Saturday, May 18, 2013
9:00 am to 1:00 pm
Scholastic Book Fair Sale
Scholastic Book Fair Warehouse
2089 Corporate 44 Drive, Fenton, MO 63026
Scholastic Book Fair Warehouse Sale
Scholastic Book Fair Warehouse Sale
November 2, 2013
Missouri SCBWI Fall Conference
Breakout: Writing the Picture Book
with Nancy Polette
MO SCBWI Fall Conference
MO SCBWI Fall Conference for Children's Writers & Illustrators
Read a book, Dr. Seuss style!
Peggy with children's author Karen Guccione-Englert at the MK Library Local Authors Open House in O'Fallon, MO
Book signing at Indianapolis Fairgrounds, with Mary Igras
Author Visit to Immaculate Conception School (ICD) April 2012
ICD library staff
Edison Elementary School Hammond IN
Lincoln Elementary School Hammond IN
Beta Delta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, Hammond IN
Heather Alexander, editor at Dial Books for Young Readers
Quinlan Lee, agent, Adams Literary Agency
Suzanne Morgan Williams, author of BULL RIDER
Kids Ink Independent Children's Bookstore, downtown Indianapolis
Shirley Mullin, bookstore owner, with children's authors Janna Mathies, Peggy, and Nathan Clement
Thank You cards from Holy Family School in South Bend
Fieler Elementary students
Ms Hanneman's class at Northview Elementary
In the classroom at Northview Elementary School
Talking to students at Northview Elementary
Working together to create a poem in Starke County
Talking with students at Starke County
Author Judy Roth and students at the Starke County Young Artists Day
Booksigning at B&N Bookfair
Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast, with author and keynote speaker Tim Green
friendly staff at The Bookstore
Author Book Signing
Butler University Chorus entertains with Christmas Carols
Turkey for Thanksgiving?
Stuffee and the author
November: Picture Book Idea Month
Author Panel: the Road to Publishing--Kathryn Page Camp moderating
Kate Collins: adult trade publishing, mysteries
Peggy Archer: children's trade publishing, picture books
Katherine Flotz: self-publishing, memoir
Michael Poore: adult trade publishing, fiction
Cynthia Echterling: e-publishing & small press, science fiction
Author visit to Portage Public Library, October 23rd
Esther Hershenhorn talks about the Reader's story and the Writer's story
Esther shares resources, experience, and opportunities
Trish Batey, Indiana RA
Yellow paper on your back gave a hint of 'What author are you?' for the day
Peggy Archer gives an overview of the 2010 SCBWI conference in LA
Karen Kulinski gives an update on Indiana's HoosierLinks
Janna Mathies at the piano sings "Why It Matters" by Sara Groves
IN SCBWI steering committee with Trish: (L to R) Karen Kulinski, HoosierLinks, Kristi Valiant, Website Coordinator, Alina Klein, Listserv Coordinator, Peggy, ARA (not pictured: Sharon Vargo, Illustrator Coordinator)
New Regional Advisor, Kristi Valiant, talks about plans for 2011
Indiana SCBWI: Outgoing RA Trish Batey, ARA Peggy Archer, Incoming RA Kristi Valiant
Visiting with author/illustrator Nathan Clement and son Theo at the ROAR author event
Autographing for a young reader
Story Time at ROAR's (Reach Out and Read) Evening With the Authors Event in Indianapolis
Reading to young bankers at Citizens Financial Bank in Valparaiso
Some of the crowd at the SCBWI conference in LA
Ashley Bryan, Golden Kite winner for Nonfiction
with Keynote speaker and Golden Kite winner, Marion Dane Bauer
Illustrator and Keynote speaker, Loren Long
E.B. Lewis, Keynote speaker
with Keynote speaker, Gennifer Choldenke
Keynote speaker, Gordon Korman
Chris Cheng, Australia RA and SCBWI Member of the Year
Kris Vreeland, Independent Bookstore manager, Vroman's Bookstore
Eva Mitnick, LA librarian and reviewer for SLJ
Greg Pinkus and Alice Pope on networking
with Lin Oliver, co-founder of SCBWI
Steve Mooser, co-founder of SCBWI, with Sally Crock RAE
Indiana SCBWI members Mary Jo, Shannon, and Peggy celebrate in LA with Heart and Soul.
East and Midwest members celebrate at the Golden Kite Luncheon in LA--Peggy, Courtney, Julia and Mary Jo.
Peggy with Alice and Lisa, co-RAs from IL--friends and roommates
Linda V., formerly of Indiana, with her 'dog-in-training,' Dusty.
Anyone for Literary Bingo?
This is the cornfield just down the street from my house on July 13th. That's me with the boot on my foot again!
Local Authors Day, Valparaiso B&N
Welcome to the Young Artists Fair in Plainfield, IN
Signing books at Van Buren Elementary School in Plainfield, IN
Happy Birthday, Name That Dog!
Little reader loving that dog book!
Celebrating the Book Launch!
Doggy treats at the book launch party
With Jocelyn at the Porter County Expo Center for the Be Kind to Animals Celebration
Speaking to readers and writers at the LaPorte County Public Library in April
Our new grandpuppy, Dudley!
