Friday, May 29, 2015

Listen Once

By Janie Reinart

Take a song like Falling Slowly from ONCE the musical. Listen to the words once. Close your eyes and just listen.

The second time you listen to the song, write down words or phrase that grab at your heart. Words that speak to you.

Use those words and write a poem.  No rules. You can add words, delete words, repeat words, whatever your heart desires. 

This is what I heard:

My arms
are empty
this sadness
takes me 
and erases me
to dust

words fall
through me
my glass bones
and I 
can't react

In the stillness
I hear
bird song
with no words
a voice 
that never stops

I try to sing
 holding on
to this
 hopeful heart

Share your words and the song you used in the comments.

Monday, May 25, 2015


Today we are interviewing an outstanding author and good friend to many of us who write nonfiction. Miranda Paul, author of the newly released ONE PLASTIC BAG answers our questions about writing for the science market.


What drew you to the science market?

Miranda: I've always loved science. In middle school I subscribed to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, and watched marine biology documentaries all the time.(Just ask my mom about that) I had posters in my room of the many species of cetaceans. When I left for college, I  started out as a Biology major. It's not a big surprise to me that when I began writing for kids, a lot of what I wrote about had to do with natural sciences. Writing for the science market is really just my way of exploring things I really wanted to explore.

What topics are librarians or teachers asking for, but not finding on the shelves?

Miranda:A few months ago, I was told by a librarian that they get a lot of requests for "mermaids."

But, they also get requests for "weird but true" kind of stories and anything out of the ordinary. So, if it's out of the ordinary, kids want to know about it! Asking teachers or librarians can be a great way to find ideas if you're not sure where to start. Sometimes, just finding a fresh angle on a subject that's already out there is also a big winner.

In order to write for the science market, what credentials does a writer need to have?

I don't think writers should stifle themselves by thinking they must have certain credentials to write a science-related book. Passion and enthusiasm are important--so try to choose subjects you are deeply interested in and/or have knowledge of. That said, learn how to do the research and always consult experts in the field. I do think that with today's standards, it's important to keep accurate records of your sources and/or list them in a bibliography or include them in an author's note that addresses any liberties taken or speculations made.

There are a lot of different genres of nonfiction writing. How would you differentiate between, say, social studies and science?

I think that there are several intersections between science and social studies-- in fact, if an author can find the similarities and focus on them, that author might be able to capture an angle of science that kids can relate to, and teachers can use in more than one way. I think there are a number of similar techniques a writer uses whether she is working on a science-related book or a biography. Biographies tend to be more narrative, while science books might be more concept-based, but I definitely wouldn't say that's a hard and fast rule.

Suppose some of our readers want to get into this market. What advice would you give them?

Read a lot and write a lot. Write poems, articles, nonfiction, and concept-based fiction. Also try to develop some good research habits, and/or connections. To "break in," I'd suggest looking into work-for-hire, magazine, and educational markets. Some bigger traditional houses don't publish as many educational or science-based books, whereas educational publishers and some book packagers are looking for new science titles or freelance writers all the time. Query often or widely to increase your chances, but always follow the guidelines and  be professional. Being professional (meeting deadlines, being polite, etc.) can improve the chance that an editor will want to work with you again and again.

Can you name some titles that you feel are particularly outstanding?

This is impossible---there are so many outstanding books for young readers! I'll try to give you just a few outstanding ones as a start:

For concept-based books, she recommends:
A LEAF CAN BE series by Laura Purdie Salas,


For narrative style books, she recommends:
ON A BEAM OF LIGHT by Jennifer Beme,

BARNUM'S BONES by Tracey Fern.


