Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing Kidlit: When the Going Gets Rough...

An author's recent blog post prompted readers to share what they do when they are feeling discouraged as they attempt to navigate through the kidlit industy. My responding comment was that I think about how lucky I am to have the resources accessible to me so I can pursue a career in kidlit writing (even if I might end up not getting published).  

Let me elaborate on the things I have that I'm grateful for:

My dear husband and daughter
2. My ideas
3. My laptop
4. My life experiences 
5. My super cool and supportive writer friends 
6. My super cool and supportive non-writer friends
7. Opportunities to attend selected kidlit writing events, such as workshops and conferences
8. Access to local bookstores (though with Borders shutting down, that access has been compromised a bit)
9. Access to the local library
10. Access to the Internet (though that can sometimes impede on the writing process more than help it along)
11. Access to the time I can scrape together at the end of each day to write in private

I don't take the stuff I listed above for granted because I know what it's like to not have some of these things. For example, I remember what my life as a writer was like before I had "writer friends," and I can definitely say I prefer a life with writer friends than one without.

So on days when I'm feeling discouraged over the whole kidlit writing thing, I remind myself that I'm very fortunate to have the resources to embark on a career in kidlit writing in the first place.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Banned Books Week Sept 24-Oct 1, 2011

Banned Books Week is coming up. This is an annual event celebrating the fabulous First Amendment and our rights to access information. Not surprisingly and unfortunately, there are quite a few kidlit books out there that have been banned. Many of them happen to be classics such as: THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie, the HARRY POTTER books by J.K. Rowling, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee, BLACK BOY by Richard Wright, and FOREVER by Judy Blume. (And these books are all FANTASTIC.)

When I skim through the stories behind banned book challenges, a common pattern arises: A parent is bothered or feels threatened by something in a book their child has access to, and so they launch a campaign to have that book removed from the classroom or library so no other children can have access to it. 

As a parent myself, I can understand why parents would want to screen their children's reading materials. And certainly, if a parent finds something they perceive as "questionable," they have the right as a parent to keep their own child away from it.  HOWEVER, I don't think it's fair for a parent to make that kind of decision for other people's children. That's where I have to draw the line.

There's lots of information out there on Banned Books Week. Here are a couple of web sites (and there are more out there):

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Muse Online Writers Conference

The Muse Online Writers Conference is happening October 3-9.  The deadline to register for this FREE conference is September 25. I've never participated in this particular conference before but I might check it out. From skimming the 2011 Workshops  section, I get the feeling this event is intended for both writers of kidlit and adult literature.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Online Auction to Fund Hurricane Irene Relief: Read for Relief

Since Hurricane Irene hit at the end of August, many of those affected still need assistance. So four awesome writers got together to run an online auction to help fund Hurricane Irene's relief efforts. The auction is called Read for Relief. Raised funds will go to the American Red Cross. Items up to be auctioned include signed books and critiques.  

I think the organizers are still accepting auction items, so if you're an industry professional and want to donate a service or product, check out the web site.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Teaching with Children's Books: Prepositions

It's back-to-school time, which means I can reintroduce my Teaching with Children's Books segment, YAY! Teaching prepositions is today's subject. I came across the following picture books that highlight prepositions. These books have clear illustrations to help learners visualize prepositional phrases as they're used in a story. Maybe learners can even make their own picture books once they get the idea.

PIGGIES IN THE PUMPKIN PATCH by Mary Peterson and Jennifer RofĂ© (Picture Book-Charlesbridge) Two mischievous pigs frolick through a farm as they go "over growing green beans," "behind snoring, sleepy sheep" and end up going "into the pumpkin patch." 


JOEY AND JET by James Yang (Picture Book-A Richard Jackson Book, Atheneum) A boy named Joey throws a ball to his dog, Jet. Jet goes after the ball "among the birds," "across the street," "between the tables," then catches the ball and fetches it back to Joey.

BEARS IN THE NIGHT by Stan and Jan Berenstain  (Picture Book-Random House) In this Berenstain Bears book set past bedtime, the bears sneak "out of bed" and "out the window" and go "around the lake" and "up Spook Hill."


ROSIE'S WALK by Pat Hutchins (Picture Book-Simon & Schuster) Published in 1968, this classic features Rosie the hen going out for a walk, oblivious to the hungry but clumsy fox following her as she goes "through the fence," "past the mill" and "under the beehives."

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fess Up Friday: I'm Not a Grammar Book, a Spell Checker, or a Dictionary

Here's another reason why I don't go out of my way to announce to the world that I write: People who unnecessarily feel the need to apologize to me at the end of an email in case they made any grammatical mistakes in their writing. Or people who use my writer status as an excuse to cut a note short, as in, "I better go now before I spell something wrong."

As a writer, I zone in on errors only when it relates to work, especially my work. I don't correct or acknowledge usage errors in friends or acquaintances' grammar or misspellings simply because I just don't pay attention to those things when I'm reading a friendly  email or Facebook comment or postcard or  whatever informal correspondence I get from peeps. And even if I notice a boo-boo, so what. But  trust me, there are pah-lenty of writers and avid language enthusiasts who like to  smugly point out to someone when they should have used lie instead of lay, the past participle instead of the past tense, and yada yada yada instead of blah blah blah, and hence, they make the rest of us look like That Steel-Eyed Grammar Whipping Guard with the Bleeding Red Pen. 

I confess: I make grammar and spelling boo-boos too. So what if I'm a writer.

And while I'm here, I also want to add that just because I write and took Latin in high school, it doesn't mean I know every word ever conceived in the English language.

I still rely on the Internet for  learning   the some of the fancy schmancy stuff. Sometimes I'd learn a neat word and think, wouldn't it be cool if I could actually use  this word out at a party without sounding totally pretentious? 

A fancy schmancy word I do like....hypnagogic. I get a lot of my ideas for stories when I'm in a hypnagogic state. What about you? Alright, DISCUSS, I say in my best Linda Richman twang from SNL's Coffee Talk.

Books I Read In August

NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT by Gennifer Choldenko (Middle Grade- Dial) Three siblings are on a plane flight to visit their uncle but end up in a mysterious, unexpected place.

SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater (Young Adult-Scholastic) A girl falls in love with a boy who is part-wolf.

THIS TREE, 1, 2, 3 by Alison Formento, Illust. by Sarah Snow (Picture Book- Albert Whitman) This counting book explores the environmental significance of a single tree and the animal and insect life inhabiting it. 

THE ARISTOBRATS by Jennifer Solow (Middle Grade-Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) Four best friends from New York's society scene aspire to maintain their popularity during eighth grade in spite of being assigned the "unpopular" job of working on the school's webcast.