Village Life

“It Takes a Village…” Bless Hillary for coming up with that title.

Fish Dance!

Fish Dance!

Like Harper Lee, I have files... While preparing for Not Norman's birthday celebration (break for Glugs and a happy fish dance!)

I happened upon this unpublished post. Portentous in that I'm making travel arrangements and filling in my 2015 calendar, to DO IT-the whole Why? How? Will I? When? Waaaaaaa!-AGAIN! 

July 24, 2014: I’m just back from a month long visit with my village. My children’s book writers & readers village. It’s a mobile village. A global village. Despite that, connecting isn’t always easy. Especially living as I do with my feet and heart in many places: TT, WHB, NYC, TUL, RNO, CA, JKT . . .  And while techno innovations have made staying in touch, connecting, even face-to-face almost-like-being-there conversations possible, virtual can’t compete with actual.

Alicia Johnson, a long time friend and champion arranged this visit to Conroe Central Library

Alicia Johnson, a long time friend and champion arranged this visit to Conroe Central Library

First came the Why? Kids!!! 2 days of Library presentations at Conroe Central Library, organized by my friend and children’s librarian Alicia Johnson, let me get up close and personal with a couple of hundred children of all ages—all meaning 3 months to 20 years! Stand outs: 0-6 year olds: After reading NOT NORMAN we sang the “My Pet Says” song, which had us all wagging our tails, barking, clucking and almost left one little guy in tears because he wanted us to sing about his horse that said “neigh, neigh, neigh (no worries, we made him happy by singing one last verse just for him!) 6-9 year olds: Nothing better than that finger shaking No Bite! VAMPIRE BABY Chorus and loads of hugs after; creating a mystery with the teen group—which we got so caught up in that we ran over and they had to practically, physically pull us out the library so they could lock up but not before we managed to convict the chameleon and restore Mouse’s pilfered diary; and last—maybe best—Ideaphoria with 9-12 year olds who don’t let you get away with anything!

Don't be fooled by our demur pose: Wylld imaginings are in progress.

Don't be fooled by our demur pose: Wylld imaginings are in progress.

 

Then came the How? 4 days of intense picture book lock-down in Idywylld with 3 writer buds, Marty Graham, Sarah Tomp and Andrea Zimmerman, aka "The Wylld Bunch," which despite our names only had time to have wild imaginings.

 

 

After came the Will I?  Back to VCFA for the Alumni Mini-Rez and retreat. As we have ever since they kicked us off campus a few years back (that’s another story) my classmates, The Unreliable Narrators, have rented a house where we all bunk up, plug in and recharge each July.

Summer of 2014 Unreliable Narrator retreaters (The rest of the pack missed out on the lips)   L-R: Kerry Castano, me, Katie Mather, Tam Smith, Cynthia Granberg, Cindy Faughnan, Trinity Peacock-Broyles

Summer of 2014 Unreliable Narrator retreaters (The rest of the pack missed out on the lips) L-R: Kerry Castano, me, Katie Mather, Tam Smith, Cynthia Granberg, Cindy Faughnan, Trinity Peacock-Broyles

This year our guest of honor was Katie’s son James. At 17 months, the toughest picture book judge ever…

James lounging with his UN posse

James lounging with his UN posse

 

 

When Jame's mom was napping, I used him a guinea pig (I started to type “lab rat” . . . Katie would have laughed, but I wasn’t sure anyone else would have.)

 

The bright blue cover caught his eye. Lost it fast when he saw the inside (so that’s why they call them picture books?)

Reading to a 17 month old shows why short is best—I was cutting words willy-nilly, and adding sounds—especially animal-ish noises…no wonder repetition is big.

Last came the When?

When will it end? That was definitely the question my family was asking when after the VCFA retreat, instead of returning home, I rode on to Cindy’s house for more. Talk about a dedicated writer. Cindy makes sure she gets those words down every day—and she made sure I did, too.

Best, each night of every phase: How-Will-When came “PUT UP OR SHIP OUT” Time when we read aloud the work we’d done. No way did I want to be voted out, so I worked.

Now comes the Whaaaaaaaaa. I’m back again, facing the blank page, the revision notes, the What! But I’m not alone. . .

Bob Dole thought he was slapping Hillary in the face with it when, during his Rebublican Nomination Acceptance Speech for the 96 elections, he spouted, “I am here to tell you, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child."

What is a village if not an extended family? A community of individuals clustered together for similar if disparate reasons. Village. Family. Village.  .  . Potato. Pot-A-toe. Mash um up, add butter, salt, and a dash of pepper and it’s all the same—a blend that makes for good eatin’ and comfort which fosters creative living! 

Village Life Playlist: 

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And the Winners Are . . .

