Friday, March 28, 2008

Yesterday's child looks for old favorites. . .

I’ve been thinking about the books I read as a kid. I was a serious bookworm—read in bed, in the car, on the bus. I read at the table unless I was scolded and while walking down the street, despite accidentally walking into lampposts and falling off sidewalks. I’m sure the books I read shaped the person and the writer I am today. Many of those books still line my walls, as I also became an avid book collector. I still love wandering in old bookshops (or virtual wandering through ebay or abebooks) in search of old (and new) favorites.

Another fun internet discovery is Loganberry Books’ Stump the Bookseller feature.
This great site lets you hunt for books when you don’t know the name and author. You can post whatever details you do remember. If the bookseller recognizes the book, she’ll identify it. All the posts are on the webpage and often other readers will suggest possibilities.

For years I’d thought about a book I remembered reading as a child -- definitely one of the creepiest books I ever read, and I read it over and over – even though I usually avoid scary books and movies! But all I remembered was a magic pencil, dreams becoming real, spooky live rocks and a lighthouse. A check of other people’s posts on Stump the Bookseller revealed the book is Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storrs. I bought a copy, too. But I haven’t gotten up the nerve to read it yet! (Yes, I am a big chicken. But this was a really riveting book. Maybe you should read it?)

My most recent discovery was in the still-good shed at the local dump (an excellent Eagle Scout project, by the way). As I was depositing an armload of books, an unassuming volume caught my eye. The Pink Motel! This was one of those books that lurk around the edges of my consciousness, teasing me. I didn’t remember anything about it except the title, and that it was a book I took home from the library more than once – in memory, it seems like dozens of times. With great excitement, I took it home. Would it still be as much fun as I remembered?

I kept the book by my bed, reading a chapter or so every night. (I used to read entire books at one sitting. Sadly, my life no longer provides uninterrupted afternoons to spend halfway up a maple tree with a book and a couple of apples.) And I did enjoy every minute. Over the next couple of days, I’ll post a few things I noticed as an adult that I probably missed when I was ten. “Tune in next time . . .”


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Book Recommendation

I originally put this up on my library blog, but I thought I'd share it here, too!

I'm not one for reading self-help books, but a writer friend recommended Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. I assumed, since its subject was improvisation, that the book would provide me with ways of making my writing more spontaneous. Boy, was I wrong! This book is a way of living a life. Improv Wisdom outlines 13 maxims. Here are two examples:

The First Maxim: Say Yes
This is going to sound crazy. Say yes to everything. Accept all offers. Go along with the plan. Support someone else's dream. Say "yes"; "right"; "sure"; "I will"; "okay"; "of course"; "YES!" Cultivate all the ways you can imagine to express affirmation. When the answer to all questions is yes, you enter a new world, a world of action, possibility, and adventure.

The Sixth Maxim: Pay Attention
How are your powers of observation? How much do you notice and remember? This skill is at the heart of all improvising. What we notice becomes our world. So observe what is going on around you. Open your eyes, and notice the detail. See what is actually happening. Pay attention to everything.

Most of what the author presents, if followed, would result in a life well-lived. Take a look at Improv Wisdom. It's short, at 159 pages, and will take you no time at all to read through.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Our Competition

Readers of the NE-SCBWI listserv recently received notice that an overwhelming number of people signed up for one particular workshop at this year's annual conference.

I ask you, who wouldn't be interested in attending this workshop? The flyer describes it thusly,
Get INSIDER INFORMATION (emphasis mine) about how and why a submission can turn into an acquisition. Plus, learn effective ways an author might pitch and package submissions to best represent the work and convince an editor of success. Bring a project for which you'd like to refine a pitch. Hands-on components: create a 'title information' sheet, plus consider competition, and develop a 'hook' for a book.

Wow! That's a workshop I want to attend, but, "Pitch & Package" is being held at the same time as The Write Sisters' workshop: THE WRITE SISTERS: BUILD, MAINTAIN, & IGNITE YOUR WRITERS' GROUP. Oh well.

It appears that the conference organizers will have to find some way to limit attendees at "Pitch & Package." So, if you are one of those who will have to find another workshop to attend, let me give you a few reasons to attend ours.

  • We'll be discussing general information to help you in whatever kind of group you are in--writer or illustrator.

  • Maybe you're unaware of how a good group can effect your personal growth as a creative person. We'll discuss how our group enabled its members to advance in the field of children's literature.

  • We will talk about the stages our group went through in an effort to show you that groups sometimes take time to develop.

  • I've never been much of a goal person (I once went on a job interview where the "committee" asked me for my long term goals, "To be happy," I said. I didn't get the job), but our group has come to realize the importance of setting goals and working together.

  • We'll touch on products and promotion as they relate to a group.

