November is a month to think about gratitude. One definition of gratitude that I like is: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. I like thinking of gratitude as a quality; something we might have in us all the time, not just when a moment calls for it. And I like the idea of returning kindness. When we receive a kindness, we might not be able to “return” it to the person who bestowed kindness on us, but we can return it to the world by being kind to someone.
Next week we will travel to our daughter’s home in Kansas and share Thanksgiving with her, her husband, our son and his family. I am thankful we are able to have this time together, that we can afford to travel and that food will be plentiful, that their house will be warm, and there will be clean running water. I look forward to the conversations and laughter that will be shared and to the wonder that will come in seeing our grandchildren, observing their minds growing right before us.
For many this holiday will not hold joy and warm feelings. Many do not have the basic needs of life, others face a holiday without loved ones. May those of us who can, return some kindness into the world this week. Maybe it will find someone in need.
Peppermint Chiffon Pie is often served on Thanksgiving (along with Pumpkin Chiffon). Both pies are family recipes and made often as you can see by my well loved recipe card! This pie and yummy and pretty!
Hint: Nabisco Chocolate Wafers are usually found by the topping for ice cream sundaes
One week in the Spring and Fall Every Child A Reader celebrates Children’s Book Week. It’s an opportunity to remind people how important reading is, not just for children but for all. Being a proficient reader is important to succeed in life.
In my role as a speech therapist I work with adults who are having cognitive or language issues. A task we might do is make a list of items, say fruits, vegetables etc. To make that task more difficult I might ask, tell me all the things we can read. What came to your mind? Books, magazines, newspaper were probably first. Did you think about bills, road signs, recipes, food labels, medicine labels, directions, instructions, forms, information signage in stores, in hospitals, car dashboards, and more.
Reading is the key that unlocks the door into every child’s future. Let’s make every week Children’s Book Week, so that the future is bright, not just for the children but also for the rest of us because the children are our future.
We know children learn by watching the adults in their lives. When they are small they mimic our behavior, good and bad. When they are older they may try to reject the behavior we model but that can prove difficult to do! Have you ever said or done something, good or bad, and thought I sound just like my mother or father.
So asNational Family Literacy Month begins it we should consider how important it is to model reading for our children. I grew up in a house where reading was valued. Books were given as gifts, trips to the library were frequent, and those who could, read to those who were too young. My mother read fiction. I can still see her crying one evening as she read. And I still remember the book, Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn. She showed me that it’s ok to get lost in a book, to respond viscerally to words, and to learn from them. My father was more a nonfiction guy. He read the paper and magazines. I still recall the stacks of National Geographics that he poured over and used to show us the world was a much bigger place than we could imagine.
This love of reading continued in the home I shared with my husband and our two children. Books were everywhere in our house, even in the bathroom. The Reader’s Digest Magazine lived in the bathroom too and was a source of jokes and information for all! We read together as a family at home, in the car, on vacation. Books were given and shared.
We still give books (all those gifts under the tree are books!) and talk about books even though we are all adults. And from Great Gramma (my mom) on down, we are sharing this love of books, modeling it for the next generations. May your family be so lucky as to pass a love of reading from generation to generation. The wealth of that inheritance is beyond measure.
Find additional resources for National Family Literacy month here.
In the last year and a half authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, publishers and book sellers are missing in-person events. So I thought I’d share a post I wrote after I was at the ALA conference in Chicago in 2017. This is why in-person events are so special!
I loved my elementary school librarian and her wonderful quiet space filled with books waiting to be explored. She always knew just what to recommend and, when she saw that my appetite for books exceeded my weekly check-out limit, she suggested that a friend and I pick our books together and trade halfway through the week. For me, librarians know where to find all the answers and all the good books, so it was an honor to be invited to sign copies of my new book, The Day I Ran Away, and my upcoming No More Noisy Nights at the American Library Association Conference in Chicago, where so many lovers of books and knowledge gather in one place.
Although I’d seen the list of exhibitors online, I was awestruck by the number of booths, their size and scope, and the variety of publishers and industry-related products represented. As my husband and I wandered the halls prior to my signing, I pointed out publishers with whom I’d had contact over the years (too many rejection letters to count!) and looked for books I’d seen reviewed. I noticed some LONG lines of excited attendees waiting for an author’s signature, and then other authors with no line at all. I grew a bit apprehensive, as my signing time got closer. Would people want copies of my books?
We found the booth and were met by the wonderful staff of Independent Publishers Group (IPG), who distribute for Flashlight Press and hundreds of other independent publishers. The author who was signing before me did have a line, and in fact, ran overtime into my slot to give away as many books as possible. When the IPG staff member announced that they’d run out of her books, I piped up and suggested that folks wait, because I’d be giving away books in a few minutes too. Librarians love books, especially free ones! They asked what my books were, so we handed out two samples which they looked at and passed down the line to share.
