Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reasons and Not Reasons I Write for Kids

Reasons I write for kids:
  • I love kids.
  • I want to entertain kids.
  • I want kids to love reading.
  • I love to create characters with stories.
  • I enjoy working in my pajamas.

Not reasons I write for kids:
  • To teach a moral or lesson
  • To meet Common Core standards
  • To become rich and famous
  • To please adults

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Two Things on Tuesday

Thing One

Okay, confession time: 

Sometimes I get tired of all those jaunts to schools.

The long, tedious commutes at the crack of dawn.

The airport hassles.

The motels and bagels and vending machine dinners.

Schlepping my suitcase of materials through slushy snow.

Talking, talking, talking.

But then I posted my annual Year-in-a-Minute for 2013 and a dear friend and amazing teacher (I'm looking at YOU, Patrick Allen) left this comment:

All those kids--the lives you've touched! This was a great post to see today!

And all my kvetching flew out the window faster than I can say: I am so blessed to have this job.

So I will say it again:

I am so blessed to have this job. 

Thing Two
I've been in a bit of a funk lately trying to balance writing and life (and not doing it very well). 

I yearn for long, uninterrupted time for writing. 

I'm a writer.

I want to write.

But then the dog gets sick and the cupboard is bare and the sheets need washing and the car needs an oil change and.....

You get the picture.

But I recently read this quote from author William Styron (of Sophie's Choice fame):

...every writer since the beginning of time, just like other people, has been afflicted by what that same friend of mine calls “the fleas of life”—you know, colds, hangovers, bills, sprained ankles, and little nuisances of one sort or another. 

Fleas of life???!!!!

I mean, how perfect is that?

And now, oddly, I feel better.

We all have fleas of life.

We just have to get over it and move on, right? 


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Two Things on Tuesday

Thing One

I'm still grappling with writing a very rough first draft without obsessing over making it perfect. (Discussed here.)

I found this perfect quote on the internet. (Sorry, don't know who said it. Whoever you are, thank you!)

Get it done now. Get it right later. 

Thing Two

I've spent a lot of time here lately.

Monday, January 20, 2014

I finally did it

[Confession: This blog post is a repeat from a post I wrote almost SEVEN years ago.]

Two years after How to Steal a Dog I wrote the book, I called the owner of the lost dog that inspired the story.

I waited a long time (two years? yikes) for two reasons. First, I wanted to be able to give her a copy of the book. But secondly, and the more cowardly reason, is that I was dreading stirring up sad-dog-stuff for her. I am SUCH a dog lover. I just can't bear to think about sad-dog-stuff. Also, I knew when I called her that she would have one of those heart-stopping moments when she would think that I was calling because I found him.

This is the sign that inspired the book. 

So I called the number and a woman answered:
Woman: Hello?
Me: Are you the person who lost a dog named Willie? [I know, I know - but I HAD to say that to make sure I was talking to the right person, didn't I?]
Me [really really really quickly]: I haven't found him, but I wanted to tell you blah blah blah

So I told her about seeing her sign and the inspiration for the book and all. She seemed to be thrilled that I had called and excited about the book. Sadly, she never found her little dog. She told me losing Willie was the saddest thing that had ever happened to her. She said she had consulted two psychics and they both told her he was still alive. [waaah - this sad-dog-stuff is awful] Since then, she has adopted two shelter dogs. (I might add, also, that I first saw that sign in 2005. Willie had been missing since 2003!!)

So I sent her the book and she loved it and appreciated that I had contacted her. (Phew!) She sent me a thank you note with a dog on the front that said "Pooches Gracias."

Okay, I'm off to watch My Dog, Skip.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

 I love this K.

Many years ago (when my 26-year-old son was about 7), we took a family trip to London. 

We took my son to the theater to see Oliver (his first theater experience).

As we walked down the aisle to find our seats, my son said, "Look, Mom! A "K"!!"

He then reached down to the floor and tried to pick up the brass K that was marking the row (as in "Row K").

He immediately realized his mistake. My son has a wonderful sense of humor so was able to laugh about it. Of course, we all howled.

For many years afterwards, "Look, Mom! A 'K'!" has been a family joke.

One year at Christmas, my husband found this K at a junk store and put it in my son's stocking.

Many laughs all around.

I still love this K.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Two Things on Tuesday

Thing One

Dear Barbara O'Connor:

Since you live in Duxbury, Massachusetts, have you ever seen Pilgrims?

Thing Two

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester puppet show!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Misery loves company

Recently, there were some terrific videos making the rounds on the internet in which children's authors read terrible reviews of their books.

I'm going to confess that I loved these so much because:
a. They were very funny.
b. They made me feel better.

My immediate reaction was:

Oh, phew! Even really GOOD authors get terrible, icky, stupid, crazy-whacko, out-of-left-field reviews.

Misery loves company.

I am not alone in the universe. (Not that I have ever gotten any of those, of course. Just sayin')

So, that experience made me realize how comforting it can be to know that in whatever endeavor we try our hand at, we will be judged.

We won't please everyone.

We will fail from time to time.

We will fall from time to time.

We won't be as wonderful as we want to be.

Some will love us.

Some will hate us.

This is the way the world spins.

I also know that when we first dip our toes into a new experience, we feel vulnerable and unsure.

And when we are rejected, we feel alone.

So, I am dedicating this blog post to all the children's writers out there who are trying their best to write their best and publish a book.

Keep the faith.

You may not achieve success the first time or the 300th time.

But you will never achieve success if you give up.

So...for your reading pleasure, I present: 

My Partial Collection of Rejection Letters. 

Note: I was finally accepted by FSG and have been publishing with them for almost 20 years.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Things I Love Thursday

I love Clementine!!!

Especially this newest one:

Clementine and the Spring Trip


Sara Pennypacker

illustrated by Marla Frazee

So funny.
So realistic.
So perfect in every way.

That no-sound eating rule?

(If you haven't read it, read it. You'll know what I mean.)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Two Things on Tuesday

Thing One

Mantra for children's authors:

Minimum words; maximum impact.  *

Thing Two

Author Alice McDermott defines literary fiction this way:

We are surrounded by story. Story is very accessible to us, more so than ever. But what I think literary fiction [does] is raise the level of the sentence to be as important as the story the sentence tells. 

The rhythm, the beauty, the music of it is as important as character and plot.

* Thanks to THIS BLOG for that quote