Tuesday, March 29, 2011

And Another Online Auction for Japan: Write Hope

So I stumbled on another online auction where kidlit industry professionals are offering books and services to assist with the recovery efforts in Japan. Proceeds from Write Hope are going to Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Tsunami Relief Fund. The organizers of this auction are all writers with a fondness for Japan. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Save our Bookstores

In February, it was disheartening to hear that Borders is closing 200 of its stores nationwide. Then last week, Borders announced it is closing 28 more stores with an updated Chapter 11 store closure list. The two Borders stores near where I live are shutting down. =( 

It's a rough time for book sellers. Here are a few things I do to try to keep book sellers in business:

1. Buy books as gifts- Last Christmas, about 80% of the gifts I got for family, friends, and white elephant recipients were books. Before going shopping, I'd even ask  the people I was shopping for what they wanted from the bookstore. And of course, books make great gifts for other occasions, such as birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, and even April Fool's Day-your bookstore 's humor section can be a goldmine for April Fool prezzies.

2. Promote reading in the community- I write for a city newspaper and sometimes do profiles on local authors and cover book talks. (And oh, there's this blog too.) Reading to the elderly, reading to children, or teaching someone how to read through a community literacy program are also ways to share the pleasure of reading.  

3. Don't be a bookstore mooch- If I spend significant time poring over a book at a bookstore, I would end up buying the book 95% of the time. Bookstores aren't libraries, though big chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are super generous about letting customers lounge and browse through their goods, even allowing store patrons to take stuff with them when they have their scones and iced coffee at the in-house cafe. But  remember book sellers don't make a profit until you actually pay for a book. And being that bookstore chains are for-profit businesses, it just ain't right to put a book back on the shelf after the spine is all bent up with coffee splattered on the cover page. The 5% of the time I don't buy a book I really like is usually when it's the only book left and it's been totally roughed up....or if there are some questionable stains or odors on the book, and I can't be sure where it has been....

....This reminds me of an old Seinfeld  episode called "The Bookstore." George takes an expensive book into a bookstore's bathroom (ewwww) and Jerry catches his Uncle Leo shoplifting books (double ewwww). The episode is posted right here.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another Online Auction: Children's Authors and Illustrators for Japan

Just got news about another auction, perhaps with contributors from here in the States. It's being organized by author Greg R. Fishbone. My friend, author Debbi Michiko Florence, is donating two signed copies of her book, JAPAN: A KALEIDOSCOPE KIDS BOOK. The auction will begin on the week of March 21st. The money raised will go towards helping children in the affected areas. Click on this web site for more info.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaching with Children's Books: Women's History

March is Women's History Month. Here are a few children's books I've read about strong American women who responded to societal norms by figuratively putting their thumbs on their noses:

 

STORM RUN by Libby Riddles, Illust. by Shannon Cartwright (Picture Book/Early Reader-Sasquatch Books) Dog musher Libby Riddles writes about her experience being the first woman to win Alaska's big Iditarod Sled Dog Race. 







HIROMI'S HANDS by Lynne Barasch (Picture Book-Lee & Low) Based on a true story, this book spotlights a Japanese American girl who aspires to be a sushi chef, just like her father.
 

BOYCOTT BLUES by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Illust. by Brian Pinkney (Picture Book-Greenwillow Books) Told in verse, this book narrates Rosa Parks' role in the Civil Rights Movement.










ROSIE THE RIVETER by Christine Petersen (Picture Book/Middle Grade-Children's Press, Scholastic) This book salutes the women who joined the work force during World War II.

Authors for Japan Auction is ON

A group of authors and publishing industry professionals, many of whom are  part of the children's  book scene in the U.K., banded together to form Authors for Japan. The site is offering books and services in an online auction to raise money for those affected by the tsunami in Japan. The bidding began this morning at 8 AM GMT and will end at 8 PM GMT on Sunday, March 20. You can live anywhere in the world to make bids but your bids must be made in UK pounds.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Children's Book Writing on The Celebrity Apprentice

In Reality TV Land,  you can write, illustrate, and publish a children's picture book in just a couple of days. Such was the case on last night's The Celebrity Apprentice.

