Monday, December 28, 2009

Mentor Monday: Keeping Track



At a recent meeting one we talked about (indeed, I think we committed to) "getting something in the mail" - a group New Year's Resolution, if you will, to submit or resubmit a manuscript (some of us have done nothing but Notable Women for a year now . . .). One member mentioned a manuscript she'd like to send out again, and that she couldn't remember where it had been in the past. This got me thinking about the tracking system I used when I was writing a lot of magazine articles on spec. . . .and that sent me in search of an article I wrote about said system. I offer it here, with some revision, for any writer who is thinking "this is the year I'm going to organize my marketing efforts!"

Your system can be a computerized spreadsheet, a card file, or a set of shoeboxes under the bed. One shoebox, section or worksheet is for ideas (this is in addition to and separate from the file folders, shoeboxes or ’74 Buick into which you toss clippings, pictures and notes that you might use someday). Here you capture those inspired thoughts that present themselves at the most inopportune moments. You hear a news story about a dog that rescues a child from an oncoming train while you’re driving the preschool carpool. “What a great story,” you think. “I could do a picture book about that.” But you’re working on a magazine article about using orange peels to clean carpets, and by the time it’s finished you’ve forgotten all about the hero dog idea. With the ideas file, you put some keyword about your idea at the top of the card (or in the first field of your record). Jot any useful information underneath (the date you heard the story would be a good clue). File it.

Some day when you can’t come up with anything to write about, pull out that ideas file and page through it. If one idea (or a combination) strikes a chord, start writing. And create a new card, for the manuscript section of your cardbox (or sheet in your spreadsheet file, or whatever). Include your working title, tracking number, or other identifier. Note the date you begin working on the story. When you finish the first draft, note the length. You may want to keep track of major revisions here as well (do you save revisions with distinctive names, so you can go back to them?) When you submit the manuscript, create a card or record for it in a section called "submissions."

Your submissions records will contain the name of the piece and its final word length. When you send it out, note here the market, editor’s name, and the date. If the piece is returned, note that date and any comments. If you revise it, make a note, and when you send it out again, record the new information. When it sells, note that, and add a line when it’s published. Reprints should get recorded here as well (may you need additional cards!)

The final section of your tracking system is the "markets" section. Set up a record for each market you send manuscripts to, so it cross-matches with the submissions records. The markets files contain detailed information on each publisher: what kinds of material they publish, what rights they buy as well as addresses. Note editors’ names and titles (and update them when they change jobs). If you meet an editor at a conference or a friend recommends one, make a note of that so you can mention it in a cover letter. Finally, as you submit to various markets, note the manuscript title (or tracking number) and the date here just as you note the market and date on the manuscript card. This will keep you from inadvertently submitting something new to an editor who is already sitting on one of your pieces. Purchases and publication information can be recorded here as well if you like, creating a history of sales to a particular market.

If you hear of a new publisher from a friend or discover a promising magazine in a waiting room, create a record for it and include as much information as you have about that market. Make up records for publishers you flag in your writer’s guides or other research. When you’re trying to decide where to send a returned manuscript or casting about for new fields to explore, paging through your markets file will remind you of this discovery.

One final bonus to this system: if you’re ever audited by the IRS, you’ll have documentation of your working writer status. Happy tracking!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Very Merry Poetry Friday!


Please check out the post below--it is a combined Women of Wednesday and Poetry Friday posting. There you'll find a delightful poem by Katharine Lee Bates about Mrs. Claus called, "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride." Enjoy!

Today's holiday Poetry Friday Round-Up is taking place at Book Aunt--be sure to visit!

Peace to all!

--Diane

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Women of Wednesday--The Woman of the Hour

This is, of course, Mrs. Claus. The poor woman has been keeping things going all year--getting Santa fed each morning, noon, and night (plus, finding the time to do the baking for all those cookie breaks), doing the laundry, constantly sweeping away bits of workshop sawdust, and still finding time to make the occasional public appearance. Tomorrow for a brief period of time she'll get a break while Santa flies off on his yearly adventure. Then it's back to the old schedule once again. The woman is a saint.

