Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller

By Janie Reinart

Ummmm. Doughnuts! I used to work at a bakery when I was in high school. The going rate was eighty-five cents an hour, and all the doughnuts I could eat! I never once thought to ask,"Who invented the doughnut?"

Lucky for us, the lovely and talented Pat Miller answered that question and her new book, The Hole Story of the Doughnut is debuting on May 3, 2016.

Pat how did you get the idea for the book?

When my husband and I were taking a harbor tour of Boston, I heard the guide say, “And over there is where they buried the guy who invented the doughnut.” 

We know who that is?! I quickly wrote the fact in my author’s notebook, which is a part of my wallet, and then forgot about it. 

The next year, I was attending a Highlights nonfiction workshop, and we were required to bring a nonfiction manuscript. Yikes! What would I write about? I scavenged my writer’s notebook and rediscovered this fact. That was the beginning.  

How long did it take you to write the story?

The research took a heady six months. I LOVED being a detective and finding facts that have been hidden from history. 

Making myself stop searching and start writing was difficult. It took me another six months and numerous rewrites to finish the text. 

Do you have an agent?

For my first 25 books, I had no agent. Stephen Fraser of Jennifer De Chiara Agency saw my most recent story through Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 and asked to represent it. 

He placed The Hole Story of the Doughnut with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Steve saw it in January of 2013, Kate O’Sullivan of HMH bought it in July. Then it sat for a year while its turn in the editorial cycle came up. It debuts on May 3, 2016. 

What inspires you to write?

Sitting down to my desk in my lovely little office inspires me. I write until something comes to me. 

I also get so many ideas in the shower that I had to buy a waterproof tablet! 

What is your writing routine?

I prefer to be up and writing by about 6:30 am, five days a week. I use a timer app that rings after 25 minutes of work. 

I make myself take a 5 minute break and then get back to it. I find that this really helps me stay focused. If a distraction comes along, I jot it down for later. 

I go to water aerobics at 10:00 am three times a week, and all that oxygen really gives me some good ideas. 

So I get back to the desk till about one o’clock and lunch. By then my brain/imagination are palms up, saying, “That’s all I got!” 

I try to stick with this, arranging commitments and fun things in the afternoons as best I can.

What is your favorite craft book about writing?

My favorite craft book for nonfiction, the one that truly inspired and taught me, is one I received at the Highlights nonfiction workshop: The Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and her daughter Peggy Thomas. 

My favorite writing book in general is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on several workshops that I will present at my NF 4 NF Writing Conference for Children’s Nonfiction Writers. 

Candace Fleming, Peggy Thomas, Melissa Stewart, Nancy I. Sanders, and Kelly Milner Halls will be joining me and three dozen participants for four days in Rosenberg, September 22-26. 

I can’t wait to learn more from them! As for manuscripts, I’m working on the story of an amazing woman who actually bested Sam Houston.

What are your words of advice?

Don’t listen to yourself. By that I mean it’s not unusual for your inner self to be critical, hopeless, daunted, and downright catty. 

Instead, write down your goals, your hopes, your targets and post them next to your computer or writing spot. THAT’S your reality. 

Surround those printed goals with affirmations and believe those. When your whiny self (“I can’t do this...”) tugs on your sleeve, give her/him a tiny pity party with chocolate, reread your goals and affirmations, and KEEP ON! 

Thank you Pat for an inspiring interview. Best wishes on your book launch. And as my dad used to say, "See you around like a doughnut!"

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Writer's Scrapbook by Tina Cho

If you have kids, sometime along the way you've probably made a scrapbook, photo album, or somehow documented your child's growth. I was into scrapbooking big time while in the states. 

But now that I'm also a writer, I have another baby--my writing! I have given birth to many stories that need to be showcased and documented. I don't want them to be forgotten.

I have written for magazines, online e-zines, newsletters, and devotionals to name a few. Having a writer's scrapbook is a good way to collect all these in one place.

I also like to include inspiring quotes and verses, letters and notes from friends and critique partners that inspire. When I have the writerly blues, I can dig this scrapbook out and feel encouraged.

My writer's notebook came about from a writing meeting in California that I used to attend. The author speaker, Marilyn Cram Donahue, said she included ideas for stories, inspiring notes, and published works that fit. So I bought a fun binder notebook and plastic sleeves. My scrapbook remained empty for a while until I started getting published here and there. Now it won't even close. 