These are just a few of the wonderful titles out there. If you are interested in writing for this market, Miranda, along with an award winning line-up of authors and editors will be teaching " The Nuts and Bolts of Science Writing" at the HIGHLIGHTS FOUNDATION in Honesdale, PA, this July 5th-9th. Check with HIGHLIGHTS for more information.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Is It an Animal, Vegetable or Early Chapter Book? by Kathy Halsey

Yes, it's an animal, Kathy's dog, Wiley Corgi!
Do you remember that old word game you used to play as a kid? Is it an animal, vegetable, or mineral? Lately I've played that game with my writing. I write what I think is a picture book, but my critique group pegs it as an early chapter book. My word count is PB, under 700 word easy-peasy; I only have 1-2 characters, and what I think is a fairly simple plot. I've read mentor texts, studied picture books, taken classes, devoted myself to the art of the picture book, and YET...
MAYBE IT'S A VEGETABLE??? Err, I mean, ah, early chapter book? 
I shook off my disappointment (I admit, it took awhile.) and began to explore a new niche for my writing. My plan is to expand the  major scenes from my picture book and beef up several characters. I will loosely base the structure on a new series from Scholastic, Branches. The titles appeal to grades 1-3 with a reading level of 2nd grade, depending on the specific title. There are 12 series so far and I've read/studied SAVING THE SUN DRAGON, Dragon Masters' series; and THE SCHOOL IS ALIVE, Eerie Elementary series. 

Scholastic's Branches sites states that "all Branches books are Common Core-ready" and include easy-to-read text, simple plot lines, plenty of context clues, purposeful illustrations (black & white) that aid in comprehension. The classroom guide gives a wealth of information for writers with sections on what kids like, what educators like, and a great series topic chart that covers theme Scholastic seeks. It's a blueprint to writing early chapter books!
Branches Series Topic Chart
For my manuscript, I've highlighted the themes I plan to use: mystery, friendship, problem solving, and inquiry. These theme also fit my "not-quite-a-picture-book" story. 

Next, I took my mentor text, THE SCHOOL IS ALIVE, and blocked out the important scenes in the first five chapters for structure. I noted these areas to scaffold my story:
1. Chapter length- 3-8 pages
2. Pithy chapter titles
3. Foreshadowing in every chapter
4. Characters names fit genre of scary tale - Sam Graves, Eerie Elementary
5. Cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter
6. Roughly 380 word/chapter and 64/page and a picture/spread. 

I also pulled a few other "iffy" picture book manuscripts from my desk drawer for early chapter book series potential. With these techniques, I am saving time and stories, too! No more "animal, vegetable, mineral' games for me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What is "Showing not Telling"

By Leslie Colin Tribble

When the GROG had its first anniversary, we queried readers and asked what topics they’d like to see featured in the blog. We got many great responses and will be working through the list as the year progresses.

Today I’m covering some information about that perennial writers’ nemesis, Showing not Telling.

So what is Showing not Telling? Often writers hear from critique partners or agent/editors, “Show me, don’t tell me!”  What exactly does that mean? Let me show you.

I recently checked out E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan from our local library. Here are some ways E. B. White shows us information instead of telling us.

Instead of telling the reader, “Sam was happy,” E. B. White says, 

“His heart thumped from excitement and joy.” 

Which sentence is more interesting? Which sentence better transports the reader into Sam’s life? That’s what ‘showing’ does. It gives the reader a richer experience, one with depth and substance that draws them into the story and keeps them there.

Here are more examples. The author could have said, “The swans trumpeted loudly.”

Instead he paints us a picture,

“Every wild creature within a mile and a half of the pond heard the trumpeting of the swans.”

 When the female begins building her nest, E. B. White penned, 

“The female reached for grasses, for moss, for twigs – anything that was handy. Slowly, carefully she built up the nest until she was sitting on a big grassy mound.”

I also reached for another classic, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie. In Chapter 16, Fire in the Chimney, the author never once tells us it’s autumn. Instead she uses words to give us clues and pictures for our minds, 

“The prairie had changed. Now it was a dark yellow, almost brown, and red streaks of sumac lay across it.”

“The wind was cooler now, and all along the creek bottoms flocks of wild ducks were rising, flying and settling again.”

“The tree-tops along the creek were colored now. Oaks were reds and yellows and browns and
greens. Cottonwoods and sycamores and walnuts were sunshiny yellow.” 

What a lovely way to inform the reader of the change of the seasons.

I know. All you picture book authors out there are thinking, “That’s all well and good for middle-grade books. But words are high-priced real estate in the realm of picture books. Wouldn’t it be better to be succinct and just tell the reader what’s happening? 

Not necessarily. Granted, you can’t wax quite as lyrical with picture books, but you can still provide the same depth by showing the reader what’s going on. 