The author of "America the Beautiful," Katherine Lee Bates, wrote a long poem about Mrs. Claus in 1889. In it, Bates, writing in the persona of Mrs. C., outlines all the tasks that the poor woman (called Goody, short for "goodwife," Claus) does around the North Pole. Goody C. has Santa's number--does she ever! She teases him about his weight, calls him "your Saintship," and complains "wouldn't it be pleasant to surprise me with a present?" In fact, before the poem's done, she manages to sweet talk Santa into taking her along for a ride on Christmas eve. Not only that, she surpasses her "gentle sailor" in generosity by repairing a holey stocking and offering a poor poet "a fallen star to write by, and a music-box of rain." The woman IS A SAINT!
Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride

Santa, must I tease in vain, Dear? Let me go and hold the reindeer,
While you clamber down the chimneys. Don't look savage as a Turk!
Why should you have all the glory of the joyous Christmas story,
And poor little Goody Santa Claus have nothing but the work?

It would be so very cozy, you and I, all round and rosy,
Looking like two loving snowballs in our fuzzy Arctic furs,
Tucked in warm and snug together, whisking through the winter weather
Where the tinkle of the sleigh-bells is the only sound that stirs.

You just sit here and grow chubby off the goodies in my cubby
From December to December, till your white beard sweeps your knees;
For you must allow, my Goodman, that you're but a lazy woodman
And rely on me to foster all our fruitful Christmas trees.

While your Saintship waxes holy, year by year, and roly-poly,
Blessed by all the lads and lassies in the limits of the land,
While your toes at home you're toasting, then poor Goody must go posting
Out to plant and prune and garner, where our fir-tree forests stand.

Oh! but when the toil is sorest how I love our fir-tree forest,
Heart of light and heart of beauty in the Northland cold and dim,
All with gifts and candles laden to delight a boy or maiden,
And its dark-green branches ever murmuring the Christmas hymn!

Yet ask young Jack Frost, our neighbor, who but Goody has the labor,
Feeding roots with milk and honey that the bonbons may be sweet!
Who but Goody knows the reason why the playthings bloom in season
And the ripened toys and trinkets rattle gaily to her feet!

From the time the dollies budded, wiry-boned and saw-dust blooded,
With their waxen eyelids winking when the wind the tree-tops plied,
Have I rested for a minute, until now your pack has in it
All the bright, abundant harvest of the merry Christmastide?

Santa, wouldn't it be pleasant to surprise me with a present?
And this ride behind the reindeer is the boon your Goody begs;
Think how hard my extra work is, tending the Thanksgiving turkeys
And our flocks of rainbow chickens — those that lay the Easter eggs.

Home to womankind is suited? Nonsense, Goodman! Let our fruited
Orchards answer for the value of a woman out-of-doors.
Why then bid me chase the thunder, while the roof you're safely under,
All to fashion fire-crackers with the lighting in their cores?

See! I've fetched my snow-flake bonnet, with the sunrise ribbons on it;
I've not worn it since we fled from Fairyland our wedding day;
How we sped through iceberg porches with the Northern Lights for torches!
You were young and slender, Santa, and we had this very sleigh.

Jump in quick then? That's my bonny. Hey down derry! Nonny nonny!
While I tie your fur cap closer, I will kiss your ruddy chin.
I'm so pleased I fall to singing, just as sleigh-bells take to ringing!
Are the cloud-spun lap-robes ready? Tirra-lirra! Tuck me in.

Off across the starlight Norland, where no plant adorns the moorland
Save the ruby-berried holly and the frolic mistletoe!
Oh, but this is Christmas revel! Off across the frosted level
Where the reindeers' hoofs strike sparkles from the crispy, crackling snow!

