Happy Thanksgiving

snoopyThis week will see many of us take to the road so we can spend time with those we love. my husband and I will be traveling to see our children and their spouses and give thanks for them and our first grandchild that is just weeks away from making an appearance.

This time of year I think of all the friends I’ve had in all the places I’ve lived and wish I could gather them in one place to thank them for touching my life in positive ways.

Since this blog is about writing I thought I’d give thanks for some writers I’ve had the good fortune to know.

First, though now disbanded, my critique group.  It was instrumental in helping me become a better writer.  Thank you Kristan Donk, Marcia Gabet, Carol Zook, Tony Stump, Natacha Sanz-Cabllero and Julie Stiegemeyer.

My Flashlight Press Family: Shari Dash Greenspan, Jodi Moore, Jason Lefebvre, Donna Earnardt, Lois Brandt and Richard MacFarland.

Authors I’ve met along the way: Kirby Larson, Cat Jordan, Shelley Kinder, Bryan Ballinger, Robin Newman, Aileen Stewart, Helen Frost, Claire Ewart, Mary Quiqley, Beth Behrendt , Jacob Devline

I’m sure I’m forgetting others-I’ll blame it on old age!

So on your travels bring a good book and give thanks for authors and illustrators and editors and publishers and bookstores and IDEAS because that’s where it all begins!

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Picture book month

0716181154_HDRNovember is a month when we think of family, friends and giving thanks. It is also picture book month.  So I thought it was a good opportunity to highlight some authors that are part of my Flashlight Press family.  Writers mostly work alone, but we cherish the relationships, even if they are only in cyberspace, we have with other authors.

When I became a Flashlight Press author my wonderful editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, suggested I contact some the other authors to gain insight into marketing etc. They welcomed me into the family with great advice.

When I see their books at a story or library I smile. Check out their books and you’ll smile too! Click on the links to learn more about each book and find free activity pages too!

Jodi Moore

When a Dragon moves in          When a Dragon moves in Again

Jason Lefebvre

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Too Much Glue

Donna Earnhardt

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Being Frank

Lois Brandt

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Maddi’s Fridge

Richard McFarland

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Grandfather’s Wrinkles

 

Reviews are important

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From The Day I Ran Away

You write a story that you love, you find an editor that loves it too, but the true test is the readers. Will readers love your story? Will they tell others about it? As the viable paths to publication grow, there are more books vying for the readers attention. So reviews are essential for book sales and book sales increase an author’s chance of future publications. There are usually reviews for a few months leading to a book release and a few months after. So it was a happy moment when I saw Melinda Johnson’s  review of The Day I Ran Away 18 months after publication. 

At her blog, More to the Story, Melinda, an author with a master’s in English literature, teases out the layers that make a story one to remember. Her reviews would be helpful to parents, but also great for teachers to use as the talk with students about writing.

When I write I story I’m thinking about some layers but Melinda found layers I didn’t even know I’d slipped into my story.  Here’s a excerpt:

The Day I Ran Away from Flashlight Press is like a well-choreographed dance. Three characters, two voices, three points of view, two timelines, two picture sequences, and a dog spin around each other with no missed beats. The threads fall together easily, and despite action and humor in Isabella Ongaro’s illustrations, the tone of the book is peaceful. The little girl’s growing drowsiness in the bedtime pictures makes sense. She’s been on a big adventure that never took her beyond the reach of love and safety. You’ll want to read The Day I Ran Away over again, even if you aren’t a preschooler, because there’s more to ponder each time you page through the story.

Please visit Melinda’s blog and read some of her thoughtful reviews. And, when you read book you like, write a review! An author will appreciate it!

Picture books & Conversations (part 2)

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My big sister reading to me

Last wrote I talked about using picture books to talk with children about issues or other topics. Sometimes we can introduce a topic that a child hasn’t experienced.  I still remember my children’s reaction when we read the book Fly Away Home, by Eve Bunting. It allowed us to talk about people who did not have all the things they had in their lives.

Sometimes we can use a book to explore things we all experience.  In The Day I Ran Away, Grace is having a bad day (who hasn’t had one of those!). Her favorite shirt is dirty, her favorite cereal is all gone, she gets sent to her room after a tantrum and, when she colors her white shirt purple, Mom takes her markers away. That’s when Grace decides to run away, but how can you run away if you aren’t allowed to cross the street? We can use this book to talk with children about:

Bad days

  • Have you had a bad day? Why?
  • Share a bad day you’ve had
  • How can we make a bad day better?

Favorite things

  • What is your favorite: color, food, item of clothing, book, etc.
  • What would you do if a favorite thing was missing?

Rules

  • Grace wasn’t allowed to cross the street? Is that a good rule? Why?
  • What rules do you have in your house?
  • What happens if you don’t follow the rules?
  • Why do we have rules?
  • Was it right for Grace to lose her markers for a week?