Peter McCarthy’s latest book, First Snow does just that. Instead of writing, “The children were excited to go outside and play in the snow,” Peter writes, 

“Put on your boots! Put on your coat! Put on your hat and mittens! We are going outside!” 

The excitement coupled with his incredibly beguiling drawings of the animal children made me want to go with them. Then when Pedro falls off his sled, we are treated to this description, 

“Over a bump and into the air, Pedro flew! Thump! Bump! Fump! he went, into the snowbank at the bottom of the hill. 

I probably would have written, “Pedro sailed off his sled and landed in the snowbank.” Fewer words yes, but less life as well.

Here are some practice sentences for you to change from telling to showing. How will you transform these boring sentences into something the reader actually wants to read? Post your ideas in the comments so we can applaud your efforts. Also, search the Web for classroom lessons on Showing not Telling. If it works to make kids better writers, it'll work for you.

1.       Susan was excited to start school.

2.       The family went to buy a puppy.

3.       John was scared to jump off the diving board.

4.       The tall tree stood in the field.

Think about how you can bring these sentences to life using words that beckon to the reader and draw them into the story, living and breathing the plot, the characters, the surroundings. Play with the words in your stories. Weave those strands into a richness that makes your reader want to experience the story again and again and again. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

How to Write about Your Culture/Heritage Part 1 by Tina Cho

Seoul, South Korea
Getting published is hard. You already know that. But there are ways to break into the market that I've written about in this Grog blog such as the educational market and Christian market. Another way to break in is the cultural market. Publishers are hungry for cultural stories and activities. 

Little did I know that this Iowa girl would marry a guy from South Korea and that we would move there! I've been in the Seoul area for four years now. And over the years we've been married, I have been curious about Korean culture. Now you might not have lived in another country or married into a different culture, but you do have a heritage to share with this generation. What are some traditions and customs unique to your family? 

Below are my tips to break into this market with real anecdotes from my writing life. Maybe something will strike a chord with you and plod you in the right creative direction.
sightseeing on Nami Island
1. Hunt for ideas.

  • Read books about your culture.
  • Sightsee (my favorite) A museum, a sign on a statue, or a cultural place might hold a golden nugget.
  • Interview relatives~I ask my in-laws questions about their holidays.
  • Look through your cookbook~A recipe from your heritage might spark a story. Or you can publish the recipe in a magazine.
  • List folk tales from your culture~ Are there any that haven't been written about?
  • Check the Google Doodle~Since my computer recognizes that I'm in Korea, I see the Korean Google Doodles as well as the American ones and always check them out. They list a famous person's birthday or anniversary of some cool invention. I've listed many ideas from these. 
wearing traditional clothing for Lunar New Year

2. Find that fresh angle that hasn't been done before. For example, Lunar New Year is huge, but there are already picture books about it. I googled the second biggest holiday in Korea and found only one picture book. So I wrote my story about it using a Korean poetic form.

one of my 1st publications, my kids on the cover!

3. Look for unique markets. As you know, I'm not a grandma, but one of my first publications was in Grand, an e-zine for grandparents! I checked their needs and sent off a query. The editor emailed that she wanted an article about a family with a set of close grandparents and a set of long-distance grandparents and how they kept the balance. (At this time, we were living in California.) I emailed the editor back and told her both sets of our grandparents were long-distance, one set in Iowa, and one set in South Korea so I wouldn't be able to help her. But she came up with the idea of my writing an article on how my kids kept a relationship with their overseas grandparents. This led to a contract, and my children were on the cover of the e-zine. She sent a photographer to my house to do a photo shoot with my kids! In the article I not only shared my ideas, but it also has a Korean cultural flair, and the editor asked for a recipe. I share this with you so that you'll look in unique places for getting published.

I hope this post has your brain thinking of some great story ideas. Stay tune for part 2!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Two Terrific Facebook Craft Study Groups by Kathy Halsey

May has bloomed, summer's a peekin' around the corner, and your meager funds for writing classes/workshops are all designated. What to do? Join two wonderful Facebook groups, Debut PB Study Group and Word by Word Book Club.