There's the Man i' the Moon before us, bound to lead the Christmas chorus
With the music of the sky-waves rippling round his silver shell —
Glimmering boat that leans and tarries with the weight of dreams she carries
To the cots of happy children. Gentle sailor, steer her well!

Now we pass through dusky portals to the drowsy land of mortals;
Snow-enfolded, silent cities stretch about us dim and far.
Oh! how sound the world is sleeping, midnight watch no shepherd keeping,
Though an angel-face shines gladly down from every golden star.

Here's a roof. I'll hold the reindeer. I suppose this weather-vane, Dear,
Some one set here just on purpose for our teams to fasten to.
There's its gilded cock, — the gaby! — wants to crow and tell the baby
We are come. Be careful, Santa! Don't get smothered in the flue.

Back so soon? No chimney-swallow dives but where his mate can follow.
Bend your cold ear, Sweetheart Santa, down to catch my whisper faint:
Would it be so very shocking if your Goody filled a stocking
Just for once? Oh, dear! Forgive me. Frowns do not become a Saint.

I will peep in at the skylights, where the moon sheds tender twilights
Equally down silken chambers and down attics bare and bleak.
Let me show with hailstone candies these two dreaming boys — the dandies
In their frilled and fluted nighties, rosy cheek to rosy cheek!

What! No gift for this poor garret? Take a sunset sash and wear it
O'er the rags, my pale-faced lassie, till thy father smiles again.
He's a poet, but — oh, cruel! he has neither light nor fuel.
Here's a fallen star to write by, and a music-box of rain.

So our sprightly reindeer clamber, with their fairy sleigh of amber,
On from roof to roof , the woven shades of night about us drawn.
On from roof to roof we twinkle, all the silver bells a-tinkle,
Till blooms in yonder bless├Ęd East the rose of Christmas dawn.

Now the pack is fairly rifled, and poor Santa's well-nigh stifled;
Yet you would not let your Goody fill a single baby-sock;
Yes, I know the task takes brain, Dear. I can only hold the reindeer,
And so see me climb down chimney — it would give your nerves a shock.

Wait! There's yet a tiny fellow, smiling lips and curls so yellow
You would think a truant sunbeam played in them all night. He spins
Giant tops, a flies kites higher than the gold cathedral spire
In his creams — the orphan bairnie, trustful little Tatterkins.

Santa, don't pass by the urchin! Shake the pack, and deeply search in
All your pockets. There is always one toy more. I told you so.
Up again? Why, what's the trouble? On your eyelash winks the bubble
Mortals call a tear, I fancy. Holes in stocking, heel and toe?

Goodman, though your speech is crusty now and then there's nothing rusty
In your heart. A child's least sorrow makes your wet eyes glisten, too;
But I'll mend that sock so nearly it shall hold your gifts completely.
Take the reins and let me show you what a woman's wit can do.

Puff! I'm up again, my Deary, flushed a bit and somewhat weary,
With my wedding snow-flake bonnet worse for many a sooty knock;
But be glad you let me wheedle, since, an icicle for needle,
Threaded with the last pale moonbeam, I have darned the laddie's sock.

Then I tucked a paint-box in it ('twas no easy task to win it
From the Artist of the Autumn Leaves) and frost-fruits white and sweet,
With the toys your pocket misses — oh! and kisses upon kisses
To cherish safe from evil paths the motherless small feet.

Chirrup! chirrup! There's a patter of soft footsteps and a clatter
Of child voices. Speed it, reindeer, up the sparkling Arctic Hill!
Merry Christmas, little people! Joy-bells ring in every steeple,
And Goody's gladdest of the glad. I've had my own sweet will.


Happy holidays to everyone!
--Diane

Image from riptheskull

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mentor Monday--The National Archives


The U.S. government preserves our national heritage through the National Archives and Records Adminstration. People consult the NARA to do genealogical research or to check military records, but, the NARA is more than records of births, deaths, and years of service. It has a vast collection of photographs, maps, documents, etc., many of which are digitized and accessible from the ARC webpage. A great feature on the site is Today's Document, which displays an original historically significant document. Also included with the document may be a transcript, background information, suggestions for teachers, and research links.