Drumroll Please . . . Winners in the VAMPIRE BABY I Vant Books for My Library Giveaway are: 

1.    Guthrie Memorial Library, Hanover, Pennsylvania 

I Vant Books for Guthrie Memorial

I Vant Books for Guthrie Memorial

2.    Jericho Public Library, Jericho, New York

CAUTION: VE VILL BITE UNLESS WE VIN BOOKS FOR JERICHO LIBRARY!

CAUTION: VE VILL BITE UNLESS WE VIN BOOKS FOR JERICHO LIBRARY!

3.    Moreland Notre Dame Academy, Watsonville, California

GRANDMA MADE ME DO IT . . . 

GRANDMA MADE ME DO IT . . . 

4.    Tulsa Educare, Tulsa, Oklahoma

I WANT TOOTIE!        I NEED TOOTIE!          I LOVE TOOTIE!

I WANT TOOTIE!        I NEED TOOTIE!          I LOVE TOOTIE!

5.    Cobleskill Community Library, Coblehill, New York 

DON'T THINK I VILL NOT BITE FOR BOOKS!

DON'T THINK I VILL NOT BITE FOR BOOKS!


6.    Harry S. Truman Public Library, Annapolis, MD

BEHIND THIS LIP BROOM I'M 100% BOOK VAMPIRE--SUCKING OUT EVER DROP OF KNOWLEDGE!

BEHIND THIS LIP BROOM I'M 100% BOOK VAMPIRE--SUCKING OUT EVER DROP OF KNOWLEDGE!

7.    Maud Smith Marks Library, Katy, TX

I VANT TO BITE er... REVEALING MY TRUE IDENTITY TO WIN BOOKS FOR MAUD MARKS LIBRARY

I VANT TO BITE er... REVEALING MY TRUE IDENTITY TO WIN BOOKS FOR MAUD MARKS LIBRARY

8.    Norwich Public Library, Norwich, VT

LOOK INTO MY EYES AND REPEAT AFTER ME: SEND NORWICH VAMPIRE BABY! SEND NORWICH VAMPIRE BABY!

LOOK INTO MY EYES AND REPEAT AFTER ME: SEND NORWICH VAMPIRE BABY! SEND NORWICH VAMPIRE BABY!

9.    Orion Library, Lake Orion, Michigan

BENEATH THESE FANGS WE'RE NICE .  WE WON'T BITE . .  . UNLESS YOU MESS WITH OUR SHELVES!

BENEATH THESE FANGS WE'RE NICE .  WE WON'T BITE . .  . UNLESS YOU MESS WITH OUR SHELVES!

10.    Herbert Hoover Elementary, Tulsa, OK

I Vant Books for Hoover Kindergartners!

I Vant Books for Hoover Kindergartners!

Each winner will receive a copy of Vampire Baby (from Candlewick Press)  and collection of Kelly Bennett Books for the library listed above! 

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Fang Challenged? Don't Let Fang Envy Stop You

Grow Your Own Pair . . . 

 . . . of Fangs, I mean.

It’s come to my attention that the term “Fang up!” is causing consternation.

i'M TOO SHY TO SHOW MY FANGS! And I've never been to a neighborhood library...

i'M TOO SHY TO SHOW MY FANGS! And I've never been to a neighborhood library...

LOTS OF FOLKS, it seems, are all excited about the Vampire Baby Free Books Giveaway. They are thrilled to share it, tweet it, like it on Facebook, but they can’t bring themselves to ENTER IT . . . 

Seems, along with all the other issues plaguing us, we’re having major FANG Trouble.  

The trouble with Fangs is:

Some don’t have fangs, as in there seems to be a flat out fang shortage.

Others have fangs, but . . . not Fangs long or sharp enough to mention.

Others are worried about what folks might say if they do flash their fangs and Vampire Up!   

Phooey I say! There are FREE books waiting to be scooped up! 40 hardback, full-color picture books, retail price about $16.95 + +  including, Dance, Y’all, Dance, One Day I Went Rambling, Your Daddy Was Just Like You!, Your Mommy Was Just Like You!, Dad & Pop. & Not Norman

And, of course, Vampire Baby

illustrated by Paul Meisel (Candlewick Press)

illustrated by Paul Meisel (Candlewick Press)

Don’t let Fang issues keep you from playing.

Or, as Will Shakespeare so would have said, had he written 13th Night as planned:

Some are born fanged, some achieve fangs, and some have fangs thrust upon them.
— Will Shakespeare so would have said it—if he’d been writing 13th Night

In the interest of fairness I’d like to level the contest-playing field by offering several solutions to this FANG Trouble. Facts first, Joe Friday:

SOME ARE BORN FANGED:

I have it on GOOD AUTHORITY: Baby teeth appear in any order (so don't be scared . . . ). Most times a baby’s bottom two front teeth appear first. Sometimes, it’s the top two incisors. Rarely, molars break through first. And occasionally, a baby sprouts FANGS!