Study for free with these two active, closed FB groups! Meg Miller is the administrator for Word by Word and group founder Margaret Chiu Greanias Joanne Sher, Debbie Bernstein LaCroix, Julianna Lee, and Rene Traxel
 head up administration at Debut PB. 
Word by Word boasts 209 members and was created to study books like Ann Whitford Paul's book WRITING PICTURE BOOKS. Meg notes how much easier it is to push through these wonderful resources with others in tow. Under the group's banner you'll find past Q & A with Linda Ashman and Nancy I. Sanders, and in the "files" section is a list of early chapter books we recommend along with Ann Whitford Paul's Q & A. Yes, the authors of these seminal craft books come aboard and graciously answer our burning questions as we study the books. Thursdays new chapter summaries are posted by group members and we all chime in with observations and resources to share. Volunteer to lead a chapter and you'll learn even more!

Currently we're discussing Nancy I. Sander's YES, YOU CAN LEARN HOW TO WRITE BEGINNING READERS AND CHAPTER BOOKS. Hope over to Nancy's blog, too, where she is teaching about chapter books to compliment our study!

Over at Debut PB study, you'll join 304 members as we analyze the newest books and also ask questions of the debut authors. The key here is we only review "author-only books," NOT author-illustrators for story structure, page turns, rules broken, showing v. telling, sentence structure, and more! 
Recent studies include MADDIE'S FRIDGE by Lois Brandt, BACKHOE JOE by Lori Alexander, and SOPHIE'S SQUASH by Pat Zietlow Miller. Next up is LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE by Katheryn Russel-Brown.
What I love best about these groups is this:
1. Bite-sized chunks of information to study
2. Others to motivate me to read on and really study
3. Connecting with the authors who share oodles of great info
4. Resources shared by other members.

Enjoy the upcoming summer and I hope to see you at Debut PB and Word by Word!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Historical Fiction: History + Heart by Pat Miller

History is a recording of the facts as they were witnessed or conjectured based on evidence. It tells us what happened. Historical fiction is bound by the facts of a time period and setting, but it tells us what it was like. Historians rely on "just the facts, ma'am", researching and unearthing the closest thing to truth they can find. But the writer of historical fiction is interested in having you feel like you are actually there, you are experiencing the times and tribulations of the past when you time travel through his words.

In perusing several dozen historical fiction picture books from the past few years, I discovered that all had an author's note at the back to explain what parts were accurate, how the story was inspired, or to add further detail. The books seemed to fall into four groups:
1. Imagined people in imagined situations. This seems to be the most common. The writer researched the times and setting, and then set her characters and plot into a historical setting that is an accurate portrayal of a time at least 30  years in the past.

That Book Woman by Heather Henson is told by a boy who begrudgingly admires the female rider who brings books to their mountain home, refusing any kind of trade. " would not bother me at all if she forgot the way back to our door. But here she'll come right through the rain and fog and cold.  / That horse of hers sure must be brave, I reckon." Time and the woman's tenacity stirs the boy's mind. "And all at once I yearn to know what makes that Book Woman risk catching cold, or worse." Over the long winter, he submits to reading lessons from his gentle younger sister. Back matter tells of the Pack Horse Librarians who brought books that were "free as air" to Appalachian dwellers throughout the 1930's.

Who Was the Woman Who Wore the Hat? by Nancy Patz. The author saw a hat in Amsterdam's Jewish Historical Museum and poignantly imagined the woman might have worn it and what she might have done in her life.

Finding Lincoln by Ann Malaspina relates the story of a white librarian in 1951 Alabama who lets an African American boy into the whites only public library after hours, risking her job for what both believe is right. 

Whatever Happened to The Pony Express by Verla Kay relates the journey of a series of letters from Prudence in Plymouth Township, PA, to her brother in Sacramento, as communication improves from 1851 - 1870.

2. Imagined people in historical situations. Research is essential to all historical fiction. Often, a historical event comes to life when the writer inserts a fictitious character into history, who then becomes the eyes and ears of the reader.

Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson is unusual in its use of second person, which gives immediacy and experience to this miracle of metal and sweat.

A young boy is separated from his father when Baba is sent to a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution in China in Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang. They manage to communicate hope across the distance when each flies a kite visible to the other. 

