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Author Presentations—Yours and Mine

Spoede Elementary Family Night
I recently did some author presentations in or near O’Fallon, Missouri, where I live. My goal— to inspire and encourage readers as well as writers and future authors. And for others, to show that if you believe in yourself and work hard at something, you can accomplish anything.

In March I participated in Writers’ Week at Troy Buchannan High School, where I talked about writing and re-writing and becoming a published author. While I was there, I listened to a wonderful personal essay written by a very talented student. And I was honored to have the cover of my book, NAME THAT DOG, painted on a ceiling tile, destined to join other visiting authors’ books on the ceiling of the school library. The painting was done by an amazingly talented high school artist.

Later that evening I visited Spoede Elementary School and spoke to the students and parents at Family Book Night. I felt right at home in the camping theme, with flashlights and stories around artificial campfires in the gym! But the most fun was talking to students one-on-one during and after the presentation.

In May I talked to authors participating in Nancy Polette’s class on Writing for Children at the Middendorf-Kredell library about my own journey to publishing and picture books. Nancy is an excellent teacher of children’s writing, and an excellent author as well. School Library Journal said that she is "an educator with imagination, creativity and an appreciation for the intelligence of children."

I remember the times before being published, and I relate to the uncertainty of ever being published, and whether our work is good or not. And I cherish the encouragement and help from published authors that I received myself. I enjoy being able to offer that encouragement to other children’s writers. And having contacts with other children’s writers, published and unpublished, keeps me going.

I also attended some local author appearances during the past few months. Going to another children’s author’s presentation is always food for thought, even if it seems very similar to what I do at an author visit myself, or even if their book is totally unrelated to what I write. Here are a few of my ‘take-aways.’

In March Jeannie Ransom, author of the picture book The Crown Affair, gave a presentation to patrons at the Middendorf-Kredell library in O’Fallon. Her presentation was very similar to what I sometimes do, but there were some added things that she did that connected with her audience. One was showing on a map the distance between where she writes to where the publisher is located, as well as the location of the illustrator, and the printing company.

Being able to view the presentation as an attendee gave me additional insight. I could see what parts held everyone’s attention, what they connected with the most, and consider why.

Later that month I went to a presentation and book signing by Cathy Gilmore and Carol Benoist, authors of Easter Bunny’s Amazing Day (Cathy is also the author of Little Lamb Finds Christmas) at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Fenton. I could feel the enthusiasm of the speakers during the presentation, and see how that enthusiasm ‘caught’ their audience up in it. A craft activity afterwards brought children into the book even more.

Most recently, this month I attended a presentation and book signing at the Spencer library in St. Peters with Vicki Berger Erwin and Justine Riggs, authors of the book for adults, Finally a locally produced Guidebook to St. Charles, by and for locals, Neighborhood by Neighborhood, City and County—which has to be the longest title I’ve ever read! Vicki has had many books for children published in the past, including some of the Babysitters’ Club books, and is the former owner of Main Street Books in St. Charles. Again, as an outsider, I could see what connected with the audience—not only by what they talked about in their presentation, but also how it was presented and how the speakers connected to the audience on a personal level.

Another perk of attending other author presentations is how the excitement of having a new book published catches me up in it with them. It keeps me motivated, and excited about my own work. And sometimes listening to another author speak inspires a new thought or idea that can be totally unrelated to their own book.

Another idea is to see what authors are doing presentations at your local schools. When I started out, I asked the school for permission to attend the presentation with the students. It gave me motivation, information and a base for myself as an author for future author presentations.

So take a moment to check out author appearances at your local library or bookstore. You might be surprised at how it can fire you up as a writer.  Read More 
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From ? to Children's Agent/Editor/Author/Illustrator


For a writer of children’s books, attending a conference for children’s writers and illustrators is like going to Disney World is to a child. Where else can you find so many other adults who are excited about reading and writing children’s books!? Being involved as a volunteer heightens the excitement even more. This past week-end I attended the MO SCBWI Fall Conference for children’s writers and illustrators at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO.

When looking for some inside scoop about Krista Marino, editor at Delacorte Press, for my introduction, I found an interview by newswoman Nancy Churnin who asked the question, “What made you want to be an editor?” Krista’s answer was this:

“I love to read, but more than that, I love to escape. I love the idea that the fantastical could be real, that there’s more to the world than what you see around you, and that a story can take you there. It can transport, it can transform, it can soothe, or inspire. A story and a book can change you. How could I not want to be a part of that??”

Listening to the speakers as they told us how they came to be editors, agents and authors of children’s literature, there seemed to be a common thread among those who were there—they did not start out to be where they are now.

Regina Brooks, founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency, studied engineering in college and has a degree in aerospace engineering. She wanted to be an astronaut. After taking a publishing class at Howard University she switched to children’s publishing, and later became a literary agent.

Lori Kilkelly graduated from college with a degree in speech communication. She later received her post graduate degree from the Denver Publishing Institute and went on to become one of two agents for children’s authors at Rodeen Literary Management.

Dan Santat, illustrator and author of children’s books, graduated from college with a degree in microbiology and was accepted into dental school before he had the courage to tell his father that he wanted to be an artist, not a doctor. His father was very supportive of his decision and Dan went on to graduate from the Art Center College of Design.

Matt De La Pena, children’s author of Young Adult books for teens and reluctant readers, secretly wrote poetry in high school. He had no goals to attend higher education, and when he was accepted into college on a sports scholarship, he had already succeeded by becoming the first family member to go to college. College was where he became a reader. Having been brought up to feel no emotion, reading gave him a ‘secret place to feel.’

Lisa Yee, author of middle grade and young adult books for children, wrote ads and other things before turning to children’s books. Attending an SCBWI conference for children’s writers and illustrators was a turning point that changed her outlook.

Judy Young, children's author, received her degree in speech and language pathology. She taught in the public schools, frequently using poetry to help her students improve their writing skills in special language classes and regular classes. She continued to work as a teacher while pursuing her writing, and eventually retired from teaching to become a full-time author.

Nancy Polette has been an educator for over 50 years. She has taught students in Kindergarten through 8th grade, and continues to teach as a professor of education at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. During this time she has also had over 150 books published, including two novels for middle grade and two picture books. School Library Journal describes her as “an educator with imagination, creativity, and an appreciation for the intelligence of children.”

My own background is in nursing. My favorite field is pediatrics—and I especially loved being a school nurse. It was not until I had five of my six children that I decided to try my hand at writing for children. I wrote while raising my kids and working part time as a nurse.

Other children’s writers that I know have been, or still are, a doctor, a dentist, a zoologist, a veterinarian, an accountant, a farmer, parents, teachers and librarians.

So what makes a person turn to writing for children? For me, sometimes I think that I just don’t want to grow up! But I imagine that it has a bit more to do with our love of reading, and our love for children.

A book can make a difference. Krista said it so well—“…It can transport, it can transform, it can soothe, or inspire. A story and a book can change you.” It opens up a world of possibilities to a child. And how could I not want to be a part of that!  Read More 
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