The National Archives is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and there are thirteen regional Archives. I knew there was one about an hour's drive from me in Massachusetts, but I had never visited it until recently. I was impressed by my first visit, and I'm sure you will be, too. There is so much STUFF! Not only that, the people at the Northeast Region at Boston conduct workshops for educators.

I attended a workshop earlier this month on World War II. It was multi-faceted with an overview of World War II, a discussion of WW II books for elementary school students, and a talk by a writer of a children's book about WW II and how she used the National Archives in her research. We could have spent twice the two hours that had been allotted for the workshop. The best part? It was free! My tax dollars at work.

Northeast Region at Boston also schedules a variety genealogical workshops, including ones for kids!

We live in a great country! Take advantage of the opportunities afforded you by our government to learn.

--Diane

Photo NARA

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poetry Friday - Robert W. Service


It’s been bitterly cold the last two days, here in New Hampshire. And whenever it gets that cold, I find myself pulling out Robert W. Service and The Cremation of Sam McGee. Just reading it warms me up!

First, a little bit about Mr. Service, who spent a great deal of his life up in the Yukon during the Alaskan Gold Rush.

From his obituary in the, Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, September 16, 1958.

He was not a poet's poet. Fancy-Dan dilettantes will dispute the description "great." He was a people's poet. To the people he was great. They understood him, and knew that any verse carrying the by-line of Robert W. Service would be a lilting thing, clear, clean and power-packed, beating out a story with a dramatic intensity that made the nerves tingle. And he was no poor, garret-type poet, either. His stuff made money hand over fist. One piece alone,
The Shooting of Dan McGrew, rolled up half a million dollars for him. He lived it up well and also gave a great deal to help others.

Imagine that. A poet making half a million dollars. On one poem!

Personally, I like Sam McGee better than Dan McGrew.


















The Cremation of Sam McGee

by Robert W. Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that he'd "sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! Through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows -- O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May".
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-to-re-um."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared -- such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm --
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Photo: Beverly Bennett Dobbs

Today's Poetry Roundup is being held at Susan Writes

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mentor Monday - Evaluating Your Manuscript

Many moons ago when I was a sophomore in high school, I had the opportunity to take a creative writing class. It was the first time I had ever had any instruction on writing for publication. On the first day, we received a handout titled, ‘Evaluating Your Manuscript.'

The purpose of the handout was to help us learn how to evaluate what we wrote, and how to tell when our work was ready to submit. I’ve had this handout tacked up on many walls throughout all my years of writing. It has faded and been retyped several times, and it is the only piece of paper I have never lost or misplaced.

Perhaps it can help you, too. Just answer the questions. You don’t have to write them down. Just answer them in your head and check off the questions you couldn’t answer. If the answers come readily, you’re on the right track. If not, there’s probably some work you still need to do, and you’ll know exactly what you have to work on - the questions you couldn’t answer. Not every question will apply to your story. If you’re not writing fantasy or a character-driven story, those questions obviously won’t apply. But most of the questions will.


Plot

Who is the protagonist?
What are the conflicts?
Are they physical, intellectual, moral or emotional?
Are they clearly defined good and evil, or more subtle and complex?

Does the plot have unity?
Are all scenes relevant to the total meaning or effect of the story?
Do they grow logically from preceding incidents and lead naturally to the next?
Is the ending happy, unhappy, or undetermined?
Is it achieved fairly?

Have you used chance and coincidence?
Do they initiate, complicate, or resolve the story?
How improbable are they?

How have you created suspense?
Is the interest in “what happens next” or are larger concerns involved?
Is there mystery? Dilemma?

What use does the story make of surprise?
Are surprises achieved fairly?
Do they serve a significant purpose? Or --
Do they divert attention away from weaknesses in the story?