The new Mr. and Mrs. Biggs!
Trish Batey, Indiana SCBWI RA, Stephen Roxburg, Lisa Graff, Helen Frost, Peggy Archer, Indiana SCBWI ARA
Stephen Roxburg, Publisher of namelos, talked about writing the YA novel, the current state of publishing, and his new company, namelos
Lisa Graff, Middle Grade author, talks about writing the middle grade novel and the Slush Pile
Lisa autographs books with a smile
Introducing Helen Frost, YA author and poet
Question and Answer panel--Lisa, Stephen, and Helen
Registration, getting to know you
Schmoozing with other writers
Trish with author, Valiska Gregory
Books for sale--writers can never have too many!
Taking it all in.
Afternoon Tea with the author in Mitchell
Alexis talks about storytime for the very young
My little corner--I love when students come up to talk.
HOW many dogs do you have?!
Authors of the day
Keynote address: Growing an Author with Peggy Archer
Making a book with Katie Mitschelen
Research--detective work, with Peggy Miller
Crafting a poem with Mary Ann Moore
Becoming an artist with Edwin Shelton
Music with the Band
One small hand holding onto another
Name That Dog! Sharing F&G's and write-up in Dial's catalog with group.
Writers Christmas lunch and meeting in Michigan City
Meeting up with Esther and Karen in Chicago
Name That Dog! ISBN: 978-0-8037-3322-0
Writing friends from the beginning!
Drawing a turkey at Hussey-Mayfield Public Library-- Zionsville, IN
Autographs at Hussey-Mayfield Library, Zionsville
"Who likes to eat turkey at Thanksgiving?" --Morton Elementary School, Hammond, IN
Thank you cards from Morton Elementary students
Reading to my grandson's pre-school class at Zion Lutheran School-- Bethalto, IL
Family Book Basket
Courtney Bongiolatti, Editor S&S
Laurent Linn, Art Director S&S
Terry Harshman, Editor CBHI
Author-Illustrators, Kristi Valiant and Sharon Vargo
Kristi Valiant, IN-SCBWI logo winner
Our volunteer crew (minus a few)
author Katie Mitschelen and Peggy enjoying the conference
Janine Harrison, opening remarks
Sharon Palmeri, President IWC and speaker
Kathryn Page Camp speaks on Taxes for Writers
Kate Collins, mystery book author and Keynote speaker
Gordon Stamper, secretary IWC
Peggy, Sally, and Karen--writing friends enjoying the dinner event together
Autographs with a smile :)
Smokies in the morning
Smile and say 'author'!
Ready to start!
Sara Grant, Editor, Working Partners
One on one with Sara
Author and Editor...
Getting to know you...
Sharing thoughts... connecting
Our Kentucky friends...
Trish, RA, Peggy, ARA, Christi and Alina, steering committee members
Picture book author, April Pulley Sayre, speaking in South Bend.
Esther and Heidi
Esther with Steve and Sally from National SCBWI
Heidi and Peggy, friends and poets
We came from Indiana...
...from California and Iowa
and enjoyed the friendships.
Peggy, Karen & Esther--connecting once again.
Critique group gathering at Peggy Miller's house. Karen, Fred, Mary Ann, Katie, Judy, & the two Peggy's in front.
Our daughter, Sarah & our son, Dan both sang original songs at the Porter County Fair in the Colgate Country Showdown.
From Fort Wayne to Whiting, we gathered to talk & gain some bit of insight into the world of creating children's books.
Enjoying the company of other children's writers & illustrators.
Meeting other children's writers.
Smiles were free.
Peggy Archer talks about trade publishers.
Judy Roth talks about working with a small publisher.
Karen Kulinski talks about working with an agent.
Karen fielding questions.
Peggy with the Cat in the Hat
Katie and the Cat in the Hat
I won a collection of autographed books from the IL SCBWI (Society of Children's Writers & llustrators) booth at ALA for the Valparaiso Public Library. An awesome prize! Thank you IL SCBWI!
Peggy, presenting books won at ALA to Connie Sullivan, Branch Manager and Leslie Cefali, Youth Services Assistant, Valparaiso Public Library.
May 15, 2013
This week, May 13-19, 2013, is Children’s Book Week
. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes -- wherever young readers and books connect! To learn more, visit the Children’s Book Council
Children's Book Week originated in the belief that children's books and literacy are life-changers. In 1913, Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, proposed creating a Children's Book Week, which would be supported by all interested groups: publishers, booksellers, and librarians. children’s Book Week was established in 1919 and is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country.
With the end of the school year coming very close, it’s also time to start thinking about how to keep kids reading during the summer. Here are some ideas to get kids excited about summer reading.
--Libraries across the country are sponsoring summer reading programs
. Get the kids to your local library to sign up! Libraries offer different kinds of incentives for kids who read during the summer, from prizes for books read each week to story times, field trips or author visits. Many libraries also offer reading programs for adults which coincides with the children’s program. Kids learn from the example of adults, so make summer reading a family affair and sign up!
--Set a special time for reading each day
. Read in the middle of the day for some downtime, or for a set time before bed. Let them choose which books to read. Read out loud to younger children. If you have an older child whose interest is beyond their reading level, choose appropriate books and read out loud to them, too. It gives them motivation to read those books, and others, on their own.