By the time I began signing, I had my own line of excited librarians who were thrilled that they didn’t have to choose between The Day I Ran Away and No More Noisy Nights, but could have one of each. Although I had less than a minute with each librarian, it was exciting to speak with people from all over the US and Canada. With the ALA conference in Chicago this year, many attendees were from the Midwest, but folks also came from California, Texas, Utah, New York, North Carolina, Maine, Florida, Arkansas, and more that I cannot recall. There were public and private school librarians, university librarians, and public librarians. Many were gifting their free books to family or friends, and others were donating to their schools. I loved hearing their enthusiasm not only for my books, but for their work in sharing books with children.
Before I knew it, my time was up, and IPG cut me off! Several people then asked my husband if I could sign for them, so we moved to the corner of the booth and gave away a few more of the remaining books. In all, we gave away about 160 books!
One last highlight: the IPG booth was located near the Library of Congress booth, and it was heartening to see Carla Hayden, the new director, being treated like a rock star with interviews and people clamoring for a moment of her time! When my first picture book was released in 2004, my son was excited to point out that a copy would be forever kept in the Library of Congress. An amazing thing to think about!
It was such an uplifting day! Librarians know that reading is essential to understanding ourselves, our world, and our place in it. When we learn how to “find friends” in books, we are never alone. It is my hope that these wonderful librarians will create lifelong readers, and lifelong readers will help make this world a better place.
Have you ever wanted to run away? Maybe you are thinking, YES, just yesterday when the work was crazy, the car needed an oil change and the refrigerator had somehow eaten all the food and was wanting to be filled AGAIN.
Now you do remember wanting to run away when you were a child? I think most children do at some point. The injustices of childhood loom large. Everything happens above you. Decisions big (we’re having another baby) and small (blueberry yogurt instead of cherry) are made without you. Just when you are in the middle of something important (the biggest block tower ever) it’s bedtime, and it seems the rules are constantly changing (don’t lie, unless the neighbor got an ugly haircut).
In Noisy Nora, by Rosemary Wells and A Baby Sister for Frances, by Russell Hoban the main character feels ignored and replaced because a new sibling has arrived. And Max in Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak has suffered the injustice of being sent to bed without any supper. And so, they run away to escape. In my book, The Day I Ran Away, Grace feels she’s been wrongly banished to her room and packs up to run away only to be thwarted by the fact that she’s not allowed to cross the street.
As a child I remember one time packing my little suitcase and heading down the road (I actually just went next door), but mostly when I needed to “escape” I picked up a book. When the weather allowed, I took my book to swing under a willow tree. Books allowed me to forget my problems big and small and they gave me examples of how others solve their problems.
Being a child or a grown up can be difficult. Wanting to run away may just mean we need to escape for a bit so we can face our problem with fresh eyes. And when we return we might hope a good dinner is on the table!
Grace comes home for Spaghetti and Meatballs, her favorite! I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s her favorite because it’s a family favorite often requested when my kids are returning home.
In honor of Pasta Day (yesterday) this month’s recipe is early!
The Niner meatballs and sauce recipes. Be sure to use the slider to see both!
Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Whether or not you or a loved one struggles with a mental health problem it is important to understand them. To understand their impact on individuals, families and communities.
Because my son has OCD I had first hand knowledge about OCD and it’s impact on him and our family. That is what lead me to write Mr. Worry: A story about OCD. And that lead to I Can’t Stop: A story about Tourette syndrome. Through my books I’ve been able to interact with individuals and families with these disorders.
This summer I was honored to be asked to participate in the International OCD Foundation’s virtual summer camp for kids. I was amazed! They create a wonderful virtual camp for kids from all over the world. They were able to listen to speakers and interact with each other and amazing volunteers.
My part was small. I read Mr. Worry and then took questions. I was awed by the questions and insight these elementary age kids had about themselves and OCD. While I didn’t get to see any, my activity was for them to make word clouds about themselves because it is important to realize that you are more than your disorder.
Try making a word cloud. Think about words that tell about you. Or make one about feelings you have, people in your life, things you’d like to do.
Author is defined by Merriam-Webster for Kids as: a person who creates a written work. I like to share that definition with students because it is encouraging. If you put the words on paper, you are an author. You are a wordsmith, but you must also be brave and thick-skinned. If you want to be a published author, putting words on paper is just the first step. And there are things you can do to increase your chance of success.
Understanding the business of publishing is one key to success. It is a business that involves many people, all of whom are hoping to make a living. I did not find success as an author until I began to study the business. The knowledge gained helped me target submissions and decreased the sting of rejection! For example, understanding how many submissions a publisher receives vs how many books they publish a year is eye opening, as is a look at resources like Publishers Weekly. Any given week, a majority of their top 25 picture book best sellers were written decades ago.
Tenacity, according to my invaluable Flip Dictionary, is a synonym for patience and persistence. Two of the words I wanted to use, but there’s no P in AUTHOR. However, maybe tenacity is really the right word. And writing is about finding the right word. Tenacity involves patience, persistence and determination. To be a published author you cannot give up or be discouraged. Despite the overnight success stories, most authors will be rejected MANY times (I have been hundreds of times) and they will have waited months for this lovely rejection news!
Hone your craft. An author is never done learning. In the age of the internet, resources abound. There are blogs, online workshops, and online critique groups. Join groups like the Author’s Guild or Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and you’ll find abundant information and links to MORE information. A critique group, or at least readers other than family and friends, is a must. Like the game of telephone, what you see in your head does not always make it to the paper and into your reader’s mind.