Tootie used to be a cuddly ga-ga-goo-goo I want my bah-bah baby. Then one night . . . 

Tootie used to be a cuddly ga-ga-goo-goo I want my bah-bah baby. Then one night . . . 

Image borrowed from Internet (click photo for link)

Image borrowed from Internet (click photo for link)

That’s human babies! Other species are a whole different, er . . .  animal. 

Hedgehog Vampires are rare but creapy!

Hedgehog Vampires are rare but creapy!

 

 

 

 

SOME ACHIEVE FANGS:

“If you can find a dentist who'll do it, you can have your front teeth shortened and your canines filed.

"File incisors to a point and file down your other front teeth so the fangs will be more prominent."

Yank Your Incisors: Definitely NOT recommended but…
— http://www.vampires.com/want-real-fangs-ask-your-dentist/
Vampire Bat's native to South American Rainforest

Vampire Bat's native to South American Rainforest

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a less permanent alternative, Buy Fangs: 

You'll find all types and prices of Fangs to buy.

You'll find all types and prices of Fangs to buy.


Vampire Fangs come in many styles and price ranges, from long lasting to edible. And for all things Vampire, click over to WWW.VAMPIRE.COM


Buying Fangs is one thing, Putting them on might be a tad bit harder. Here's a How-to Video

DYI: Make Your Own Fangs: 

and more often than one might suppose . . .  or not . . . 

SOME HAVE FANGS THRUST UPON THEM:

What is it? You too shy, too cool, too whatever to Fang up. I totally get it. That needn't stop you from entering the Vampire Baby Free Books Giveaway.

Laugh now....If you Dare. But just wait until I win all those groovy picture books. We'll see who's laughing then . . . 

Laugh now....If you Dare. But just wait until I win all those groovy picture books. We'll see who's laughing then . . . 

Nobody ever said it had to be you.

Grab all the babies, pets, and the old ladies, and make--let--help them Fang Up!

Tripp Vampire Baby.JPG
What are you waiting for? Click on this picture and use the Vampire Baby DYi Fangs--There are a variety of styles to choose

What are you waiting for? Click on this picture and use the Vampire Baby DYi Fangs--There are a variety of styles to choose

 

 

 

Time's Running Out!

Only 10 more days to enter the Vampire Baby Book Give-Away. Winners will be announced at Midnight November 1st, Just after the last stoke of Halloween. 

Enter Now!

Enter Later!

There's not limit to how many times you can enter. Need not be present to win. 

Don't let Lack-o-Fangs Stop You: Vampire Up! 

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Ban It. Pan It. But Don’t Ignore It.

As we wave farewell to Banned Book Week 2014,  and move into October--the season of the most widely banned holiday of them all, HALLOWEEN,

 I’d like to share what sounds like the start of a joke: I was sitting in the Candlewick Press booth one day when 2 librarians walked up . . .

Not These Two--Children's Librarians! (Who Knew there was a TV Series?)

Not These Two--Children's Librarians! (Who Knew there was a TV Series?)

I smiled cheerily, and Vanna White-ish-ly motioned toward the picture book on display. 

“This is my newest book,” I gushed, “Isn’t it adorable!”

"Would you like to take a look at it?"

 “Feel free to take a few NO BITE pins,” I offered.

“A bookmark? Maybe a NO BITE sticker?”

 

 

 

 

The two librarians leaned in for a peek at the cover, then jumped back, shaking their heads.
No, no,” They told me.

“I’m sure it’s very nice,” one offered. “But . . . 

We don’t buy that kind of book.

The book was Vampire Baby, a picture book illustrated by Paul Meisel. The event TLA: Texas Library Association 2013 Annual Conference. 

These weren't the only librarians who hurried past and/or tisk-tisked disapprovingly at Vampire Baby. (I think a few may actually have made a special trip past the booth just so they could cast dispersion.) 

What were they afraid of? That adorable Tootie-Wootie was going to jump off the cover and bite them? That Vampirism was contagious? That children exposed to it might suddenly sprout fangs? Or maybe, horror of horrors, they might actually . . . like it???

While it sounds like a joke, it’s not a laughing matter.

Later, at the Texas Blue Bonnet Award Luncheon, after one table-mate actually squealed with delight when she learned Vampire Baby was mine!—my Rock Star Moment—I learned why Vampire Baby was shunned. That same librarian who had squealed, later apologized because while she would happily be buying copies for herself, her children, and her friends, she could not buy it for her school library. Why?

Turns out the word “Vampire” is taboo in many libraries—school and otherwise. And in school book fairs and clubs, such as Scholastic. So, rather than buying Vampire Baby, rather than reading it, rather than even looking inside, librarians at those institutions ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist. Sound familiar?