--Choose a different location to read
. Make a special reading corner in your house. Set up a backyard tent, or go to a park. Combine reading with a picnic. If the weather’s not cooperative, set up your ‘outdoor’ setting indoors.
--Do an activity that goes along with the book
. If your story has characters roasting hot dogs over a campfire, make a campfire and roast hot dogs. If your book is set in Mexico, play some Mexican music or try some Mexican food. If it’s a book about cowboys or pirates, dress the part. If your book features a beautiful sunrise, get up early and watch the sun rise. Color a picture or do a craft that fits the theme of your book. If your book has an elephant in it, go to the zoo to see the elephants.
--Have your young readers use their creative juices to write a different ending to the book
. With my picture book, Turkey Surprise, I sometimes ask kids to think about how the story might change if the little pilgrim brother just refused to hunt for a turkey. Would the big brother go on the hunt alone? How would that change the story? Or what if the brothers went on the hunt together and caught the turkey? How would the turkey get out of becoming Thanksgiving dinner?
There are more great ideas and resources to be found online. Check out Reading Rockets
, or the KPIRC website
Whatever you do this summer, be sure to make reading part of it!
May 7, 2013
When writing for children we are cautioned to keep the parents out, or on the perimeters. But what about picture books?
The spectrum of picture books covers a wide age group. Mothers are usually the most important figure in a young child’s life, and so it’s not surprising that they play a big part in stories for very young children. But as the child becomes older and begins to take on some independence, the mother in picture books becomes less prominent. Still, they need to be present at times to provide reassurance, guidance, protection or for other various reasons.
With Mother’s Day coming close, I thought I would share some picture books about mothers or that have mothers in them.
MY MOTHER IS MINE by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Peter Elwell, Simon & Schuster 2001.
Told in first person from the viewpoint of a child, this book is told in rhyme. It begins: “My mother is soft./ My mother is strong./ My mother watches me/ long and long.” Soft illustrations match the gentle text. Written for ages 1 to 5, this book is all about mothers and things that make them special to their children.
LLAMA LLAMA HOME WITH MAMA, written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney, Viking 2011.
This is another picture book told in rhyme, which makes it appealing to young children and helps develop language. It begins “Llama Llama, morning light./ Feeling yucky, just not right.” Mama is very present in the illustrations, giving comfort to little llama who is sick and stays home from school. In the scenes where Mama is not there, you know that she is near-by, which is reassuring to readers. A twist at the end puts little llama in charge, doing things that she learns from her own mother’s actions.
BEDTIME FOR MOMMY by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Bloomsbury 2010.
This is a twist on bedtime, with the child getting mommy off to bed instead of the other way around. “Time for bed, Mommy! (the little girl says). Five more minutes? (says Mommy). Okay—five minutes, but that’s it.” And so on, until Mommy is finally tucked into bed. Mother is still a big part of the story, but the child is now in charge, and imitates what she’s learned from her mother.
MUD PUDDLE by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sami Suomalainen, Annick Press 1982/1985.
In this book the main character, Julie Ann, is most prominent. She solves the problem without any help from her mother. Her mother is in the story only as necessary. “Mummy, Mummy! A Mud Puddle jumped on me.” (says Julie Ann). “Her mother picked her up…She washed out her ears. She washed out her eyes. She even washed out her mouth.” In this story, Julie Ann, and the readers, know that her mother will be there if she needs her. Her mother does not scold Julie Ann for getting muddy. In fact, there is no dialogue at all for her mother. She only enters the story at Julie Ann’s calling.
TESSA’S TIP-TAPPING TOES by Carolyn Crimi, illustrated by Marsha Gray Carrington, Orchard Books 2002.
Tessa, a mouse, prefers to dance in Mrs. Timboni’s kitchen at night instead of joining in while her family raids it for crumbs. Mrs. Timboni has a new cat, Oscar, who loves to sing. “As soon as Tessa’s mother heard Oscar’s crooning, she worried that the new cat would catch her dancing daughter.” And on the next page, “Mrs. Timboni worried that (the neighbors) would ask her to get rid of her chorusing kitty.” What happens when Tessa and Oscar meet in the kitchen one night changes everything. The reader, of course, knows that mice and cats are not good company, and will worry along with the mothers, about Tessa and Oscar. In this funny book the mothers provide the tension by pointing out danger and trouble that could result from their children’s actions. But the story is driven by Tessa and Oscar. And the twist at the end will have readers dancing and singing along.
A MOTHER FOR CHOCO, written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza, G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1992.
This is one of my favorite books about mothers. To me, this was a book about adoption, but it is for stepmothers or foster parents as well. It begins “Choco was a little bird, who lived all alone. He wished he had a mother, but who could his mother be? One day he set off to find her.” A lovely story about all kinds of mothers, and about acceptance of those with differences.
Here are a few books that include grandmothers as well.
OFF WE GO! by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Laurel Molk, Little, Brown & Company 2000.
“Tip-toe, tippity toe,/ Over the leaves and down below,/ Off to Grandma’s house we go,/ Sings Little Mouse.” In this book, told in verse, young animals leave their homes to go to Grandma’s house. Mothers are absent in the story, but the reader is caught in the excitement of going to Grandma’s house, which makes them feel safe and loved.
