Friday, January 30, 2015

What Does a Card Say? Make Your Author Card Memorable

 By Janie Reinart

What does a card say? Here are four ideas for making your author/business card memorable. After all, the point of a card is to have people remember you and contact you with ease!

1. Make your card unique.  
Some of my picks from this article, 30 Unconventional Business Cards, include:

A pop-up picture.

 A toy.

Interactive Augmented Reality (hold card up to webcam).

2. Look at the card shape
This is my all time favorite business card from a writer. A bookmark business card (front and back) from our very own GROGer, Sherri Jones Rivers.
 A folded card.

 A square or round card.

3. Look at the size
This is a mini card from my accomplished friend, author, and blogger, Colleen Kessler. Look at Colleen's tag line-
                 Come explore, create, & learn with us

4. Contact info.
Your Name
Title(s) Writer/ Any specialties (blogger, ghostwriter, writing coach, editor etc.)
Social media info- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest
Your Photo
Tag line/slogan
Phone number

My adult children recommended using a Google voice mail phone number as a safety precaution. This is the card my publisher created for me several years ago. I am working on a new business card.

Our own Marcie Flinchum Atkins, a fellow GROGer, (check out her new book) uses a QR Code (Quick Response) for a free eBook.

Sylvia Liu,author and illustrator, at KIDLIT411 recommended these printers in this post.  Other printers to check out recommended by our GROGers include Vistaprints, Moo
and 123print.

Share your cards with us. Post the front and back of your cards in the comment line. What do you look for on a business card?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Easybib: A Writer's Friend

If you write non-fiction, or find yourself using many resources to help you build 'background' for your fiction projects, you have the need to keep track of your sources.  If you're anything like me, that probably once involved a handwritten bibliography, tons of messy notecards, and page after page of sources you printed out but have no idea where they came from.  I should say, that used to be me.

EasyBib is an incredible resource that has completely changed the way I research my writing projects.  I learned about it in my work as a Library Media Specialist.  Fourth graders needed guidance in creating bibliographies and I was on the hunt for tools that would make the process easier and more efficient.  In the process, I found a tool that I use extensively with students, but also in my own writing.

EasyBib at its core is a simple bibliography generator.  You plug in information and it spits out a properly formatted bibliography.

EasyBib (basic) is available for free, and for a small fee you can unlock some additional features. For example, the citations created in the free version are in APA.  If you need MLA, Chicago, etc. you have to upgrade to 'paid' version. To be honest, I've never paid for the additional services, but as I continue to learn more and more about the tools I am considering it.  This review will give you an overview of the free tools and a brief look at some of the paid resources.

I recommend creating a free account.  With an account, you can create and save 'Projects.'  These are your bibliography lists for each.  There is no limit to the number of projects you can create with the free version.

When I am first in 'research' mode, I spend hours searching the internet.  I can easily fall into what I call a 'rabbit hole.' An hour later I realize that I  have read over a dozen articles, watched a myriad of videos, etc. and I have no idea what was useful or not.  This is where EasyBib has made my life easier. I add any resources that I think might be valuable for me in the future.  In this way, I can always return to the sources and delete them later if I don't want to keep it.  One of the features about EasyBib that I love the most is that as you add new resources, it continues to alphabetize your list. Since this is internet researching, most of my sources at this point are URL's.  I simply copy and paste these into the "Cite Source" section of the website and it usually figures out what type of source I am using.  You can 'fine tune' the citation by adding author, site name, etc. if it does not glean that from the URL.  The few seconds this will take will pay off later on when you need to access the source again to check your information.

To me, the real power of EasyBib is the variety of sources that you can create.  There are 59 options for sources, from advertisement to a website.

Rather than recreate a basic tutorial on the program, I found several online that do a fantastic job. Here is a quick introduction:

EasyBib also has an app that you can use to scan the barcode of any book and it automatically creates an annotation for you and drops it into your project.  I have this on my phone and iPad and it was super helpful on my last research trip to the Newberry Library.  Here is a quick overview of how to do this:

I recently learned that EasyBib has an 'add on' to Google Drive that allows you to work seamlessly within the Google Docs environment.  I've started using Google Drive Docs to brainstorm and even create drafts of writing projects, but I've not yet begun using this add on.  It looks like another way be even more efficient in my research and note taking.  I may use this instead of the pricey add ons that you can access through EasyBib.  Here is a tutorial on how to get and use the add on.

If you find yourself loving Easybib and have extra funds laying around, you might want to go ahead and sign up for a subscription; it's only $20 for a full year.  The perks are pretty cool: the virtual notecards and dynamic outlining are tremendously useful; I've just found other tools (Google Docs and many free add ons) to do the same job for free. 

I wrote a post late last year about how EasyBib fits into my research process.  You can read more about that HERE.

So, there you go.  Get started on that research and save yourself a great deal of grief and frustration by documenting as you go.  I would love to hear about your experience with this tool in the comments section below.  What do you love about it?  What do you wish it could do that it doesn't?  What tool do you use to keep track of your sources?  

Happy annotating!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Celebrating Multicultural Children's Book Day with Icy Smith's Beautiful Books about Asia -- by Christy Mihaly

Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 is the second Multicultural Children's Book Day (MCCBD) and GROG is happy to be part of this national event. Today I'm reviewing three beautiful, eye-opening picture books by Icy Smith. These historical fiction stories introduce children to important topics in Asian history. All are published by East West Discovery Press (a MCCBD sponsor). Today's post will be linked to the MCCBD site as part of an enormous celebration of diversity in children's literature. 

The creators of MCCBD are Mia Wenjen (from Pragmatic Mom) and Valarie Budayr (from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press). Here's what they say about their mission: “The MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves . . . and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, multicultural children’s book link and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.”