Organize your time. Most authors have other jobs and obligations. When I have time to devote to my writing, I have to decide how to utilize my time – do I work on a new story, revise an old one, research places to send a story, catch up on industry news, read reviews of books, read books in the genre I write, do a writing workshop, read a book about the craft of writing, market the books I have published, etc.! AND, don’t forget what may be the most important: quiet thinking time, letting the ideas come and grow in your mind!
Read, read, read! If you want to be a published author you need to read. Reading books in the genre you write will help you understand what goes into a book that makes it from manuscript to library shelf. Reading any genre exposes you to words, language and the art of storytelling. And reading does one more thing-it supports other authors, which is what you are or hope to be!
If you’ve been reading my blog you can’t help but know that I love to bake and cook with pumpkin so, as you might imagine, I love fall. But it’s not just the pumpkin that shows up in things from coffee to ice cream that I love.
Fall commands the attention of all my senses. The crisp air that requires a jacket. The leaves in hues of orange, yellow and red capture both my eyes and my ears when the crunch underfoot. That crunching creates a leafy aroma like the grinding of spices. I hear the geese call good by as the cross the sky in perfect V formation. The Red-winged Blackbirds gather and put on a nightly show swooping as one for weeks before they too head south. As the sun moves south it sets earlier and earlier. Walking in the dusk of evening, house windows glow and I imagine the of families gathered inside. And when I return home the warmth of a fire greets me. It’s fall!
When you are writing it is important to think about your senses. What senses are awakened by a place, season, or activity? Including such details, not in a big paragraph as above, but slipped in here and there will enrich your story and help your reader feel like they are in the story with you!
Now, who wants some Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Loaf?!
Last week we took a quick look at picture book construction. All editors and publishing houses have their own methods, but in my personal experience, the editors I worked with laid out the words using a book dummy. They also noted illustrations ideas on those pages to share with me and the illustrator. Laying the story out is important because page breaks are. We want the reader to keep turning the pages ! So authors should be thinking about page breaks and story layout as they revise their manuscript.
TO DO THIS authors and illustrators might make a STORY BOARD
To make a story board take a long piece of paper and fold it so you get 16 rectangles and you will divide each in two for your 32 pages (see above). These are called thumbnails. You can plan your illustrations by doing a sketch or writing what it would be. You can write your text in, but if it’s a lot of words you could put first and last word.
OR a BOOK DUMMY
A book dummy can be made a couple of ways. You could take 8 sheets of paper, fold in the middle and you’ll have 32 pages. Or you can make a smaller one by folding a large sheet of paper in half one way and then the other. Then cut on those folds. Fold in half and you have a 16 page signature. How many do we need to make the most common number of pages in a picture book?
Some things to think about
So how will you decide where to break your story? These are some things to consider:
Suspense: Think about books you’ve read-picture books or chapter books. One of the things that makes us want to turn the page or read more is wondering what is going to happen on the next page. So suspense is important in thinking about your page breaks.
Illustrations: You want your illustrations to be different on each page, so as you look at your text you think about how you might illustrate those words or use pictures to add to the story.
White space: In most books you don’t want so many words on a page that there’s not enough room for pictures or that it looks overwhelming to read.
Question in the text: answer on next page
Stop a sentence in the middle: SYLVIA WAS LATE FOR SCHOOL, SO SHE TOOK A SHORTCUT THROUGH THE BUSHES AND ALMOST TRIPPED OVER A…. (KITTEN) on the next page
Transition words: Then, When, But, And, Until and Ellipsis SYLVIA WAS LATE FOR SCHOOL. SHE LEFT ON TIME, BUT…
Rhythm: of quick page breaks, build anticipation
When an editor works on your story your page breaks might change, but thinking about them has helped you submit a better story!
IF YOU take the time to write a picture book, the last thing you want is for the reader to put the book down before they’ve finished it. You want them to keep turning the pages. So it’s important what we decide to put on each page.
WE OFTEN call any book with illustrations a picture book, but there are really 2 types of illustrated books:
Story books: Where the text tells the whole story and can be read without illustrations
True picture books: where the pictures and words combine to tell the story.
So you need to know which type of illustrated book you’ve written as this will determine the book’s length and how the story is laid out on the pages.
Next we need to think about how picture books are constructed.
Most picture books are 32 pages and there’s a reason why.
Picture books are made from SIGNATURES-not the kind where we write our name. In printing a signature is: a group of pages that are printed on both sides of a sheet of paper. The paper is then folded, cut and trimmed down to the finished page size. So pages are laid out and printed on large sheet which is cut in half (so you have 4 sides) then cut in half again (8 sides) and folded so you have 16 pages. Most picture books have 2 of these.
So you have 32 pages, but some of these may be used for a title page, dedication, copyright material. So 28 pages for your story.
With 28 pages it will be important to plan how the words will fit into those pages. Is there room in the story for rich illustrations that add to the experience and to the story?
Next week let’s look at story boards and book dummies as a way to plan your story.