It took me back to a long ago Fourth of July Weekend when after sharing a jolly holiday with friends at a cabin they had rented on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake, we decided to book ourselves a cabin for the upcoming Labor Day weekend. The proprietress happily passed me a registration for to fill out, read as far as my name, then smiled politely as she declined my booking, saying “I’m sure you are very nice people, but you are not our kind of people.”  

Ironic, isn't it, that time of “Inclusivity” and “Celebrating Diversity” Vampire Baby, a teething story, a sibling story, a story of a brother learning to accept his sister’s “differences” and ultimately embrace and defend her, fangs and all, rather than being embraced or challenged,  is ignored.

Frankly, I don’t blame them.  If I were a children’s librarian, I’d probably do the same thing. (Although I’d like to think I wouldn't.) As delightful as Vampire Baby is—and it sooooo is—if  I knew adding it to my library’s picture book collection guaranteed me having to defend it, fill out more paperwork, perhaps pull it from the shelves anyway, I probably wouldn't buy it either. (The tots won’t know the difference. . . ) So much easier to ignore it and hope it goes away…

I wouldn’t be alone in this thinking, it seems. In a Google search of “Banned Picture Books,” the last picture book listed is And Tango Makes Three, published in 2005! 

Does this mean the last offensive to some faction picture book published was 9 years ago????

Of course you can't compare   Vampire Baby   to   And Tango Makes Three . . . 

Of course you can't compare Vampire Baby to And Tango Makes Three . . . 


 . . . Not until you've read IT!

 . . . Not until you've read IT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to Banned Books! And Banning Books!. Being banned is so much better than being ignored.

Do me a favor: Ban it if you must. Pan it if you will. But, first, READ IT! (Or at least listen.)

I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the Link to VAMPIRE BABY Author Read-Aloud

If you decide it's offensive, go ahead, BAN IT!  (I double-dog dare you...)

If you decide it’s worthwhile, and you’d like a chance to WIN FREE BOOKS FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR LIBRARY, enter the I Vant My Vampire Baby Contest. HERE’S HOW!

The views expressed here are strictly mine. The do not reflect those of Candlewick Press, Paul Meisel, Scholastic Bookfairs or Vampires other than Tootie.

A Pregnant Pause

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the millworkers sing in CarouselJune is bustin’ out all over…”  Flowers are budding, birds are chirping, bees buzzing and as a recent grandmother to Ben,

Bennett experienced the wonders of Indepencence day: Parades, fireworks & watermelon!

Bennett experienced the wonders of Indepencence day: Parades, fireworks & watermelon!

Great aunt for the second time: 

                        Welcome to the World Felicity Allain Smith, born June 9th, 2014.

                        Welcome to the World Felicity Allain Smith, born June 9th, 2014.

And recently revealed gran-to-be:

    Lexi & Ryan are expecting, their baby’s due the end of the year.

    Lexi & Ryan are expecting, their baby’s due the end of the year.

I have babies on the brain, literally and literate-ly.

They—Farmers in the know— say trees always produce best after a “hard” year (“hard” being either an especially cold winter or hot, dry summer). Which might be the reason for the largess . . . although I’m not questioning or complaining. Rather, I’m simply, joyfully, reveling…and pondering gestation:

Elephant gestation takes 547.9 – 669.6730 days (the longest period for mammals).

Salamanders—tiny as they are—about the same. And, considering it, size-for-size, mother discomfort, bulkiness, effort-wise, probably the same elephantian experience too.

Velvet worm—actually NOT a worm and NOT velvet—takes up to 456.553 days,

Velvet worm—actually NOT a worm and NOT velvet—takes up to 456.553 days,

From conception to birth cat's gestation takes 58-65 days. (No wonder they're such hussies!)

 

Manatees 396 days on average.

Manatees 396 days on average.

Donkeys, "Jennys"  330-440 (with lots of variables), camels take 410ish.

Giraffes between 400-460, rhinos about the same, seals and sea lions: 330-350 days.

Giraffes between 400-460, rhinos about the same, seals and sea lions: 330-350 days.

Whales and dolphins: 517.426 (on average with some sperm whales taking 578), humans: 268 days give or take . . . 

Whales and dolphins: 517.426 (on average with some sperm whales taking 578), humans: 268 days give or take . . . 

 As for novels??????

Cause for my literary revelry stems from a cluster of new books by writer friends. With one exception, all by classmates of mine from VCFA. As I have been there through all of these books since inception, in some cases offering a shoulder, always watching admiringly, I’ve declared myself “auntie” to them and as such entitled to muse:

Here are some of the Unreliable Narrators at VCFA last summer.  B.R: Trinity, Cindy, Sarah, Barb, Cynthia; F.R:  Tam, Kelly, Erin.  I fully expect all to be published authors!