DOWN IN THE WOODS AT SLEEPYTIME by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Vanessa Cabban, Candlewick Press 2000.
Deep in the woods a mama bear, a mama hedgehog, a mama rabbit and a mama toad call out, “It’s sleepytime” to their little ones, who are not quite ready to settle down. Then “Deep down in the woods/ on her branch above them all/ wise Grandma Owl hoots,/ “Whoo-hoo!/ It’s storytime.” As a board book this has all the elements of a good story.
CHERRY PIES AND LULLABIES, written and illustrated by Lynn Reiser, Greenwillow Books 1998.
This is a collection of four stories, each showing something that is done in the childhood times of great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and child. And “Every time/ it was the same/ but different.” A lovely story, bringing generations together. Much is shown in the illustrations.
This is only a taste of the many wonderful picture books showcasing mothers.
Wishing all the mothers out there a fantastic Mother’s Day! May you be blessed with attention from your children during the day, and have time to relax at the end of the day.
April 30, 2013
And the Winners Are…!
Today is the final day of National Poetry Month 2013!
Special thanks to Heidi Bee Roemer
, Amy Sklansky
, Judith L. Roth
, and Donna M. Bateman
for your enthusiastic responses to my interview questions! I’ll be looking out for what comes next from them. Click on the names or scroll down to earlier posts this month to read the interviews with these children’s authors and poets.
I have enjoyed blogging about poetry all month! I give lots of credit to those bloggers who post more than once a week. For me it meant extra time at the computer—reading, writing and researching. All of which I love, but it also meant less time for actual writing for children, and other things. I’m planning to be back here once a week, or as close to it as I can get!
And now it’s time for the drawing for my picture books, NAME THAT DOG! and FROM DAWN TO DREAMS. With the help of my long-time friend and writing buddy, Karen Kulinski, here are the winners!
NAME THAT DOG!—Judith Aldape
FROM DAWN TO DREAMS—Cynthia
Congratulations! I will be contacting the winners for instructions of where to send the books.
Thanks to my friend, Judy Roth
, for interviewing me on her blog this month.
And thanks to all the readers who joined me here this month, those who left comments and those who just came to read! I’ll be back in May—hope to see you then!
April 28, 2013
April is National Poetry Month. It’s also National Autism Awareness Month
To tie the two together, I wanted to write a poem about autism. I found that it was not so easy!
Like many other things, there are different levels of autism. I got this definition from the Autism Society
is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.”
is viewed by many to be a milder form of autism. “To the untrained observer, a child with Asperger's Disorder may just seem like a normal child behaving differently.”
I found a few good books for children about autism in our local library.
HOW TO TALK TO AN AUTISTIC KID
, written by
(an autistic kid), illustrated by Hazell Mitchell, Free Spirit Publishing 2011.
Daniel was diagnosed with autism at age nine. He wrote this book at age 14, with some help from his mother. This is an excellent book that helps kids understand autism, and helps them to interact with kids who have it.
Daniel is a friend of mine. He has done many book signings. He talked with me about his book, and he answered my questions through e-mail. You can read my interview with Daniel
in my blog post dated June 9, 2011. Click on June 2011 in my archives on the left side of the page here.
MY BROTHER CHARLIE
, by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Scholastic Press 2010.
This is the story of Charlie, told from his sister’s point of view. It’s also the story of a family who learns from Charlie about togetherness, hope, tolerance, and love.
, by Charles A. Amenta III, illustrated by Monika Pollak, Magination Press 2011.
This book gives readers an inside look at a boy with autism and his family. Kids can read about what Russell and his family experience together, including the challenges that can come with autism. Back matter includes a note to parents, how to find services and treatment, how to use this book, and a page about Russell and his family.
Each of these books shows a child with autism at a different level, which I also found interesting.
It’s now been two years since Daniel wrote his book on how to talk to an autistic kid. Mary Stefanski, Daniel’s mother, was recently a guest blogger on Free Spirit Publishing’s blog
. Click here
to read her blog post, Social Skills Classes Help Autistic Kids
Near the end of the post is a link to the blog, Autism Speaks
, and a post by Matthew Lerner about autism and Promoting Teen Social Skills
I did write a poem about autism. It will probably be one of those poems that will take me six months or more to get it right! I figured that the next best thing to writing a poem of my own, would be to share some poems written by others. Click here
to go to Child Autism Parent Cafe where you can read some poems about autism.
Happy Poetry/Autism month!
April 25, 2013
What works and what doesn’t work when writing a picture book in verse?
When researching on line for information about writing picture books in verse, I came across several very good articles. The three that I chose to highlight were posted by a children’s author, a children’s author/illustrator, and an independent publishing company.
To get the complete picture, you’ll need to click on the links to read the full articles. But here is a sampling of some reasons for rejection that I plucked from their articles.
