’s Christmas caused a “Yikes! Halloween is a few days away!”

 

snake shadow

Notice the snake’s shadow.

 

batI quickly pulled out my rubber bats, plastic insects and other creepers, fake spider webbing, and a pruned tree branch, always good to have on hand. For good measure, and because a rubber snake needs to be used whenever the opportunity presents itself, I added a rattlesnake to the bottom of my “dead” tree.

Then it was time for to rush to the bookstore to look for new Halloween books.

Hlown '13, #2If you have a daughter who wants to be a ballerina, this is the year to get her a Halloween book starring a vampire ballerina or a zombie ballerina.

If you have a school-age child who is aggravated by a younger sibling, take a look at Vampire Baby, written by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Paul Meisel, and published by Candlewick Press in 2013. Tootie bites, and her brother can’t convince their parents that she’s a vampire. He decides to take matters into is own hands. The book is funny; and, ultimately, family ties win.

Here are other books that I would so buy for my first graders . . . if I still had first graders.

Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat is by the team of Doreen Cronin and Betsy Levin, who wrote and illustrated Duck for President and Click, Clack, Moo. Long-suffering Farmer Brown takes to his bed in Halloween fear. Anyone who already knows his strong-willed farm animals will chuckle as they encounter these characters again.

As a long-time Bunnicula, and The Celery Stalks at Midnight fan, I couldn’t resist Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown, and published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2012. The book is a Caldecott Honor Book. The black and white illustrations set off the few objects of carrot orange and help a child understand the jokes. Jasper Rabbit fears he is being followed by his favorite food. Are the carrots out for revenge?

C carrots

Not from the book, this is just an example of the color pallet.

A remark in Skeleton for Dinner, by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Will Terry, and published by Albert Whitman & Co. in 2013, leads to a misunderstanding in the Amelia Bedelia tradition. Cute introduction to multiple meanings.

Do you remember Boris Karloff singing The Monster Mash? We, meaning my first graders and I, used to have a lot of fun reading/singing the song and doing the Transylvania Twist at this time of year. I wish, how I wish, David Catrow’s book of the same name (2012) that illustrates the song had been available then. What a hoot!

Ten Creepy Monsters is both written and illustrated by Corey F. Armstrong-Ellis and published by Abrams in 2012. The rhyming countdown from ten monsters to none is a fun journey. The ghost disappears when she blows away as mist in the wind. Each monster exits in a fitting manner until the last little twist. The illustrations are great and kids will love the rhythm and rhyme.teddy

Who would ever expect a dragon to be afraid of Halloween? Me and My Dragon: Scared of Halloween, by David Biedrzycki, another writer/illustrator, and published by  Charlesbridge in 2013, is another book that would have been fun to read with my kids. The illustrations add to the humor as a boy tries to find a way to help his big red dragon find a costume and lose his fear of Halloween monsters.

Have a happy and safe Halloween! If you want to read about more Halloween books go to the posts of 10/25/12 and 11/1/12.

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