Here are some of the Unreliable Narrators at VCFA last summer.  B.R: Trinity, Cindy, Sarah, Barb, Cynthia; F.R:  Tam, Kelly, Erin.  I fully expect all to be published authors!

I’ll begin with the exceptional Russell J. Sanders, who I first met back in/around 2000 when he was a newly retired High School English/Theater teacher and wanna be author at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston. Russell recently celebrated the birth of his second novel, which is garnering excellent reviews, Special Effects (Dreamspinner Press, 2014): More about Russell:

How long did Special Effects take from idea to sale?

About 2191.45 days . . . 

Gestation:  about   2191.45 days (with, as Russell noted “ some stops and starts”

Gestation: about 2191.45 days (with, as Russell noted “ some stops and starts”

Erin Moulton’s third novel came out this June. This being her third, one might think the whole “birthing a novel” thing would have lost its novelty for her. Maybe that’s why Erin “made things interesting” this year, but combining the birth of her newest novel, Chasing the Milky Way, with the birth of her first human baby, Tucker! Oh, yeah, and if that wasn’t excitement enough, timing it all to coincide with the date her new manuscript for her work in progress was due. More about Erin: 

Gestation: It's a bit of a blurrrrrr

Gestation: It's a bit of a blurrrrrr

Jennifer Wolf Kam's path has been by award-hopping to publication! A 3-time finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, Jen first won publication of her ghost story, White House, in Hunger Mountain. Spectacularly, publication of her debut novel came as a result of writing 2 of 5 finalist in the NAESP 2013 Children’s Book ContestMore about Jen! 

Gestation:    5 years: 1826.21 days

Gestation:  5 years: 1826.21 days

Sarah Tomp, author of my often lauded, put-it-back-in-print fav, The Red, White and Blue Goodbye, had a relatively easy time of it with her debut moonshine novel, My Best Everything, which “walks the line between toxic and intoxicating” The gestation time was only 1 1/2 years=547.9632996 days!  More about Sarah:

Gestation: about 1 ½ years:  547.863298611 days

Gestation: about 1 ½ years:  547.863298611 days

Tamera Ellis Smith, who’s writing credits include a first-person essay in  BREAK THESE RULES: 35 YA Writers on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself,  welcomes her debut novel Another Kind of Hurricane, August 2015.  (Publication is scheduled to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.) Here's More about Tam!

So, Tam, how long did it take to write Another Kind of Hurricane?:  Almost 9 years . . . 3287.18 days, with “A lot of starts and stops along the way.  Sometimes big stops.”

Last but not least for this crop: Teresa Harris, author of the spunky picture book, Summer Jackson: Grown-Up,  won two prizes (one for humor) for this novel-in-progress while we were still at VCFA.

Teresa's WIP, acquired by Clarion, is forthcoming (I could not find a pub date on the web.) So by my calculations, gestation time: 5.6 years=2045.36 days. However, if you count post-sale as gestation,* the interview announcing the sale was Feb of 2012 and Teresa’s book hasn’t been published yet, gestation's is ongoing. So make that 2921.94 and counting . . . More about Teresa 

 

Why the disparity?

I like to think of it in shark terms. Sharks are K-selected reproducers, (as are, cats aside, the other animals noted above.) Rather than producing a large number of poorly developed offspring, “they produce a small number of well-developed young.” In this way offering their offspring the best possible chances of surviving. Additionally, in these animals, birth can be delayed depending on a variety of external pressures.

That’s why I’m thinking shark. Maybe it isn’t’ about how badly we want to publish . . . what brilliant writers we are . . . the fantastic story premise we’ve dreamed up . . . Or about everyone, anyone, our expectations. Maybe there are other forces beyond our control determining how long it takes.

“You can feel it in your heart/
You can see it in the ground/
You can see it in the trees/
You can smell it in the breeze/
Look around! Look around! Look around!”
— June's Bustin' Out All Over by Rogers & Hammerstein

* The question of whether a book is “gestating” in that time between being sold and publication is up for debate. Might this time be the equivalent of Novel neo-natal?--It certainly adds to the w-a-i-t-i-n-g t-i-m-e. . . tick-tock

Care to give a little listen?? JUNE IS BUSTIN' OUT ALL OVER on Utube

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The Writing Process Blog Tour

There’s a Pyramid Scheme in Progress! No one seems to know who kick started this movement to get authors sharing the how and whys of “Writing Process,” but it’s spreading like kudzu as week after week, writer by writer, we’re asking and answering 4 seemingly-simple-but-surprisingly-complex questions about how we Do This Thing We Do, then tagging others to answer next.  I’m having an inspired time learning from everyone else, most recently fellow VCFA alum and picture book author chum, Sarah Sullivan, who tagged me.