Reasons to have a writer's scrapbook:

1. It's a safe place to collect all your published stories.

2. It's an inspirational haven for when you're down-in-the-dumps. 

3. It's a story of your writing journey.

4. It's fun for family and friends to look through.

5. When you do an author's visit and need to find your work to show, you know exactly where to find it!

What do you do with your published works? Share your organization system with us!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Delightful New Picture Books

By Leslie Colin Tribble

I had a post about a certain topic in mind for today, but then I took a quick walk through our public children's library. Two books caught my eye and I thought it'd be much more fun to share them with you instead.

How cute is this bunny!

The first is Peter McCarty's latest, Bunny Dreams. I love all Peter's books! He's an author illustrator and his characters are absolutely endearing. The first book I read was Hondo and Fabian, about a pet dog and cat, one of whom goes off on an adventure. As an author, Peter McCarty uses language geared toward the very youngest of lapsitters. As an illustrator, his characters are chubby with sweet expressions that make you fall in love with them from the front cover. If I had an ounce of talent with a pencil I'd want my creations to look like those in a Peter McCarty book. Hondo and Fabian was a 2003 Caldecott Honor winner and New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year.

Look at those faces!

Peter McCarty has published 13 books and they all deal with family relationships, friendships and simple, everyday events which take on bigger meaning.

Bunny Dreams was released in January this year and for me, it's an instant success. A whole herd of chubby bunnies in red striped pajamas do all sorts of things when they dream, until one bunny wakes up. If you're looking for a linear plot line, this is not the book for you, but if you want something inventive and a little offbeat, then be sure to check this one out. This is a book I would have begged for as a child because of the wonderful illustrations about one of my favorite animals, bunnies. I would have totally fallen for the idea that bunnies can read, count and fly in their dreams! Why not?!

How could you not love these two?

Bunny Dreams has a scant 211 words - food for thought for authors who have a hard time distilling their stories to under 500 words. The illustrations are all two page spreads, but only two spreads have words on both pages. It's a traditional 32 page picture book and perfectly suited for helping little two-footed bunnies get ready for bed. Published by Henry Holt.

More lovely illustrations

The second book I picked up was Little One by Jo Weaver from England. This book is the author's first and it has received great reviews. It was first published in the UK by Hodder Children's Books, then in the US by Peachtree.

The charcoal illustrations in Little One are a simple mix of gray, black and white blended in such a way as to create a sense of exactly what the characters might be seeing. Little One is about a mother bear that comes out of hibernation with her "wobbly tiny cub" and how she introduces him to their world. The illustrations are blended and indistinct, providing just a hint of the bears' faces but the bear's sense of wonder at their world comes across perfectly.

If I could pick a talent, it would be drawing.

I live where bears are a part of life so I appreciated the accurate telling of a bear's life (except for teaching the cub to be gentle with friends). Baby bears must learn about their environment from their mother's - where to forage for certain foods at different times of year, how to negotiate lakes and rivers, and how to return to the den at the right time in the fall. The bond between real mother bears and their cubs is very strong and that relationship is felt in this lovely book.

Although the text in Little One is at a higher reading level than Bunny Dreams, it's still perfect for 3-6 year olds and makes another good bedtime book.  Every illustration is a two-page spread and there are only 3 spreads with text on both pages. Little One has 218 words - again, less is best, but hard for some of us (me!) to achieve. Simple words and ideas that flow from one page to the next is the hallmark of both of these books.

Animal books are my favorite and Bunny Dreams and Little One are eventually going to find their own spots in my personal book cases. I hope you enjoy them as well.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Author Branding by Tina Cho

What’s Your Brand? 

This post originally appeared on my critique group's blog, Pens & Brushes. We, Groggers, felt that the Grog readers could also benefit from this information. I hope it's helpful!

Recently an agent asked me what my author brand would be. The problem is that I write in topics all over the place. I write whatever stirs a passion. It’s hard to nail down a brand.

So I decided to do some research on branding. When I hear the word brand, I think of my two kids who debate over which athletic brand is better: Nike or Adidas. When we go out, they like to look at the shoes people are wearing. Nike vs. Adidas. But the take-away for me is that the kids associate Nike and Adidas with athletic quality.

So what does this have to do with being a writer?