You might have trouble reading Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 aloud to your students without a tear or two. Author John Hendrix begins with an author's note, then tells the story through the letters and voice of an imagined British soldier.
3. Historical people in an imagined situation. Authors get playful with this category, but their research is still necessary. Though this may be an imaginary situation for the Wright Brothers, for example, they must remain true to their personalities and beliefs. These are fun to share, and all include an author's note to sort out the facts from the imagined. Get a new slant on the lives of men and women you or your students may think you know.

Dear Mr. Washington by Lynn Cullen is about the mayhem wreaked by the artist's children as George tries to sit for his portrait with Gilbert Stuart. 

In Abe Lincoln's Dream by Lane Smith, a young girl separated from her tour group of the White House answers questions from the ghost of Abe Lincoln, and comforts him with information about the progress of his nation.

The Wondrous Whirligig: The Wright Brothers' First Flying Machine by Andrew Glass explains how a toy brought home by their father inspires the brothers Wright to create a flying contraption in their backyard.

Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants includes humor, dialogue, and tall tale details added to the true story of the creation of blue jeans.

In Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony Inspired by Historical Facts, Nikki Grimes brings together the two historical figures, who had actually met, for a series of interesting conversations about their ideals, their lives, and their hopes for their country.

A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson brings to life the childhood that inspired so much of his writings. The fiction comes in when Hopkinson makes researched guesses and fills in the blanks in the historical record.

4. Historical people in an historical situation. Sometimes authors discover big gaps in their subject's lives for which there is no documentation. Or they include dialogue based on what they were likely to have said. When details are supplied based on researched conjecture, or words not actually recorded in diary, interview, or written record are used as conversation, the book becomes historical fiction, no matter how meticulous the rest of the research is. This often gives the writer the opportunity to increase the emotion or the immediacy of the story. Author's notes, like those in Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, explain which details were imagined.

Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt were two bold and principled women who took a brief flight over the capitol. Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan slightly embellishes the solid research to paint a powerful picture of these amazing women.

George Washington Carver spent many weekends traveling the Alabama countryside to bring his agricultural knowledge to farmers and children. Susan Grigsby imagines such a visit in In the Garden with Dr. Carver.

Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy were the winning combination of White Sox hitter and his beloved bat. Author Phil Bildner brings Joe Jackson's story to life in historically accurate detail, but he supplies much of the dialogue in context.

During the German extermination of Jews in WWII, there were many courageous heroes. One of them was King Christian X of Denmark. Carmen Agra Deedy based The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark on oral histories and historical research.

Candace Fleming based Papa's Mechanical Fish on true stories of the eccentric inventor, Lodner Phillips. Her note shows his submarine being raised from the Chicago River in 1915, and her research and imagination filled in the blanks.

The sorrow of slavery is readily felt in Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine. Henry Brown was sold away from his mother, and later, from his wife and three children. With help from abolitionists, Henry escaped slavery by mailing himself in a box from Richmond to Philadelphia. 

Especially for children, historical fiction can bring the emotion and the universal experiences of the past to life. It adds heart to times before their birth, and makes the accomplishments and trials of historic figures to life. For history--read facts. For living history--read historical fiction.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Meet Author Tracey Cox ~By Suzy Leopold

Admired, appreciated, and awesome! I consider this featured author a writerly friend that is dear to my heart. Please meet terrific Tracey Cox.
Tracey Cox and her
Terrific Smile.
What inspired you to write your first book? 

My children. I've always loved to listen to stories and then write stories, but I never thought of taking it further. Then one night, Son #1 and Son #2 wanted to hear another story. So I thought about a frog family who needed to move and took them on an adventure to find a new, better home. When I finished telling the story, Son#2 was sound asleep, but Son#1 sat up, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Mom. That would make a cool book!” He laid down, went to sleep, and I thought, “Why not?” I went to the computer, typed in “How to write a children's story”, and I haven't looked back since.

How are you promoting your books?

I promote my books with book trailers, tweeting and facebooking about them, they have their own web page on my site, I am thinking about holding a book-birthday event this year as Ribbert's Way Home will be five years old in October!!! 

I love to visit schools and libraries, too !!! I have several presentations for the various age groups. Everything from being a SUPER STORYTELLER to How I Do What You Do to What It Takes to Become a Writer. I also am working on individual presentations for a few of my books that are specific topics, asthma awareness, stranger danger and the importance of exercising.  

What inspires you to write? What inspires you to read, write, create and draw? Why do you want to write for children?