STARRED REVIEW from the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; VOYA called it "AN OUTSTANDING DEBUT NOVEL

STARRED REVIEW from the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; VOYA called it "AN OUTSTANDING DEBUT NOVEL

Sarah proved her talents stretched beyond picture books with her acclaimed debut novel, All That's Missing so be sure to READ SARAH’s POST.

 WAIT! STOP!  Before you go there, here’s mine:

 

 What am I currently working on?

4 picture books/3 blog posts/2 chapter books/and . . . A novel started in the 90’s! (The sale from which—if it’s ever finished—might buy me that partridge and the pear tree!) That’s no fib. I always work several projects concurrently—after I have a completed draft. Each is in a different stage of the writing process. Of the 4 picture books: 2 are ugly drafts. I mean Ugly! So bluck it hurts to read them; 1 is in the Idea Stage, snippets of possibilities, lists of words, thoughts about characters (almost ready to draft); the last is a completed manuscript that’s in the scariest phase of all, I’m in LOVE! (And no, I’m not going to tell you what it’s about…) So I’m ignoring it. Giving it the cold shoulder for a few weeks. After the new wears off, I’ll reread the manuscript—without the rose tinted glasses.

Additionally, I like to work on both fiction and non-fiction at the same time,--usually children's fiction in the morning, while my nightime insights are still fresh; adult non-fiction when I'm stuck or tired (hence my blog and former column in NOW! Jakarta).  

About that novel . . . It's WHOLE different story! I have a completed draft but. . . Truth Time: I’m scared to touch it! Afraid I don’t have what it takes to revise it, I ignore it (which is not the same as “letting it chill”).  But that novel haunts me. . .  I’m toying with taking a Whole Novel Revision Class by way of forcing me to confront my demons.

        Non-fiction is my sorbet!              It freshens my pallet.

        Non-fiction is my sorbet!

          It freshens my pallet.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Many picture books face-out on bookstore shelves are Concept Books featuring what I call the Back of the Classroom characters: loud, bold,  in-your-face types, who holler what they want.

My picture book are Storybooks featuring Middle of the Classroom Smart with Huge Heart, characters, the kids who keep their heads down and try hard--super hard--while occasionally make snide comments out the corner of their mouths. In short, regular kids with problems to solve:

A boy’s sister grows fangs and he has to figure out how to cope with her

A boy’s sister grows fangs and he has to figure out how to cope with her

Why do I write what I write?

Because I am obsessed with Picture Books—capital P; capital B—and I’m not an illustrator.

An imaginative kids turns “finds” into play toys and friend’s make fun of him, what’s he to do?

An imaginative kids turns “finds” into play toys and friend’s make fun of him, what’s he to do?

Let’s face it, people—especially kids—pluck a picture book off a shelf because they’re attracted to its cover.  They thumb through looking at the pictures, first. Then, if the art peaks their interest, they’ll get around to my part—the words. And in picture books, they’re not many of them.  

In a college Communications class we studied how, at one time, movie industry marketers tried splicing images of hot butter popcorn into the movies to subliminally influence movie goers to buy more popcorn. That’s exactly what I do. 

A kid who wants a pet more than anything in the world gets stuck with a goldfish . . .

A kid who wants a pet more than anything in the world gets stuck with a goldfish . . .

Instead of images of popcorn, I use words to put ideas in the illustrator's head. I guess that makes me sort of an Illustrator Whisper. Besides, nobody loves a book the way a pre-reading child loves a book. I want the book that kid hugs and asks for again and again to be mine.

 

How does my individual writing process work?

I write the way I drive. (Danger, Will Robinson!) Seriously,I have to whose driving, where the story is going to start & where it's going to end before I can begin. So I fiddle around, making lists, thinking, reading, noodling until I know. Once I know that, I set my sights for a specific ending, the way a tourist in Paris might aim for the Eiffel Tower, and let it rip. I'll write a complete draft straight through. It may take some time--If I'm working on a picture book, I'll finish the draft in one sitting; if it's a longer piece, it may take weeks or months.  I’ll just keep winding my way along, sometimes doubling back, U-turning, occasionally crashing, until I reach that end. That's all from me...

Up Next on the Blog Tour:

A couple of smart, fresh & sassy VCFA Classmates & Unreliable Narrators:  

           Sarah Wones Tomp

           Sarah Wones Tomp

Sarah Wones Tomp, whose debut YA novel, My Best Everything--about moonshine and falling in love and breaking rules (and hearts)—is coming March 2015 (Little Brown). What’s more: her picture book, Red, White and Blue Good-bye, face-out on my shelf of favorites is a must for every child of a soldier. Sarah lives, moms, writes, teaches and blogs in San Diego, CA. Please visit her at www.sarahtomp.com

                         Tamara Ellis Smith

                         Tamara Ellis Smith

 

Tamara Ellis Smith, whose debut middle grade novel, Marble Boys—the story of two boys who have experienced death and Hurricane Katrina, and how the world pushes them together to find healing—is coming August 2015 (Schwartz and Wade). Tam lives in a small Vermont town with an amazing bakery where she sits and writes, edits, reviews, blogs, mothers, runs and when called upon, doulas. Here is Tam’s website: www.tamaraellissmith.com

Thanks for reading!                                                 Popcorn anyone?