Saying you’re sorry

  • Grace makes a picture for her mom as a peace offering.
  • What is a peace offering?
  • Why is it good to say you are sorry?
  • How do you feel when someone apologizes to you?
  • What are ways you can tell someone you are sorry?

Yoga

  • Grace is doing bedtime yoga. What is yoga?
  • Have you ever done yoga?
  • Why does she do it at bedtime?
  • What other things can you do to calm down at bedtime?
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From The Day I Ran Away

Picture books can start conversations

42747118_1927805887309834_6118873833110765568_nReading to a child gives us a perfect opportunity to start conversations. You may choose a book such as Mr. Worry: A story about OCD or I Can’t Stop: A story about Tourette Syndrome that deal with a specific topic, but most picture books can be used to start conversations.

In No More Noisy Nights, Jackson has moved into a new home. After a day of unpacking he’s ready to sleep, but it turns out he’s sharing his home with some creatures that are noisy at night. Jackson has to use his best problem solving skills to quiet the creatures so he can get a good nights sleep. We can use this picture book to talk with children about:

Fears

  • Talk about Jackson. Was he afraid? Why or why not?
  • Ask questions such as: Have you ever heard scary sounds? What did you do? Are there are things that scare you?
  • Share fears you had as a child or now.

Problem solving

  • Talk about the way Jackson solved his problems. What else could he have done?
  • Talk about solutions for the fears they shared

Moving

  • Moving can be hard, but we bring things with us that help our new house feel like home. What things did Jackson bring? What things would you bring?
  • Make a list of the good and bad things about moving.

Making friends

  • The creatures in Jackson’s house were noisy. How did he treat them?
  • How do you like to be treated?
  • How did Jackson make new friends?
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From No More Noisy Nights

This is Why

When people learn that I am a children’s author but, by education I am a speech therapist, they often ask why I write. There’s isn’t a simple answer to that question.  My love of story began as a child. My desire to write something a child would ask to hear over and over again came after reading countless books to my children. But mixed into that is the fact that idea seeds show up and I decide to plant them and see if a story grows.  I like coaxing a story out of an idea.

snoopy-the-writer2Sometimes it is discouraging to be an author. Ideas you nurture get rejected by editors or agents. Published books get less than stellar reviews or don’t sell well.  But the money must make it worthwhile, right? After all look at the cost of books. The reality is, a majority of authors aren’t making a living from the books they’ve sold, so they need another source of income. Just as the money you pay for a car doesn’t end up in the salesman’s bank account; an author doesn’t receive all the money from a book sale. (Read Why Does a Hard Cover Book Cost $18 to learn more.)

So sometimes we ask ourselves why. Why do we keep saying yes to those idea seeds, hoping, like Jack that they’ll lead to something magical.  For me it’s because of exchanges like this. I was at a table with my books for sale and a little girl walked up and pointed to No More Noisy Nights and said:

“I read that book.”

“Did you like it?”

“I did. We saw it at school.”

“I wrote that book. I’m the author.”

“You didn’t!?”

“I did.”

“Really??”

Really.”

“Can I give you a hug!?

So that’s why.

The ideas come and are nurtured in the hopes that someday they connect with a child.

 

Reading “sucks”

0915180751_HDR (2)I spent Saturday at the Indiana State Literacy Association’s fall conference. I was there hoping, I’ll shamelessly admit, to sell some of my books and to make teacher contacts. I don’t know what the attendance count was but, on a perfect fall day in Indiana, there were MANY teachers and teachers-to-be giving up their Saturday in the hopes of learning new things to engage their students in reading and writing.

I was able to listen to Pernille Ripp’s keynote address and some of her presentation on using picture books in the classroom. I didn’t have pen and paper ( and I call myself a writer!) to write down all the wonderful points she made, but these stuck with me.

  • Sometimes reading “sucks” to quote one of her students
  • Read aloud to kids even when they can read on their own
  • Let kids choose their own books
  • reading for pleasure should not involve book reports, etc
  • We tell kids reading for pleasure is important, so we need to make time for it every day in the classroom

I’d add that parents help develop readers when they continue to read aloud at home, model reading for pleasure and provide access to books.

Here’s a excerpt from the Kids & Family Reading Report from Scholastic (5th edition)

There are several predictors that children ages 6–17 will be frequent readers. Three dynamics among the most powerful predictors are:
• being more likely to rate themselves as “really enjoying reading”
• a strong belief that reading for fun is important and
• having parents who are frequent readers. 

Additional factors that predict children ages 6–11 will be frequent readers include reading aloud early and often, specific characteristics kids want in books and spending less time online using a computer. 

Additional factors that predict children ages 12–17 will be frequent readers include reading a book of choice independently in school, ereading experiences, a large home library, having been told their reading level and having parents involved in their reading habits.

We are busy! The calendar fills up with activities and chores.  So instead of say “someday”, put a family trip to the library or bookstore, where everyone chooses a book (no shaming the book choice 😉), on the calendar! Then, as they did in my kids’ classroom, have D.E.A.R. time! (Drop Everything And Read)