--Common rhyme schemes can be stale
--Forced rhyme or near-rhyme can ruin a story
--The meter (or beat) is not spot-on
--Awkward word order for the sake of rhyme
--The rhymes don’t make sense
--The story doesn’t stand on its own without the rhymes; there should be a real story
--Rhyming books are difficult to translate into other languages
In her blog post, Why Do Editors Say Not to Write in Rhyme
, children’s author Tara Lazar
tells us “It’s not that editors don’t necessarily LIKE rhyme. It’s just that it is very difficult to do well.” She gives some reasons why editors reject rhyming picture books.
For some great insight into writing rhyming picture books, visit Tara’s blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
, and read her complete article, which also includes examples from successful picture books in rhyme.
In an article posted on her website, PJ Lyons
gives readers some “parameters by which to judge picture book texts that tell a story in verse.” Lyons says, “Poetry is like music. You write it with a conscious ear to its sound, and use the tools of analysis if something doesn’t work to assess why.” Some of the points she makes apply to writing poetry as well.
Read the article on her website, Writing in Rhyme
, to learn more about her paremeters for writing picture books in rhyme.
is an independent company, which publishes children’s books and apps, and has published children’s books in rhyme. On their website, Kate tells us three things that editors look for in rhyming texts.
Read the complete article for an editor’s inside look at rhyming picture books at A View From the Crow’s Nest
Some other great web resources on rhyming picture books are:
from CBI: The Fighting Bookworms, by Laura Backes
Writing in Rhyme
from Margot Finke on Harold Underdown's website
How to Write a Picture Book with Fabulous "R & M"
from Tracy Preston Cook
Rhyme = Rejection Letter? Rhyming Children’s Picture Books
from Tamsom Weston Books
Rhyming Picture Books Aren’t So Scary
In her picture books about nature, Donna Bateman
’s rhythm and rhyme add so much to the book (See an interview with Donna in my previous post)! Here are some other rhyming picture books that I enjoyed:
GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE
, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Chronicle Books LLC 2011.
First line: “Down in the big construction site,/ The tough trucks work with all their might…”
At sunset, when their work is done for the day, a crane truck, a cement mixer, and other pieces of construction equipment make their way to their resting places and go to sleep.
BEAR SNORES ON
, by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman, Margaret K. McElderry Books 2002.
First line: “In a cave in the woods,/ in his deep, dark lair,/ through the long, cold winter/ sleeps a great brown bear.”
On a cold winter night many animals gather to party in the cave of a sleeping bear, who then awakes and protests that he has missed the food and the fun.
HUSH! A Thai Lullaby
, by Minfong Ho, illustrated by Holly Meade, Orchard Books 1996.
First lines: “Hush! Who’s that weeping in the wind? Wee-wee, Wee-wee,/ A small mosquito.”
A lullaby which asks animals such as a lizard, monkey, and water buffalo to be quiet and not disturb the sleeping baby.
THIS LITTLE CHICK
, written and illustrated by John Lawrence, Candlewick Press 2002.
First line: “This little chick from over the way/ went to play with the pigs one day./ And what do you think they heard him say?”
A little chick shows that he can make the sounds of the animals in his neighborhood.
BINK AND SLINKY’S ARK ADVENTURE
, is a new picture book written by my friend, Donna Arlynn Frisinger
, and illustrated by Monica Gutierrez, Standard Publishing 2013.
First line: “What is this strange message two groovy snails found/ at the Garden of Chewies, in slime on the ground?”
Two small snails overcome obstacles and, with the help of others along the way, find their way to the ark before it’s too late.
If you have a favorite picture book in rhyme, feel free to let us know in your comments here!
April 22, 2013
Children’s author Donna M. Bateman
’s rhyming text combines with interesting facts to create wonderful non-fiction for children. Her first book, Deep in the Swamp, won the Southern Independent Book Alliance award. Out on the Prairie is her second picture book published by Charlesbridge, and is a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. Donna is a former high school language teacher. She lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two children.
Welcome, Donna! I’m so happy to talk to you here during Poetry Month.
I love the language in your books, as well as your rhythm and rhyme. Are there any books or authors that have influenced your writing?
A: My two favorite rhyming writers are Lisa Wheeler and Karma Wilson. Both are so clever in their use of language and rhyme, with stories that surprise and delight.
Favorite rhyming picture books are The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman and The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. Another favorite book, non-rhyming, is Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root—so fun to read aloud with an appropriate hillbilly accent. I have many other favorites among the 200 or so picture books that I own.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book, Out on the Prairie? What was the inspiration for writing this book?
A: After the success of Deep in the Swamp, which earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly, teachers were asking for more books in the same format. After considering possible biomes, I chose the prairie as one that interested me. Missouri is a prairie state, although there is not much prairie left. As with SWAMP, I chose a specific setting. SWAMP is set in the Okefenokee Swamp and PRAIRIE is set in the badlands of South Dakota. Both books include a variety of animal types—mammals, birds, reptiles, even a grasshopper and a crayfish!
I know that you don’t consider your text poetry, but rather a story in verse. What do you feel is the difference between poetry and a story in verse? Which for you is more difficult to write?
A: For me, poetry is more about evoking a feeling, usually in shorthand rather than coming right out and saying “you should feel happy now,” or “you should feel angry now.” And although we tend to expect poems to rhyme, prose poems are also possible. A rhyming story has all the requirements of any other good story. The rhyming component just makes it a little more difficult to write, but I have found that some of my stories cry out for rhyme, while others definitely need to be written in prose. I have written a few poems, rhyming and otherwise, but poetry is not my forte.