Characters

How have you revealed character?
Are your characters sufficiently dramatized?
What use is made of contrasting characters?
Are your characters consistent in their actions?
Are they adequately motivated?
Are they believable?

Have you avoided stock characters?
Is each character developed enough to justify his role in the story?
Which characters are developing characters?
Are their changes large or small?
Are they believable changes?
Are they sufficiently motivated?
Has there been sufficient time for the change to occur?


Theme

Does the story have one?
What is it, in one sentence or less?
Is it implicit or explicit?
Does the theme reinforce or oppose popular beliefs?
Does it furnish new insights, or refresh or deepen old ones?


Point of View

Which POV have you used?
If shifts are made, are they justified?
What is the advantage of the POV you have chosen?
Does it furnish any clues to the purpose of the story?
Does the character’s POV have any limitations that affect his interpretation of events and people?
Does the chosen POV help to conceal or reveal events in the story?
Have you withheld any information known to your POV character?


Symbolism and Irony

Does your story make use of symbolism?
Do symbols carry the story or reinforce its meaning?
Does the story use irony?
Is it situational, dramatic, or verbal?
What function does the irony serve?


Emotion and Humor

Does the story aim for an emotional effect, or is emotion the by-product?
Is the emotion sufficiently dramatized?
Are you guilty of sentimentality?


Fantasy

Does the story use fantasy?
What is your initial fantastical assumption?
Does the story operate logically from that assumption?
Is the fantasy used for its own sake or to express some human truth?
If some truth, what is that truth?


General

Is the main interest of the story plot, character, theme or something else?
What contribution does the setting make?
Is the setting essential, or could your story happen anywhere?
What is your style?
Is it appropriate for this particular story?
Do all elements of the story work together to support a central purpose?
Is any part irrelevant?
What is the story’s central purpose?
Is it escapist or interpretive fiction?
How significant is the story’s purpose?
Does the story gain or lose upon a second reading?


That’s it! There are no right or wrong answers. The questions simply help you understand the story you want to tell, and to determine if you have actually written it. You can use them before you write to help determine if your idea is strong enough to merit a story. You can use them as you write and revise to keep you on track. And you can use them when you’ve finished to see if you’ve covered all the bases. Give it a try and see if it works for you!




Saturday, December 12, 2009

Poetry Friday: Mea Culpa

It's Saturday. I awaken to a clean slate day. I've no plans until late this afternoon, and a lazy Saturday is just what I need after the craziness that was Friday. Friday was one of those days that didn't include breathing. There was just no room for it.

The day started with a fasting blood draw at 7:40 a.m. in Raymond, followed by a mad dash back to Epping where I spent the rest of the morning teaching. As soon as school was over, I jumped in my Alien Green Kia Soul and drove to Waltham. Grace's Christmas Party is coming up at Fernald and I needed to deliver her presents. I'd run to Walmart the night before and bought Gracie a turquoise velour jogging suit, a long-sleeve black t-shirt, a set of silver bangle bracelets, and a bright yellow smiley-face Mr. Happy pillow. They were all wrapped up in Christmas paper emblazoned with a pattern of Santas holding puppies, and Gracie nearly hyperventilated when she saw the presents.

Gracie and I and some of her pals hung out for an hour or so. We sang Chrismtas songs, and also a few of Gracie's favorites from her childhood, which ended in 1927 when she went to live at The Walter Fernald School at age 6. I kissed one-eyed Gracie goodbye, wished her Merry Christmas, and made the melancholy drive back to Epping.

I needed to get my school straightened up for the parent conference I had scheduled for 5 p.m. The conference lasted until about 6:15, after which I ran out the door and over to The Rockingham County Nursing Home to see my mother. This was the first Christmas she hadn't been able to visit her sister Grace herself, and she wanted to hear how things were going for Gracie down at Fernald.

I drove through McDonald's, picked up a fish sandwich for Eileen and a burger for myself, and enjoyed a quiet dinner with Mom. I stayed until the staff started bedding down the Rockettes, and was happy for the blessed quiet when I got home. Usually, I'd check my email, but that could wait.