For you Apprentice newbies, here's how the show works: On each episode, two teams compete to create a winning product or raise money. After the task, the teams meet with  The Donald in the boardroom to find out which team had won. The winning team returns to the  suite in New York City's Trump Tower where all the contestants are staying. Members of the losing team remain in the boardroom and attack one another to explain their loss. Then The Donald fires a losing team member who is (or is edited to appear):

a. responsible for the loss
b. unable to adequately defend him or herself against attacking teammates
OR c. not enough of a loose cannon to make for interesting reality TV

While the winner of The Apprentice scores an "apprenticeship" with The Donald, the winner of The Celebrity Apprentice 4 gets $250,000 donated to the charity s/he is playing for.

So on last night's episode, the teams had the task of writing a children's book based on at least one member of the team and performing the story in front of children. The men's team, led by musician Meat Loaf (pan to me belting out "I'd do anything for love, but I won't do that"), created a story based on hip-hop star Little Jon's challenge of being "the small kid" when he was in school. The women's team, led by actress Lisa Rinna, created a story based on La Toya Jackson as a lion without a roar. Margery Cuyler, publisher of Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, and Holly Robinson Peete, actress and children's book author, were judges.

I'm not going to reveal which team won this task or who got fired, but I will say that some of the  heated dialogue among the celebs here make the toughest writers critique group I've been in seem like a playground sing-along of "Ring around the Rosie."

Here are YouTube clips of the entire episode.  For the first video below, the show doesn't dive into the children's book writing task until about 3:30 minutes.  




Sunday, March 13, 2011

Praying for Victims of the Japanese Tsunami Earthquake

Yesterday, a 9.0 earthquake/tsunami shook up the northeast area of Japan. I'm worried about some of my friends who are English teachers living in Japan and am waiting to hear back from them. 

My husband and I visited Japan a few years ago, and we really enjoyed the beauty of the island country. I remember viewing the lovely architecture of the temples (though I'm not Buddhist, I still appreciate art when I see it), taking in the stunning Mount Fuji, stripping down for my first bath house experience, enjoying the wonderful cuisine, and mingling with the local schoolchildren. I am praying for Japan's recovery from this tragic natural disaster and for the affected victims and their families and loved ones.

Update on 3/13/11 : All my teacher friends in Japan emailed me back, and they're safe and well. Sigh of relief......At the same time, I feel sad for those who are suffering.  My husband and I are making a donation to the tsunami relief efforts through the American Red Cross, Bay Area Chapter. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Books I Read in February

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver (Young Adult-Harper Collins) Girl goes through the last day of her life seven times

HOLES by Louis Sachar (Middle Grade-Yearling) Newbery-winning classic about delinquent boys sent to a special camp where they have to dig holes all day long

IRIS AND WALTER: THE SLEEPOVER by Elissa Haden Guest, Illust. by Christine Davenier  (Early Reader-Gulliver) Girl becomes homesick during a sleepover

ROTTEN RALPH HELPS OUT by Jack Gantos (Early Reader-Live Oak Media) "Rotten" cat helps his owner put together an Egypt-themed class project


Monday, March 7, 2011

Zombies are the New Vampires


Zombies are the new vampires. And someday, fallen angels will be the new zombies. 

I learned so much from the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop in Monterey, CA. Getting peer feedback in the workshops, chatting with faculty advisers and mingling with children's book agents from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency marked my rigorous and stimulating weekend. The event was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel Seaside/Monterey. The hotel was very guest-friendly- perks included complimentary breakfasts, complimentary drinks during the evening cocktail hour (woo-hoo!), and the indoor heated pool and jacuzzi. 

On the last day of the workshop, a panel of the workshop's children's book agents answered participant questions. A gentleman asked about the story cliches the agents came across the most. Here are some responses:

-Kids moving
-A kid sent to live somewhere on a farm
-Teen car accidents
-Stories beginning on the first day of school
-Magical relics
-Love triangles
-Romeo and Juliet-type stories
-Waking up from a dream
-The quest for the relic, the pendant, the ring, and the portal
-The prophecy kid

Very useful to know. The agents were quick to note that the topics listed above can still work and make great stories, but the writer should be able to bring something fresh to the "cliche" so the story doesn't become a cliche. One agent says she made a six-figure deal selling a story involving a teen car accident.  

Another audience member asked about how the rise of digital publishing will affect the children's publishing industry. Andrea Brown reassured us aspiring children's book authors by asserting that children's books are here to stay in spite of occasional cyclical changes in the market. Also very useful to know.