Your books are counting books about nature and animals. The last sections in your books give interesting facts about the animals and plant life in your books. What kind of research do you do before writing your books?
A: For Deep in the Swamp I did book research and online research. I also contacted experts, including at the St. Louis Zoo, for answers to specific questions. In addition to turning to books, online information and experts in my research for Out on the Prairie, I was able to visit the Badlands of South Dakota to experience the prairie first hand. I was so excited to actually see four of the animals included in my book—bison, pronghorn, prairie dogs and a Western Meadowlark.
How awesome to be able to see first-hand where your book takes place! Do you have any input on the illustrations for your books?
A: No, the editor and art director choose the illustrator. I do see the art at various stages and can point out any mistakes based on my research, although the illustrators do their own research so they know what the animals and plants look like.
The illustrations for both of your books compliment the text very well, but they have very different styles. What do you feel the illustrators have brought to your stories?
A: The art definitely gives the book shelf appeal. The books would be less appealing without the beautiful illustrations to complement the text. My editor wanted the illustrations to be realistic yet whimsical. I think both illustrators—Brian Lies (SWAMP) and Susan Swan (PRAIRIE)--succeeded wonderfully!
Your first two books are non-fiction for children. Do you have any interest in writing fiction for children? What about writing for adults?
A: Actually, SWAMP and PRAIRIE are my only non-fiction works. I have well over a dozen other picture book stories on my computer, all of which are fiction.
When I first conceived of Deep in the Swamp, it didn't occur to me that the story would be non-fiction. I had read the original rhyme, Over in the Meadow, to my children and I thought it would be interesting to write a similar rhyme set in a specific biome. I chose the swamp as an interesting setting for my rhyme. Of course, I was not satisfied with just writing a rhyme willy-nilly, as it were. For me, everything had to be true and correct—each animal mother must have an appropriate number of babies, each animal must behave appropriately for the time of day (both books show a story arc starting in the morning, through the afternoon, and into the evening/night), the setting must show plants that are found in each area of the swamp or prairie. Once I decided to add the back matter to SWAMP—flora and fauna facts—it dawned on me that I had written a rhyming, non-fiction picture book.
I have no desire to write for adults. I seldom even read adult fiction. Middle grade and young adult novels are so wonderfully written, so cleverly conceived, so rich, that whenever I read adult novels, I find myself comparing them unfavorably to the children's literature I read.
When my children were small, I read a plethora of picture books to them and fell in love with the genre. In the writing world, picture books are my first love. Perhaps I'll try to pen a novel for children or teens at some point, but my brain is so geared toward picture books that I'm sure I would find it quite difficult.
What current projects are you working on now?
A: I am currently working on a story about a short Sasquatch.
Where do you turn for writing instruction and inspiration?
A: I have quite a few “how to write for children” books that I'll turn to from time to time for instruction. Of course for specific help with my stories, I turn to my fabulous critique group. For inspiration, it's all around, although my children have been the catalyst for several stories. Just a word or two can spark a story idea or a story title that I'll develop a story around. But I have never written a story about my children and I never will. I write fiction and no matter how cute or funny I think my children are, their real life activities or adventures do not make for good picture book stories.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
A: In order to learn the craft of writing for children, I suggest that beginners read as many “how to write for children” books as possible. Your local library is a good source for these books. Read, read, read books of the type you wish to write—PB, MG or YA. Once you have a handle on how to write for children, write! Or revise stories you may have already written.
Join SCBWI and take advantage of all the SCBWI has to offer. You may be able to find a critique group, either online or in person, through SCBWI. A critique group is an important tool for any writer, especially for beginners who would greatly benefit from the guidance of more seasoned writers. Attending conferences allows you to learn, network and possibly receive feedback from a published author, editor or agent. Although a beginner may be tempted to jump right to this step, bypassing some of the others, I strongly suggest you wait until you have a good idea of what you are doing through reading and learning your craft before attending your first conference. I believe you will get more from the experience if you have the basics of writing for children under your belt first.
Where can people find more information about you and your books?
A: I don't have a website so the best place to find out about my books would be the Charlesbridge Publishing website. If you Google the books, you might find the reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly. Both books received stars from all three publications. Some of the reviews are also included on Amazon.com.
Thank you so much for sharing your insight and your books with everyone here, Donna!
You can find out more about Donna and her books on the Charlesbridge website
DEEP IN THE SWAMP, illustrated by Brian Lies
OUT ON THE PRAIRIE, illustrated by Susan Swan
April 22, 2013
I’ve always thought of picture books in verse as poetry. But apparently not everyone agrees. And what about picture books in which there is a rhyme, sometimes repeating, within the story?
Some of my kids’ favorite books were the Frances books by Russell Hoban. Frances is a badger, and her stories relate to some of the insecurities that young children experience. Titles about Frances include BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES, A BABY SISTER FOR FRANCES, and BEDTIME FOR FRANCES.