Icy Smith is the 2012 recipient of the Author Award conferred by the National Joint Conference of Librarians of Color. She writes children's books about Asian and Asian-American history, and founded East-West Discovery Press to publish bilingual and multi-cultural titles.
Her new picture book, Mystery of the Giant Masks of Sanxingdui (2015), illustrated by Gayle Garner Roski, is a richly imagined recounting of life in the ancient city of Sanxingdui, in Sichuan Province, China. As Smith's back matter explains, in 1986 construction workers accidentally discovered ancient pits filled with more than a thousand stunning artifacts, many made of gold and bronze. These objects--some dating back to 1300 B.C.--were evidence of a sophisticated ancient culture with advanced bronze-making technology. Among the monumental relics were large, intricate bronze masks and a life-size human figure. 

Illustrations include a map and diagram of the ancient city. In the Author's Note are photographs of some of the artifacts and a summary of what is known about the lost city of Sanxingdui. Smith also notes that many unanswered questions remain about how the people of this ancient civilization lived, and why they disappeared. 

This book weaves the tale of a young brother and sister, Wei and Min, and their father, the chief of the people. Wei is initiated as a warrior, and their father gives him a young elephant. When word comes that invaders approach, the community must decide how to respond. Min plays an important role in determining what their ancestors wish for them to do. 

Smith's writing evokes a peaceful daily life, and the mystery and ritual of ancient ceremonies. Her use of the first-person present brings an immediacy to the tale. In her fine story-telling, she incorporates available information and theories about Sanxingdui and common practices of ancient China. Together with illustrator Roski's evocative water colors, this book paints a vivid picture of long-ago life Sanxingdui. This is a beautiful book, suitable for children ages 6-9.

Activity: In sharing this educational book, why not have children create their own masks, using cardboard, paints, and aluminum foil? You can refer to the photos in the book or from online or other resources. Archeologists aren't sure how these masks were used. What are some possibilities?
AND: For readers in southern California, how about a field trip? Check out China's Lost Civilization: The Mystery of Sanxingdui at the Bowers Museum in Orange County. At this exhibit you can see some of the monumental 3000-year old bronze objects from the Sanxingdui discovery.  

The other two historical fiction picture books reviewed here tackle darker chapters in Asian history. They are recommended for middle graders. The topics covered may not be familiar even to adults in this country, and some parents and teachers may be uncomfortable discussing them with youngsters. But as Icy Smith points out, it's important to remember history so we don't repeat it, and it's important to discuss these stories so the people who experienced them can heal. These books include helpful factual materials and are both engaging and educational. 

Three Years and Eight Months (2013) is an award-winning book based on the experiences of the author's father, uncle, and grandmother. Illustrated by Jennifer Kindert, it chronicles what happens to a Hong Kong family during the Japanese occupation of the island from 1941-45. The publisher designates it for ages 10+.

Ten-year-old Choi tells his story from the day the Japanese army invades. Soldiers drag his mother away, and he and those around him are subjected to indignities and privations large and small as life in Hong Kong becomes more and more horrible. 
Choi is befriended by a Japanese soldier, becomes a slave boy for the Japanese military, then finds a way to assist the anti-Japanese resistance. The somber water color illustrations pull the reader into the narrative. 

In five pages of back matter, the author shares factual background and historical photographs, including one of her father. There's also a map showing the extent of the Japanese occupation. Although this story has a hopeful ending, Smith, in her author's note, emphasizes that we must not forget the brutality and atrocities committed. (Avoiding graphic details in the story itself, she notes in back matter that the Japanese killed more than 100,000 Hong Kong civilians and engaged in widespread rape.)

This book is an excellent introduction to an aspect of world history unfamiliar to many Americans.

In Half Spoon of Rice: A Survival Story of the Cambodian Genocide (2010), Smith introduces another topic not often taught in American middle schools: the Khmer Rouge. As with her Hong Kong story, the author spins a fact-based tale focused on the travails of a young boy--in this case, young Nat. Nat recounts his terror, hunger, and exhaustion as the Khmer Rouge takes over Phnom Penh, evicts the residents from their homes, and marches them into the countryside. Soldiers then separate him from his parents, sending them to separate camps. 

In a children's work camp, Nat endures forced labor in the fields, cruelty and violence from the soldiers and guards, and near-starvation. (The book's title refers to the workers' rations: half a spoon of rice per day.) But this story also tells of hope and generosity, as Nat and a friend help one another survive. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge they reach a refugee camp and find Nat's parents.

Smith's notes explain that this book arose from both the stories of her Cambodian friends and her independent research. She provides six pages of back matter about the Khmer Rouge and its brutal rule. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died -- about a quarter of the population. Photographs portray the "killing fields" as well as soldiers and workers in labor camps.

The illustrator, Sopaul Nhem, is Cambodian. He credits his father, a Khmer Rouge survivor, for assuring the historical accuracy of the artwork, which conveys both the horror and the hope of the story, and makes it accessible to a young audience. 

Kudos to Icy Smith for bringing these diverse topics to light. These books are well worth reading and sharing -- with children and adults alike.

And now, a word from MCCBD's sponsors and co-hosts (THANK YOU!). 
Please check out the information below about the book drive and MCCBD's ongoing efforts to bring multicultural books to kids!
MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors include 
Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press, Global Bookshop 
Gold SponsorsSatya House, MulticulturalKids.comAuthor Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof 
Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing
Bronze Sponsors: Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing, Rainbow Books, Author Felicia CapersChronicle Books, Muslim Writers Publishing, and East West Discovery Press.

CoHosts: MCCBD has NINE amazing Co-Hosts. Check out their websites!

MCCBD is partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books during the week of the event. This is a great way to get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.

And finally, MCCBD is collaborating with Children’s Book Council to highlight wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.