Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Literal Mindedness

Son: I think we should take her flowers.
Me: You are big-hearted.
Son: Mom. My heart is the size of my fist.

Hubby: Boy. My eyes were bigger than my stomach.
Daughter: Oh, no Dad. Your stomach is way, WAY bigger than your eyes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bluebeard Revisited!

I'm delighted to share with you this new book by Heidi Anne Heiner, she of http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/ , a terrific online resource for a long time now on fairy tales, about my (third) favorite guy: Bluebeard.

Le voici:

First, best use of CreateSpace publishing, ever. This is one seriously lovely looking book. Second, I know I'm biased, but this is the book that should have been written and collected a long time ago. Now, in one handy spot, all those grisly versions of the tale, with scholarly accuracy. You know you need this on your shelves.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late is a Palpable Hit

This book is justly famous and wonderful. And here's why.

Daughter, far past bedtime: Is there another meaning for "lean." Not like "lean on me," but "fat and lean"?
Me: Yes. Now go to sleep.
Daughter: I'm lean. Brother is lean. You're... kind of lean.
Me: Go to sleep.
Daughter: Dad... Well, he isn't fat, exactly. But he isn't lean, either.
Me: Enough already.
Daughter: Hey! I'm asking some pretty good questions here!

[Still Later.]
Daughter: Did Brother's tummyache get better?
Me: Go to sleep.
Daughter: I know! [sitting up in bed, eureka style] I'll make him a Get Well Card!

Here, on the other hand, is why there should also be another Mo Willems treasure, called Don't Let the School Give Up Early. (Or if you prefer, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Summer Vacation.)
Note, sent home this week from third grade. "We have a lot of activities going on this week! Tuesday, AR points Pizza Party! Wednesday, Reading Celebration! Trip to Mini-Golf. Thursday: Wings party! Health Party! and AR Points, Ice Cream Party! Next week I have attached a number of notes for activities. Monday is a school-wide luau. Please send beach towels marked with your child's name. Also, I will take our class fishing next week. Please return permission slips!

Please help your child stay focused in school this week as we have several tests for grade cards."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Kansas Children's Writers Can Write!: Escaping the Tiger

Welcome to the inaugural Kansas Children's Writers Can Write! feature of my blog. First off, I have to mention Moon Over Manifest, by Kansas writer Clare Vanderpool. It won the 2010 Newbery Medal. Read it! 'Nuff said.

So now let me turn your attention to another book published in 2010: Escaping the Tiger, by Laura Manivong.

The stakes couldn't be higher for Vonlai Sarivong and his family as they risk death crossing the Mekong River at night to escape Laos and its brutal regime. But Vonlai's trials have only just begun. On arrival in Thailand he must now survive on starvation rations in the Na Pho refugee camp, where many have languished for years.

Vonlai shoulders family responsibilities, including watching over his older sister Dalah who has caught the eye of Tiger Tong, one of the camp's capricious and cruel guards.

Richly detailed and vividly imagined, this novel is transporting in may ways. And although the premise and much of its taut action is grim, the novel is a study in making the most of what you have, revising hopes, and sustaining a vision of a positive future.

Manivong's novel is based on that of her now-husband, Troy Manivong. Kirkus Review called it "essential" and the book has earned a spot in the 2011 edition of Best Books of the Year for 9-12 year olds (coming of age category).

I know I had you at Kansas Children's Writers Can Write, but now you have two books to go get.

Monday, May 9, 2011

In Which I am Besotted

So, turns out that sneaky Son had another agenda with his "family interview" the other day, because this two page letter was pasted inside a giant card he made me for mother's day yesterday.

"Your interests are pretty much the exact same as mine, and they are good interests. I simply adore reading, writing is fun too. I love movies just as much as you do and family time is the most fun of all. And we can't forget cats, very elegant creatures, but not as elegant as you, mom. Traveling I agree is excellent. Your talents are extraordinary. I mean you are really good at mothering, you know, when you should apply discipline. Writing is one of your specialties. Your voice is like silk, you could sing anyone to sleep! Your French is really good!

Your dislikes are exactly like mine. I dislike all of the things that you dislike too. You are really smart so you have a really good job. You were born in a really nice place. I agree that it was wide open spaces in New Zealand. It is very fun.

I am a kid and I love these vey interesting things. Reading is awesome!!! Writing is not too much my style, biking is fun, and swimming rocks. I have to agree that sunburns stink. I really do hate jelly. Bullies are meanies! I think that stabbing a pitchfork through your foot would hurt! You had to be embarrassed in that pink swimsuit. I bet you didn't like to ride your bike as much after you fell off your bike.

Your hair sparkles in the light. Your eyes are as blue as the sea. And you are lovely!!!"

[Note: he did not mention that I am plump, after all!] Daughter's card was beautifully hand decorated, and gorgeous. She praised my "squishiness."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

First Things for Aspiring Children's Writers!

If you write for children and haven't made it "official," or if you think you might like to write for young readers in any way (rebus, magazine, picture books, picture story books, easy readers, chapter books, middle grade or young adult fiction) then you should join the national organization: SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators).

Then, you are a card carrying children's writer. SCBWI sends you a host of materials and, perhaps more importantly, access to your regional chapter. Even if you live too far to attend any or many of your regional chapter's events (workshops, agent days, annual conferences featuring editors, authors and agents) you can still get access to their newsletters, craft columns (writer's craft, mind you!) and critique groups. You could even start your own local critique group with other local SCBWI members.

When you submit your work, thoughtfully and in proper format, to agents/editors, you will state on your cover letter that you are a SCBWI member. It is a sign of your professionalism. To live up to the expectations that establishes, you need to do your homework on submissions, read the websites, and do everything it tells you to do to ensure your submission will be read.

This plug for a great organization is brought to you by one happy camper, who spent all day yesterday a few hours from home attending a SCBWI workshop with Cheryl Klein, the incomparable editor at Arthur A. Levine, she of the last 3 Harry Potter novels fame (and A Curse Dark as Gold by Kansas' own Elizabeth C. Bunce, one of my favorite reads of last year, and of course many other books too), and author of Second Sight (about revision for writers).
Buy the book! For less than twenty dollars, you can experience a paradigm shift.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How Investigative Journalists are Created

Herewith, some highlights of the conversation that began with Son saying: Mom. I have to interview someone in the family for a school project, and I choose you.

  • Can you spell that? Actually, can you write it out?

  • Okay, (stroking imaginary beard), are there any other examples you'd like to give?

  • Wow. that IS an interesting detail. Are you done, or do you have more?

  • About you, Mom. Not the country. It's an interview about a person, not a place.

  • I'm practicing my note-taking skills.

  • Oh, man! I put "cats" under "talents" instead of "likes"!

  • Why is "mothering" a talent?

  • I can put "plump"? really? you don't mind that?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kindles Would Work on a Desert Island (For a Month)

Inspired by last weekend's day-long writing retreat in a great farmhouse with lovely views and lovelier company, I'm just dying to do it again. It has been an entire academic year since the last really long retreat (a whole week!). I have visions.

Do you "retreat"? How do you do it?