A common trait in the books is that, at times, Frances makes up rhymes. For my kids, a favorite Frances rhyme (BEDTIME FOR FRANCES) goes like this—
“S is for sailboat,
T is for tiger,
U is for underwear, down in the drier…”
They would read that line over and over! I’m sure the rhymes in these books played a part in their enjoyment of poetry as well as honing their reading skills. The rhymes, and the humor, make these books fun to read.
BELLA & BEAN by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, is a story about two mice with different personalities who are friends. Bella is a poet. In this book, not all of the poems that Bella writes rhyme. She writes lists of words, and then uses them to create a poem. At the end she writes a poem about the two friends. It begins—
holds two friends
calm and cozy
at the edge of a pond….”
To me this book is about creating a poem as much as it is about friendship. And it brings home the point to young children that all poems do not have to rhyme.
Please stop by this Wednesday for an Interview with Donna M. Bateman, author of two wonderful picture books in verse about nature!
The Frances books by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Garth Williams, HarperCollins Publishers 1960’s
Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Aileen Leijten, Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2009
April 20, 2013
There are so many types of poems to explore! In my interview with Judith L. Roth on Wednesday (see my previous post), I asked her about the sonnet in her book. I didn’t realize that there was an English sonnet and an Italian sonnet (I learn a lot when I blog!).
According to Allan Wolf in his book, IMMERSED IN VERSE
, a sonnet is a form of closed poetry. Wolf says, "No matter who writes a sonnet, as long as the poet follows the rules, the end result will look" the same on the page. He says writing the closed form poem “requires you to use your right brain—the creative side—to explore your subject while you use your left brain—the logical side—to follow the form’s rules properly.”
Another book for students on poetry that focuses on “writing poetry, not analyzing it,” is Ralph Fletcher’s POETRY MATTERS
. I love this book. It’s very encouraging and helpful. The book includes examples of poems, many written by students. There are interviews and advice from well known children’s poets, including Kristine O’Connell George, Janet S. Wong, and J. Patrick Lewis. At the end is a list of recommended poetry books.
Sometimes you find advice or information about writing poetry in unexpected places. Another favorite book of mine is LOVE THAT DOG
by Sharon Creech. The teacher’s edition includes a 16-page teacher’s guide with tips on teaching poetry, poetry terms and concepts, writing activities and more.
If you’re like me, and didn’t really get into classic poetry in school (my focus was more left brain at that time, since I was planning a career in nursing), a good book to explore is AN INVITATION TO POETRY
, edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz. This book is a collection of 200 poems written by poets such as Robert Browning, E.E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Longfellow, Walt Whitman and many more, chosen by American readers. It’s accompanied by a DVD featuring readings of many of the poems in the book, which are introduced by people from across the United States who talk about their connection to the poem.
I find myself wanting to re-read these and other books on my bookshelf! And maybe I’ll try some different forms of poetry myself.
Leave your comment here for your chance to win one of my poetry books for children! Read more about the giveaway on the left side of the page.
April 17, 2013
Judith L. Roth is a children’s author and poet. Her poetry has appeared in more than a dozen magazines, and together with her husband, she's had over 50 children's songs published.
Her newest book, SERENDIPITY & ME, is a middle-grade novel-in-verse. School Library Journal said of this book: "This is a compassionately told tale, reminiscent in tone of Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia (HarperCollins, 1977) and Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May (Orchard, 1991)." SERENDIPITY & ME was released by Viking in February 2013.
Welcome, Judy! Thank you for joining us during poetry month! You and I have been friends and have shared many critiques in the past. You have such a beautiful way with words, and I’m so happy to be able to share you and your work here!
At what age did you begin to have an interest in writing poetry?
I started writing four-line rhyming poems when I was about 8. By the time I was in junior high, I’d moved on to free verse. In high school, I spent all of geometry class writing poetry. And yes, I almost did fail that class, but I was brought back from the brink. In a high school creative writing class, I learned how to write my favorite form of structured poetry, the Italian sonnet.
Do your poems come easy for you, or do you spend a lot of time writing a poem?
Free verse poetry is the most natural form of writing for me. I spend the most time of poem-writing on the little word tweaks. But that’s fun, too. The hardest parts for me in a novel-in-verse are plotting and putting in more detail.
SERENDIPITY & ME is your first novel-in-verse. Judy, I know that you love cats, but was there anything in particular that inspired you to write this book?
I don’t really know where this book came from. It started as a picture book of poems. The voice of Sara just came out. I think there were 17 poems, and that seemed like enough of a story to me. But an editor said she thought I had more to say about this father and daughter, and it ended up that I did (when prodded). The setting is from my college years where I hid a cat in the dorm. Since I went to college in Central California (Fresno Pacific), it seemed natural to put Sara and her father there as well.
Did you need to do any research when writing this book?
I had to learn a lot about Peter Pan (the book) and Sara Teasdale (the poet). I started off just learning about them online, but found soon enough that I needed the actual books in my hands. That fed right into my book addiction and collection. I found a great copy of “Love Songs” by Sara Teasdale online, a 1926 edition. So cool.
What can you tell us about the revision process once your book was accepted?