Thanks for reading!                                                 Popcorn anyone?

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CURSED with Call It What You Will!

“What is the daydreaming equivalent to flaneur?”

I asked my know-it-all friend Google.

Flâneur (pronounced: [flɑnœʁ]), from the French noun flâneur, means “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”, or “loafer”.Flânerie refers to the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations.
— Wikipedia

—Or should I have written equivalent of flaneur instead of to flaneur—Halt! Scratch that! (Grammarian-digressions are not “writerly." They are more excuses to drift away. Write now, fix later . . . )

I guess the idea is to imagine listening while daydreaming about strolling into the blur.

I guess the idea is to imagine listening while daydreaming about strolling into the blur.

 Good old Google directed me first to Flaneur Audio. A fuzzy woodlands image and a playlist of “0 minutes; 0 titles.” 

Why do I ask? You ask:

Because “daydreaming” is too passive, to harmless-sounding for this affliction.

The next Google link took me to page 133 of a treatise entitled “A Short Phenomenology of Flanerie” which was, I assure you even as I hyperlink, is no treat to read.

(And no, “Flanerie” it is not a misspelling of “Flannery.”) However, Flannery O’Connor’s Slow, deep, Suthun' drawling style is sort of what I mean in asking the question.

Maybe Flannery's prose read slowly because she didn't have A/C. Was the summer air was so dense it weighed heavily on her hand so she couldn't write fast?  Did she go out to the porch to cool off before writing fast-paced scenes?

Maybe Flannery's prose read slowly because she didn't have A/C. Was the summer air was so dense it weighed heavily on her hand so she couldn't write fast?  Did she go out to the porch to cool off before writing fast-paced scenes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I ask?

Because “daydreaming” is too passive, too harmless-sounding for this WHAT-DO-YOU-CALL-IT? Affliction . . . nay. CURSE!

A CURSE which most recently led to me being stranded in JFK airport at 6:02 am. It struck like this:

Right on time—albeit night time: 4:00 am—I revved up the Long Island Express Way toward JFK airport. Happy the forecast-ed snow hadn’t hit, I hit the almost empty highway with my mind tuned to nothing.

                                                 Then, I started thinking about that snow and like snow, my mind drifted . . .

                                                 Then, I started thinking about that snow and like snow, my mind drifted . . .

ZOOMMMMMMMMMing along, thinking fluffy, puffy, snowy ideas . . .  ZOOMMMMM . . . Past the exit—

Congratulating myself for coming to in time to catch my mistake, I flipped a U-turn, and circled back to the entrance. No worries.

The radio station was replaying the same set it has been playing for the past week. I knew all the words, so I sang along as I drove. Until somehow, I wasn’t singing, I was thinking. Thinking through my stories…about Vampire Baby . . .

Her poor brother. . . and where his unsuspecting parents would make him take Tootie next . . . and what’s she could bite—

Her poor brother. . . and where his unsuspecting parents would make him take Tootie next . . . and what’s she could bite—

WHAAAA WHOP WHOP WHIRRRRRRRRR   Sirens!    Flashing lights!

I clutched the wheel, scanned traffic, focused as I rolled passed the  1 ambulance-3 squad car-2-car smash-crash

Which got me thinking about boys . . . how they are born with car noises BUBBBBBBBBBB. . . . Max had been . . . Then I got to thinking about Baby no-teefers-yet Ben, and how pretty quickly he’d have teeth. Will he be a Vampire Baby? Then I got to thinking what Ben might bite. . . . what kind of stories will Ben make up and will I imagine stories for him . . . lah lah lah . . .

         Monsters….and trucks….Mickie Knudsen’s  brilliant, funny, don't-I-wish-I'd-thought of it   Big Mean Mike     .

         Monsters….and trucks….Mickie Knudsen’s brilliant, funny, don't-I-wish-I'd-thought of it Big Mean Mike.

About how it reminded me of Visitor for Bear

And why? Because Mike and Bear are grouches? 

And why? Because Mike and Bear are grouches? 

I'm a grouch! Could I write about a grouch? What kind of grouch?—

--WIZZZZZZZZZZZZZ  

                                                            I glimpsed a sign for the Mid-town Tunnel as I zoomed past . . .

                                                            I glimpsed a sign for the Mid-town Tunnel as I zoomed past . . .