I want to write and draw for children because of the innocence that they have. The world is new and there are things to explore and overcome. Their world is simpler (and don't we need that). They are what I hope to become, not to judge, but to embrace everything.

Tell us about your bright, fun illustrations? What medium do you use?

Tracey's Storyboard
I use pencil first to thumbnail. Plus, I have a gigantic story board to make sure the flow well. Once I have the idea down and like how it moves, I use my computer and begin drawing and creating digital images.

Share with us information about your Summer Sparks writing challenge.

I started Summer Sparks when I kept running out of steam during the Summer. I noticed a lot of other writers did the same calling ir our "Summer Slump". I was inspired by Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo and decided to do something similar. Summer Sparks is a challenge to come up with 14 picture book ideas in 14 days. It starts June 21st [the first day of summer] and runs to July 4th. Hopefully, those ideas will be making a much noise as fireworks.

If had to chose, which writer would you consider a mentor.

Eve Bunting!!! Hands down. She is amazing!!!!!! [*Sorry for all of those exclamation points. I went a little fan girl there.  Hahaha!*] But seriously, she has written on so many subjects and different genres and does it so well. I sent a letter to her when I first got into SCBWI, telling her what an amazing author I though she was. Would you believe she emailed me back!???! She did! A-maz-ing!

What books are you currently reading?

Picture books, picture books, picture books. Lots and lots of picture books. I think I need a support group! Hahaha!

What is your current WIP or what is your next project?

My current project is a book trailer I'm working on for my next book that will be coming out this Summer with Xist Publishing. The Children at the Playground explores all the fun things you can do at the playground.
How can one complete any writing
with this cutie sitting right by your side, Tracey?
Extra treats for you, Yankee! Tell Momma Sue said so!
If you could invite five authors to dinner who would you chose?

Umm, hard choice, but I'll give it a shot:
1. Eve Bunting [are you surprized???]
2. Katie Davis
3. Julie Gribble
4. Bethany Telles
5. Kate DiCamillo
+++++ too many more !!!!!!!!!!

What words of wisdom do you or piece of advice do you have for aspiring writers? 

Don't give up. Constantly work on your craft. Attend workshops, webinars, conferences, anything to surround yourself with other writers. Writing isn't easy, but it is worth all the hard work and effort you put into it.

Where can readers find out more about you?

Tracey's Blog: Tracey M. Cox Author/Illustrator & Picture Book Reviewer:

Tracey's Professional Facebook Page:

Tracey's Facebook Page:

Check out Tracey's web site for all of her social media links.

Thank you, Tracey, for sharing your thoughts, successes, tips, and writing journey with us.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Author Kim Teter & her FIRST book. Say Ciao! if you like VENICE

How would you like to research your first novel for students while visiting Venice?
That's what one author did.
And the result is history-drenched results in the poignant, ISABELLA's LIBRETTO.

Kim Cross Teter is a debut novelist who traveled far to research her
historical fiction story of a unique young musician.
Isabella, age 14 or 15, has no real family name because she is a Venice, Italy foundling.
The setting is a real Venice orphanage of the early 1700s.
And the celebrity character woven deeply into the story actually worked in the real orphanage! He was world-renowned composer Antonio Vivaldi.
Like the best historical fiction sleuths, Kim uncovered a little-known fact;
Vivaldi conducted an all-girl orchestra. This is the setting of ISABELLA'S LIBRETTO.

I met my new friend author Kim Cross Teter at AUTHORS in APALACH, a Florida coastal weekend connecting avid readers to constant scribblers. I couldn’t wait to get my copy autographed for me. I’m glad to “see” Kim again today at our Group Blog. Please give this former Nashville area bookseller & future multi-book novelist, a warm welcome for her debut & award-winning, story, ISABELLA’s LIBERTTO.


What was it like to walk through the functioning building in Venice, which was the site of the former, historic, Ospedale della Pieta? Is the copy of the Pieta still there?

Today, one of the buildings that comprised the orphanage contains offices and a small museum that documents the history of the Ospedale della Pietà, but the building where Isabella and her friends lived in 1715 is now the Metropole Hotel.