According to an article on Huffington Post, “Why Every Writer Needs an Author Brand,” it states that your brand is a promise you make to your readers. “You’re promising your audience a particular kind of reading experience, and you shouldn’t let them down. From project to project, maintaining continuity in your voice as a writer is vital to building a successful author brand and establishing a strong fan base…Genre typically comes first, and branding follows after. Your brand will exist within the genre you’re writing in.” 

When you hear the name Mo Willems, do you immediately think of Pigeon, Elephant & Piggy? Funny books for the very young? When you hear the name Grace Lin, do you think of children’s books with Chinese characters? These two authors have built a brand.
Grace's new book coming in October!
 So how does one build an author brand?

Kimberly Grabas, author of Quick Start Guide to Building Your Writer Platform, states, Your brand stems from who you are, how you want to be known and who people perceive you to be.” 
So I sat at my computer and thought. What kind of stories do I write? I looked through my collection of picture book stories + one novel and work-for-hire products. What theme or topic stands out? (to be revealed at the end)

Nina Amir said in the article “6 Branding Tips for Writers and Authors,” to determine this, consider:

·         the types of writing you want to do
·         the subjects about which you want to write
·         the types of stories you want to tell
·         the themes you want to cover in your work
·         the ways in which you want to serve you readers
·         the clients or customers you want to attract
·         the spin-off books (sequels or series) you would like to publish
·         your values
·         your interests
·         your passion
·         your purpose

One of my critique groups was talking about branding this week. Writing friend Carrie Finison said, In the musical world, I think of brand as the type of music I expect to hear when a band puts out a new album. Some bands/musicians have a very distinctive sound, while others are a bit more versatile, while still remaining in the realm of a certain musical style. I wouldn't expect Coldplay to produce a jazz or classical album, for example - that doesn't mean that they wouldn't use jazz or classical elements in a song.

In terms of companies, brand generally means what type of items I expect that company to produce. Apple makes computers. Would I be surprised if they started selling speakers? No. Would I be surprised if they branched out into a line of beverages? Yes. That's not their brand.”

Since I write a lot of nonfiction + fiction + Korean themed stories + American stories, another writer friend Hannah Holt helped me state it this way. DRUM ROLL…

My brand might be: an informational text and humorous fiction writer with an American/Korean fusion.

Let me know YOUR brand and what you think of this branding idea in the comments!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Virginia Hamilton Multicultural Conference: Diversity in Poetry, Prose, and Pictures by Kathy Halsey

The Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature for Youth, 32 years young, is the longest running multicultural children's conference in the country. This year Nikki Grimes, Margarita Engle, Christian Robinson, Angela Johnson and Helen Frost assembled to share their award-winning books and thoughts on the campus of Kent State University.
Nikki Grimes shares her dreams
On a snowy April eve, keynote speaker Nikki Grimes warmed our hearts and shared her thoughts on the wonderful novel in verse, WORDS WITH WINGS. 
Words that winged their way into my notebook:

  • "I write books about children who look and feel like me."
  • When writing, remember that "...the best worlds are formed from the architecture of dreams."
  • Set aside time to play when beginning a new work.
  • Good stories share "compassion, sympathy, and empathy."
  • What can writers do to confront the world's atrocities? Begin with empathy. "The most important common denominator is heart, and we can start with books." 
  • WORDS WITH WINGS is a story "about the beauty of a little girl's interior life that is not valued."
  • Daydreams are important for writers AND children. Do not discourage, but encourage daydreaming in students. It is the seed of creativity and invention.
Robinson draws a Corgi at my suggestion.
Christian Robinson, Caldecott illustrator for LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET treated us to spontaneous sketches and his influences during his presentation: 

  • Drawing gave him a way to express himself in a world he wanted to see.
  • Influences include Leo Lionni, Ezra Jack Keats, Roger Duvoisin; animators Mary Blair, Walter Peregoy, and Eyvind Earle.
  • As a Pixar intern, he worked on the movie Up, but was then let go.  
  • He gave himself illustration projects to keep himself working and posted them on his blog. Eventually, agent Steven Malk found his work while scrolling the net one day.
  • Riding the bus with his Nana, who raised him, inspired the art for MARKET STREET. 
  • Take heart, writers and illustrators. Christian told us he is "overwhelmed and scared every time he starts a book."
    Margarita Engle
The poetic contributions from the "honored guest" authors continued with Margarita Engle, who shared such goodness with us:

  •  Her books are about power. "Characters are powerful and so are words."
  • Margarita wrote ENCHANTED AIR: TWO CULTURES, TWO WINGS: A MEMOIR for "peace and reconciliation."
  • She feels that "rhyme and musical language can soften the blow of difficult topics."
  • Why write in free verse? "Poetry makes me happy," Margarita says. 
    A stellar line-up of honored guests and authors Christian Robinson, Nikki Grimes, Helen Frost and Margarita Engle

    In two days, attendees were treated to sixteen breakout sessions that focused on diversity and culture, wonderful dinners and repasts, a reception with the authors, and book giveaways. This is a conference you want to pencil into your calendar for next year, April 6 and 7, 2017. A big thank you to the conference committee and Arnold and Jaime Adoff for carrying on Virginia Hamilton's legacy. As Arnold says, "The struggle continues."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Turn that Picture Book Page! ~ by Patricia Toht

Webster's Dictionary defines a page-turner as "a book, story, etc., that is difficult to stop reading because it is so interesting." 

So, what makes for a great page turn in a picture book? What compels readers to flip to the next spread? 

Above all, a strong story will do the trick, a story that contains elements that propel action forward. Some involve:

• A trip, like this year's Newbery winner, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson. Readers want to know where the journey will ultimately end up.

• A quest, like SAM AND DAVE DIG A HOLE by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Readers turn the page to discover if these diggers will find something spectacular, after all.

• Strong cause-and-effect. I can still remember that, as a small child reading THE CAT IN THE HAT by Dr Seuss, I actually held my breath when turning one particular page. On that page, the cat was balanced on a ball, holding aloft a huge, teetering tower of things. Could he possibly stay upright? I cringed and turned the page... Nope!

• An escalating problem. THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT by Penny Parker Klostermann and Ben Mantle is a prime example of escalation. The dragon keeps swallowing things, and his growing stomach discomfort surely cannot end well.

In addition to a strong story, or in quieter books or concept books, some other techniques can encourage page turns:

• The use of questions. The nonfiction book, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A TAIL LIKE THIS? (by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page) uses this technique. To find the answers to this question -

   - readers must turn the page.

• Rhyme. With rhyme, a missing end rhyme will encourage the reader to guess the last word of the stanza, and then turn the page to confirm their guess. Take a look at Miranda Paul's new book, WHOSE HANDS ARE THESE?, illustrated by Luciana Powell. 
(*A warning here -- only write in rhyme if your story demands it and you work diligently to make all the elements of rhyme work. Here is a post on that topic.)

• Sparse text. The best example I can think of for this technique is YO! YES? by Chris Raschka. The entire book contains fewer words than most of my sentences! With few words, readers move forward quickly to add to the story. This book also uses the next technique -

• Alternating characters. With two characters that are fairly balanced in importance and appearance in the story, readers will keep turning the pages to see what is going on with the other character. HERMAN AND ROSIE by Gus Gordon is a personal favorite of mine.

• The use of a "page-turning word" and/or an ellipsis. Alice Schertle uses both in ALL YOU NEED FOR A SNOWMAN, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee. On the spread below, the word "then" followed by an ellipsis requires a page turn to complete the sentence and move things forward.

Picture book editors read tons of picture books and submissions of yet-to-be picture books, so many that they develop a feel, an internal rhythm, of where a page turn occurs. As they read your text, they will subconsciously break your picture book into spreads, adding page turns in their mind. 

You can develop that same feel, that internal rhythm. You can also encourage page turns. How?




Never made a dummy before? Don't worry - there's a post for that, too! Check it out here.

So what is your favorite page-turner picture book, GROG readers? Does it include any of the elements above? Something else?

Friday, April 15, 2016

More Poetry Month Love

More Poetry Month Love
by J.G. Annino

If you manage to entice your Muses to visit you,
might you write poetry?

could someone else’s poetry be the Muse for you?

Reading poetry that connects, that zings, opens your heart,
can entice in, the Muse that spurs you to write -  and, not
necessarily to write poetry. But to write whatever it is
that is on your heart.

As Christy shared so creatively on our Aprl 11, 2016
Group Blog, this is National Poetry Month!
My hope with this visit, is to incubate the idea that
picking up a classic poetry collection that you
dip in and out of without pressure, could lead to
an ephinany, an “ah, ha” moment in your own writing.