I hit the pause button.  I didn’t remember signs for the Mid-Town Tunnel on my way to the airport? I didn’t think so, anyway—

I took the next off ramp, which also happened to lead to a gas station, which made me feel more smart than stupid as I was going to have to fill up the rental car anyway, so really, this was a fortuitous overshot (overshoot?) as I could now double-checked the route on Google Maps while fueling--I couldn’t have gone tooooo far past the airport turn off--good thing I’d left so early. . .

Determined not to make any more mistakes, I flipped a U-Turn. This time, paying strict attention to each Google Map lady instruction, I drove straight back to the airport, to the rental car return where a robot recording told me to go inside. So I did, and waited for the attendant to stop kvetching with her colleague and pay attention to me, which she eventually did, and after a quick comfort stop clomped purposefully to the Air Train station where I responsibily checked the directory, found Jet Blue’s location and boarded the next train .

Maybe it was the chug-chugging that got to thinking about trains, and train books, and what if my story—the story I didn’t know how to fix—what if I put a train in it—lah-lah-lah . . .

Maybe it was the chug-chugging that got to thinking about trains, and train books, and what if my story—the story I didn’t know how to fix—what if I put a train in it—lah-lah-lah . . .

. . . I came to in front of the Caribbean Airlines desks with nary a Jet Blue desk in sight. Why? Because I was in Terminal 4, not 5—

I wasn't phases. (OK, I was, but just a little bit.) The swirling ideas had infused me with wonderment and possibility even this detour couldn’t dispel.  

All the way on walk back to the Air Train and the ride back to Terminal 5 and the longer walk to the check-in counters I held tight to the feeling and the ideas--a mind stuffed with BRILLIANT MUST-DO ideas!

In hearing this account, some—not my family—might applaud this . . . this. . . Imaginitis. A gift! They might call it. This kind of dream thinking is vital! Imperative! It’s what makes writers WRITERS. It’s the path to going deeper to our best stories!

That's certainly what I was thinking:  “What a gift!” as I waited in the correct queue at the correct terminal, “What a gift!” as I made my way to the check-in desk, “What a gift!” even as upon hearing my destination the airline rep checked her watch. If she had smiled and said “welcome” I might still be thinking "What a gift!"

But she didn’t.

Now, instead of a head-full of insights, solutions to my story problems, brilliant ideas, what I have to show for this latest bout of whatever the correct term for this daydreaming equivalent to flaneur is is a bill for another flight, a day-long wait in the airport, another flight to Miami followed by another wait, and a sore tailbone.

                                                                                                This is NO gift . . . .

                                                                                                This is NO gift . . . .

So I ask again, WHAT IS IT?

Is it OCD/ADD?  Is it a writer-itis? Is it that hormonal stuff? Or that aging thing that can be cured with heavy doses of Sudoku and crossword puzzles?

Whatever it is, help! Help! Cure me from this daydreaming equivilent-call-it-what-you . . .

 . . . Wait! 

I just thought of something . . . 

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Shameless Promotion: Truths Revealed

She--Suzanne Santillan--the sweet, dulcet-toned author of Grandma's Pear Tree-- twisted my arm, held my fingers to the fire, threatened and cajoled and finally I cracked. . . 

Truth time: I did not create any of the clever, brilliant, fun, educational  Teaching Guides, Activities, Crafts, Puzzles, Story Hours Kits you'll find if you click on the Activities Tab. 

Behind the curtain, I work with a dynamic talented team who deserve to be acknowledged and shared and receive heaps of thanks and praise for all their efforts.

 So at Suzanne's urging, I spilled the  4-1-1 on the how, who, and where's of my promotional material on Writing on the Sidewalk.

(One of the few blogs I follow. Although Sue and co-blogger Sarah say it's procrastinating, their posts are informative, entertaining and thought provoking, especially to writers and readers. But now that I think about it, maybe the procrastination they were talking about when they said that was mine...ours????)

(One of the few blogs I follow. Although Sue and co-blogger Sarah say it's procrastinating, their posts are informative, entertaining and thought provoking, especially to writers and readers. But now that I think about it, maybe the procrastination they were talking about when they said that was mine...ours????)

Back to Business! About those creative minds behind the Teaching Guides, Activities, Crafts, Puzzles and Story Hours Kit for my picture books: If you're wondering who they are? What they do? And if they'll do it for you? Click over and read for yourself: Writing on the SidewalkHow to Create Great Promo Material- Tips and Tricks from Author Kelly Bennett (If the link doesn't work, cut and paste this: http://writingonthesidewalk.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/how-to-create-great-promo-material-tips-and-tricks-from-author-kelly-bennett/

Heaps of thanks! 

While you're at it, check out Suzanna's book. It won the Golden Moonbeam Award and is dee-lightful!

While you're at it, check out Suzanna's book. It won the Golden Moonbeam Award and is dee-lightful!