And so here I am. The quiet of my Saturday shattered by my own screams when I realized I missed Poetry Friday. I missed Poetry Friday! And my good friend and sistah Diane hosted! Oh, the shame! Oh, the guilt!  Mea maxima culpa.

And so, I offer for Poetry Friday (a day late) Mea Culpa by Brittany's eco warrior, environmental poet Anjela Duval, translated by Lenora Timm. This poem could have been written for so many of New Hampshire's small communities which are falling prey to big development. (Going to both McDonald's and Walmart in little Epping would have been beyond imagining 20 years ago.)  This week, the first four words were written for me.

MEA CULPA

-- How stupid you are, people
Throwing stones at their signs
They have the right to stop you from passing
Through the city where they are
They have bought
They have paid
They have rebuilt ruins
That collapsed thirty years ago
Through the indifference of our Countrymen
Who go to town to buy a plot
-- A hundred thousand francs per square meter --
After they've sold their mills
Or their farms to the Foreigner
For a mere trifling
You're stupid, people
Beating stones against their signs
Beat instead your own breasts.

This week's Poetry Friday is being hosted by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Mentor Monday: Why It Works

Don and Audrey Wood have created some of my all-time favorite picture books. Their 1986 Caldecott Honor Book King Bidgood's in the Bathtub is, in my opinion, close to picture book perfection. I've been reading this story to my students for 20+ years and it never fails to delight. It has all the elements necessary to capture and keep a preschooler's attention.

Visually, it's stunning. The costumes are lavishly detailed, and the medieval setting rings completely true. The characters' facial expressions and body language leave no doubt as to what's going on in the story. It could almost be a wordless picture book, but I wouldn't lose one syllable of text.

Audrey Wood knows how to tell a story that preschoolers want to hear. She knows that this young audience needs a storyline that can be summed up in one short sentence, like this: King Bidgood's in the bathtub and he won't get out. The scene is set for the hapless little page, who has to haul the water and mop up the mess. He looks to the adults in the book for help. "King Bidgood's in the bathtub and he won't get out! Oh, who knows what to do?"

The queen, duke, knight and the rest of the king's court are all sure they can coax Bidgood out of the tub, but of course they can't. They can't because Audrey Wood knows Rule Number One of picture book writing. If you're going to have a child hero, that child hero must solve his or her own problem. So the page is left to deal with Bidgood, who proves that it really is good to be king as he battles with his toys in the tub, eats lunch in the tub, fishes in the tub, and holds a masquerade ball in the tub.

Finally, with the king's court dripping wet and calling for help, the page takes matters into his own capable hands and pulls the plug. The problem is solved by the child hero, and the king is left fleeing the draining tub wrapped in a towel that reveals just a hint of royal behind.

Do Don and Audrey Wood know their audience, or what?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Poetry Friday--Winter Friends


I know winter doesn't officially arrive for another few weeks, but last year, at about this time, we had an ice storm that left us without power for several days. Afterward, it was beautiful, but sooooo inconvenient.

In looking forward to what Mother Nature has in store for us this year, I borrowed Winter Friends (Doubleday, 2005) by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata, from my public library.

Winter has never looked as bright as it does in these eighteen illustrated poems. The poems cover all the usual winter topics--snow, snow angels, and sledding, as well some not so usual winter topics, like a mother's whistling, or a party.



Sadly, this book is listed as "permanently out of stock," but it is available in many public libraries, so look for it and get ready for winter!

This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up is being hosted by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader. Be sure to stop by!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Women of Wednesday--Nearly 90 Years Later

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had been passed in August and the November elections of 1920 would be the first in which women could legally vote.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Below is a cartoon that was published in October 1920.



There are an additional 7 steps to the top rung--the U.S. Presidency. Here we are, nearly 90 years later, and we have yet to make it to the top. Just a little something to think about as we head into 2010.

--Diane