Robert Pinsky
Favorite Poem Project Poet, Robert Pinsky
Such an honor!  The former U.S. poet laureate,
Robert Pinsky, brought the national Favorite Poem Reading
Project to our town, Tallahassee, recently.

Of course we managed to get to the event. 
Everyday people from around the state of Florida read a poem,
by an established author. This is the road show for a previous online
invitation at the Favorite Poem website. I didn't enter, as it was some
time back. But I'm so glad so many people did.

They picked one poem that over and over, calls to them.
This is one of Robert Pinsky’s favorite challenges. To ask everyone to
find a favorite poem or two, read them regularly,  and further, he urges
us to read the poem out loud and not stop there. Memorize a favorite poem.
That allows you to carry it with you, everywhere.

 This acclaimed poet looks like a cross between Bill Nye, the
Science Guy & that great space educator Carl Sagan. He was
just as engaging as each of them.  “A poem is a work of art made
for a human voice,” he told us. “But it’s not the art of one expert.
It’s the art of any and all.”

Here are just three of the poems read that evening.

“Nick and the Candlestick,” Sylvia Plath
“Why I Am Not A Painter,” Frank O’Hara
“Soneto XVII” Pablo Neruda

And I still remember how Pinsky quoted James Baldwin,
“Culture is everybody’s birthright.”

So, everybody, I have always been one of those who can't pick one
favorite poem. But he said in that case, know that you are
working with one of your favorites. Despite the title of the project,
it doesn't have to be THE one and true only favorite. Like picking 
among children, impossible to do.

So here is the title of a poem section I like a whole lot among
many favorites. It is, "Alphabets," (part 1) and it is 
from the pen of the great Seamus Heaney. It begins, 

by Seamus Heaney

"A shadow his father makes with joined hands
And thumbs and fingers nibbles on the wall
Like a rabbit's head. He understands
He will understand more when he goes to school.

There he draws smoke with chalk the whole first week.
Then he draws the forked stick that they call a Y.
This is writing. A swan's neck and swan's back
Make the 2 he can see now as well as say..."
c. Seamus Heaney

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

National Library Week

Designed by Gene Luen Yang,
an award-winning graphic novelist.
It's National Library Week, April 10 - 16, 2016.

The American Library Association [ALA] sponsored the first National Library Week, in 1958, to share a public awareness for libraries and an appreciation for librarians. The ALA continues to promote the use and support of libraries and library contributions across our nation every April.

Visit your local library and show your support to celebrate libraries. For more information about additional ideas check out I Love Libraries here.

The library is an important institution that offers many opportunities for families to learn and grow together. From wee little ones to *silver people* and every age in between, a library has something for everyone. All you need is a library card. 
Stack of books
National Library Week is a time to recognize the valuable contributions that libraries make for communities throughout the nation. From public libraries to school libraries, bookmobiles, and the Little Free Libraries throughout your neighborhood.

Participate in ALA's #LibrariesTransform public awareness promotion. Create your own Because Statement and fill in the blank by telling your story of why your library is important.

For more ALA celebrations throughout the month of April and throughout the remainder of the year check out this link about promotions and events

Remember eight year old RAMONA QUIMBY?
Happy Birthday
Beverly Cleary!
This week [and during the entire month of April] in honor of author Beverly Cleary's 100th birthday, let's make reading a priority. Let's Drop Everything and Read, D. E. A. R. with Ramona Quimby and a tall stack of books. 

That's what I am doing.

Mrs. Sue reads
during Literacy Night
at St. Michael's School

That's what my seven sweet and sometimes sassy grands are doing.
Oma Sue loves Johannah, Joshua & Jaxon.
Oma Sue loves Lily & Lane.
Oma Sue loves Charlotte.
Oma Sue loves Henry.
Remember to thank a librarian and the many dedicated professionals who work hard to make our libraries special. 

High five for fellow GROG authors and librarians: Todd Burleson, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Kathy Halsey and Pat Miller. Thank you for the many hours spent in a library, motivating and sharing literacy with library patrons, story time readings, supporting children with independent research, selecting and classifying library sources, making book recommendations to teachers and students, and checking out, shelving many, many titles and much more.

Celebrate the love of literacy. Celebrate libraries.