I was very disappointed that the music hall where Vivaldi worked with the girls has been turned into hotel rooms, but I was able to walk up the same staircase that those amazing women climbed 300 years ago. I did stop half way up with a sense of wonder about the history that had unfolded in that space. I also had the luxury of an afternoon without a schedule so that I could wander the lanes around the ospedale and soak up the atmosphere, and of course, I followed the path that Isabella and Catherine took to see the fireworks!

The statue of the Pietà that is so important to Isabella is a creation of my imagination.  The stunning church that is known today as “Vivaldi’s Church” wasn’t built until the 1740’s. Before that time a church was connected to the ospedale, and what remains of that church is now the bar in the Metropole Hotel! I knew that the earlier version of the church contained at least four statues, so I thought it fitting that one of them might be the representation of the Pietà, which was a common theme of art. 

(Below, author Kim Teter at the former Ospedale in Venice, Italy)


The characters Cecilia and Catherine are Isabella's close pals. And then young Monica arrives, in need of great compassion and understanding. Is there something about all-girl schools that forge friendships deeper than would otherwise be possible?

I think that in the case of Isabella and her friends, the bond that connects them so strongly is the lack of parents and a traditional family.  Because each of them yearns for a sense of belonging, they become sisters in the truest sense of the word and nurture each other. In my depictions of the girls’ associations with the older women, I was influenced by memories of my experience in a Catholic grade school.  Signora Priora is very closely modeled on my own perception of my sixth-grade teacher, Sister Felicitas.

You don't play an instrument yet music is a big part of your life. Explain.

Oh, I fully credit my children with my love of music!  
All three of them—Caitlin, Sean, and Claire--were very talented musicians who took private lessons and played in school ensembles, as well as the community youth orchestra.  When my oldest declared her desire to major in music education, I took a music appreciation course to learn more about the passion that was so important in their lives. It was in this class that I learned about Vivaldi and his association with this remarkable all-female orchestra.  My kids have been my biggest cheerleaders with Isabella’s Libretto, and all have helped me in one way or another.  Claire even took one for the team and accompanied me to Venice.

Your next novel is set in your home state. Can you share a bit about the kinds of research you are tackling for it?

During and shortly after World War II, more than 45,000 prisoners of war were interned in Texas.  I grew up in the Texas Panhandle, and an Italian POW camp was based not far from my hometown of Amarillo.  This summer I’ll be visiting the site of this camp to learn more about a fascinating set of events that took place there (and I only found out about them recently).  I’m hoping to interview some people who still might remember some of the details.  And then I’d like to go to Italy and find some of the former prisoners there who might still be alive. (Because I think all research should involve a trip to Italy—ha!)

As a first-time novelist, can you share two or three tips you wished you had known at the beginning of this quest? (And the Texas POW story sounds like one we all want to read.)

I certainly did not foresee how much time I would need to spend promoting and marketing Isabella’s Libretto!
I am published by a small press, but I’ve spoken with authors who are published by bigger houses who say the same thing. I have struggled with my balance between promoting this book and writing the next, and I have tremendous admiration for those people who are succeeding in this area. That said, I also could not have anticipated how many dear friendships I would gain as I have traveled throughout the Southeast to talk about Isabella’s Libretto, and how much I would enjoy the experience of festivals, school visits, and book signings. I have been extraordinarily blessed to meet and get to know very kind people who are generous in wanting to help others.  
One of those is you, Jan Godown Annino, and I hope to see you again in the Florida Panhandle or at another literary event.  Grazie mille for giving me a chance to share some of my experiences with my debut novel. And best of luck to you!

Q A bit of aw, shucks here Kim. Thank you, right back!
It’s a joy to return to your site & see new posts about new fans for your novel:

My hubby and I were recently in several coastal towns, including Apalachicola, Florida. This time it was an opportunity to watch modern day impressionist painters work in the open air, at a variety of locations. And I was soaking up more history for one of my works-in-progress, a MG novel set along the Florida coast, but not so long ago - the early 1970s. Paolo & I thought of not only visual artists, but writers & musicians, who can all draw inspiration from charmed historic setting, wherever they are. So glad the City of Venice, Italy, was your muse, Kim.

One of the commentors can receive an autographed copy of Kim's ISABELLA' S LIBRETTO. Please check back near May 15, 2015 to see if you have won.