There was so much more to it than I expected. The first words I heard were, “since you’ve already done the heavy lifting, the revision won’t be too difficult.” Then there were four single-space pages of revision notes. After those revisions were made, I got another four single-space pages of revision notes. After those revisions were made….ad infinitum, it seemed. But there was a publishing deadline, so at some point it was deemed ready to go to copyediting. Which brought up another slew of corrections, revisions, and appraisals. I am amazed at all the work that goes into a novel after it’s been accepted. And the number of people who are involved in making sure it’s as good as it can be. It’s a little overwhelming, but very satisfying.
Most of your book is written in free verse, but the voice of Sara's mother comes through in other forms, like the sonnet on page 274. What can you tell us about this particular poem?
This poem didn’t end up in the novel until the end of the revision process. It’s the first poem of mine that was ever accepted, but it never got published because of the death of the publisher. So it is finally published, 33 years after that first acceptance. I think the editor wanted the mother’s poetry to be more grown-up, so I put in a structured poem.
Why do you write sonnets using the Italian rather than the English (Shakespearean) form?
I like the rhyme scheme better. The couplet at the end of English sonnets sounds too artificial to me. Although I feel like I’m using the Italian sonnet’s structure, I have to admit that I don’t pay much attention to the iamabic part of the iambic pentameter. So I guess I don’t follow the Italian sonnet’s rules all the way. I’m such a rebel.
For myself, and any readers who might not know, what is the difference between the English sonnet and the Italian sonnet?
The rhyme scheme of the English sonnet is ababcdcdefefgg. The rhyme scheme of the Italian sonnet is abbaabbacdecde. I believe they both usually use imabic pentameter, but I basically follow this by simply making sure there are 10 syllables (and only 10 syllables) in each of the 14 lines.
Do you work with an agent? What is that experience like?
My agent is Stephen Fraser. He was first an interested editor, then moved into the agenting business. After being in charge of my own submissions for so long, it’s a little hard to let go. But it’s great to have someone on your side, cheering you on, who can actually get heard by big publishers.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
The father in the book says of the arrival of the kitten when Sara is upset, “Serendipity, Sara. Someone’s brought you a blessing for a visit.” When I played with the word, I got Serendipkitty. But I didn’t like the sound at the end of that. Another writer said it ought to be Serendipikitty, which fixed that. Serendipikitty was the title until the very end of the time it was being edited. Then the marketing people at Viking said that title was too difficult to pronounce, so my editor suggested I change the name of the kitten from Marshmallow to Serendipity, and rename the title Serendipity & Me.
Your other books for children were picture books. What are the differences in writing a MG novel from writing a picture book? Which do you enjoy the most?
Small canvas to humongous canvas. There are different aspects of both that I enjoy. With novels, I miss having the lovely illustrations of a picture book and the relative ease in writing and revising. The simplicity of a picture book is satisfying to me. It’s hard to maintain focus on the large projects that novels are. But it’s wonderful to get so deep into a layered project—there are so many things in a novel to figure out, threads to unravel, facts to learn. I can’t say I enjoy one more than the other.
What advice can you give to aspiring children’s writers/poets?
If you’re doing it to make a living, run away as fast as you can! If you’re doing it because you can’t ‘not’ do it, you’re in the right place. Find like-minded people to share the journey with you. Celebrate the small victories. Find joy in words and stories.
What are you reading now?
I just finished reading Heft, by Liz Moore. So good. She is an amazing writer. Not only was the story wonderful, but the voice and craft were superb. Something to aspire to.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing another MG novel, but this one is not contemporary, not poetry, not first person. It’s about three young teens in the 1850’s who are each isolated for different reasons and who come together for a short time as they try to help one of the three escape. Now that I think about it, it does begin with a sonnet. The first line starts, "One night, a long time ago, three prayers went up to heaven….”
A very beautiful, poetic first line! Do you do author visits, and if so, how can you be reached about that?
Yes, I do. I can be reached at my website or my email, which is email@example.com.
Thank you for giving us an inside look into your writing life, Judy!
Judy lives in Elkhart, IN with her husband and three cats. You can find out more about Judy on her website at http://judithlroth.wordpress.com/
SERENDIPITY & ME
: ISBN #978-0-670-01440-8
April 14, 2013
“Throughout history, poems have been stowed in pockets in a variety of ways, from the commonplace books of the Renaissance to the pocket-sized publications for Army soldiers in World War II.
A Heads up! This Thursday, April 18th, is National Poem in your Pocket Day!
In 2002 the city of New York initiated Poem in Your Pocket Day as part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. In 2008 the Academy of American Poets took the idea nationwide.
“The idea is simple: select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends. You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.” –from the Academy of American Poets website
Visit the Academy’s website above to see some ideas for celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day!
You can celebrate by leaving the title and author of your favorite poem in the comments here on my blog on Thursday. Plus, anyone who leaves a comment on my blog during poetry month will be entered to win one of my children's poetry books, NAME THAT DOG!, and FROM DAWN TO DREAMS, on April 30th! See guidelines for the “book giveaway” on the left side of this blog.
Don’t forget to come back this Wednesday, April 17th, when I’ll be posting an interview with children’s author and poet, Judith L. Roth! Judy’s middle grade novel-in-verse, SERENDIPITY & ME, was released from Viking in February.
Oh, and if you’d like to read an interview with me, go to Judy’s website
. Thanks Judy!