  • We are looking for interaction with our audience and will allow plenty of time for discussion and questions, so bring your group's problems to explore.

  • We will reveal the real reason for our group's success--Kathy's popcorn! Well, maybe not the real reason, but a meeting without it is not the same!

  • We'll mention a number of on-line resources that you may be unaware of (these are of value to individuals as well as groups).

  • Take a chance with The Write Sisters and come to our workshop if you're closed out of your first choice. You may make contact there with others who are looking for a group, and that alone is worth the effort!


    Saturday, March 15, 2008

    The Birth of a Book

    Diane has been encouraging The Sisters to help her keep up with this blog. You'd think writers would never run out of things to say, but trying out a new gizmo--like blogging--can be a bit intimidating!

    I thought I'd use my blog space to walk you through the process of creating our next book. Our first collaboration, Women of Granite: 25 New Hampshire Women You Should Know, is off to the printers. We should have our first copies in hand within the next few weeks. It's easy to forget all the steps that took us to this point.

    Soon, we will begin a second book in the series: For the Commonwealth: 25 Massachusetts Women You Should Know. It'll be some weeks before we actually get down to work as a team. We are currently busy preparing some workshop and conference presentations. When those are over, the serious work of research and writing will begin, right?

    Actually, it has already begun. As a small press publisher, it's my job to decide on what kinds of books I'd like to produce. Women of Granite (WOG, as The Sisters call it) was a result of a wish I'd verbalized at a Sisters meeting about a year ago. It will take about that long to get the Massachusetts title done.

    I've been hard at work compiling a list of extraordinary Massachusetts women. I've read for hours: books, historic society lists, lists of famous women, etc. The Sisters have sent me suggestions whenever something suitable cropped up in their research. As of today, I have 45 names on the list. I need to cut it to 25 women.

    I want a list that allows kids to read about 4 centuries, about 10 careers, minorities as well as white women. Because of the limitations women faced in regards to career choices in the early centuries, I've got a plethora of writers and, if they married rich, philanthropists. Professional athletes don't show up until the 20th century. Not too many scientists, either. Fortunately, religious martyrs seemed to have peaked in the 1600s.

    I will attempt to have a basic list of 25 for The Sisters to start with. As we research & interview, we'll find reasons to drop some and add others. We want to present women who faced challenges. We want to present topics kids can read more about. And, The Sisters want to write profiles that fascinate them.

    Stay tuned. The process is just beginning!


    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Having Fun With Our Books

    There are so many fun sites that allow you to share photos and such. I thought you might enjoy seeing more of The Write Sisters' books, so, I created a little slide show at


    Monday, March 10, 2008

    It's Nice to See Picture Books Getting Some Attention

    This morning on NPR's Morning Edition there was a short segment on Jane O'Connor's Fancy Nancy series of picture books, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (published by HarperCollins).

    Although I've never been a "girly-girl," I've always been a free-thinking girl, much like Nancy. Reading Fancy Nancy for the first time brought to mind my favorite book from my childhood--Kay Thompson's Eloise in Paris. If you like Nancy, you'll love Eloise. Eloise has seen a resurgence of interest over the past few years. I suppose that's good, but I hated seeing her turn into a cartoony licensed character. Ah well...

    I hope Nancy doesn't go too commercial, but it is nice to see the media paying attention to picture books by long time writers. I do however want to point out a mistake in the first book. Nancy says, "My favorite color is fuchsia. That's a fancy way of saying purple." Wrong, it's a fancy way of saying purple-pinky-red. I know because fuchsia's been my favorite color for a while now! Fuchsia is delightfully complex--just like little girls are!


    Saturday, March 8, 2008

    Creative Fun on Thursdays

    Laura Salas, whom some of us know from Chautauqua a few years back, has a great blog for children's writers. Every Thursday Laura runs a poetry challenge--15 Words or Less Poems. She posts a photo for inspiration and invites her readers to create a poem with no more than 15 words (guidelines here). I've become quite addicted to it and now post every week. I love to read the other submissions and am amazed at how people look at the same picture and come up with such interesting variations! Give it a try some Thursday.


    Monday, March 3, 2008


    The Write Sisters spent much of the day yesterday going over our presentation for the NE-SCBWI conference (see posting from 2/23/08).

    We found that the best way to clarify our group goals was to put them in writing. Here are Mur and Kathy looking through pages of notes.

    Here's Sally with her laptop. We've become so dependent on our computers we often wonder what it was like back in the olden days when the group began 20 years ago! Pencil and paper? What were they for? (Don't even get us started on the joys of carbon paper from the stone age!)

    Here's our appreciative audience. We hope that when we present on Sunday, April 13, our audience will be a little more active! Sign up for the NE-SCBWI conference here.