Friday, July 29, 2011
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
|Despite the dangers Harry faces, |
the first book is A-Okay for 10-11 year olds.
|The last book is not only dark in tone, |
but very complicated plot-wise.
Probably not okay for 10-11 year olds.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
Though I consider myself a pacifist, when I think of patriotism my mind immediately pulls up images of World War II. Not that I was there, but I spent many hours as a child looking through photos of my father and uncle on leave, looking so young and dapper in their Navy and Army uniforms. They took any chance they could to go home to their aunt and uncle in southern Indiana. One picture, in particular, of my gently, unworldly father posing with his pet duck tucked under his arm, leaves me no doubt that joining the service in time of war was a harrowing experience.
Of course, had it not been for the war, I wouldn't be here today, as my father met my mother at a USO dance while stationed in New York City. They made quite a couple; Manhattan lady working at the NYC library on 5th and 42nd streets, and country boy who dipped water from a well with a tin cup and used the outhouse at night. He says it was my mom's ankles that caught his eye.
This past February, the last know American WW I veteran, Frank Buckles, passed away at the age of 110. But for me, a true product of WWII love, the quickly diminishing nimber of survivors from that war touches my heart.
Survivors are now in their 80's and 90's, and, in so many cases, we, their children, are caring for them. My father lives with us, every day missing his "darling", and ever-so-often mentioning her pretty ankles. Each year that passes becomes more difficult. In fact, each month seems to present a new challenge as his strength seems to seep slowly away through the pores of his tissue paper skin. I am in constant pursuit of ways to make his life not only easier, but also somewhat rewarding, all the while trying to avoid my husband and my lives being consumed by my quest.
Each week, it seems, I have a conversation with someone trying to give care and comfort to an aging parent. They are either providing it themselves or wrestling with the best alternatives that they can find and afford. Though each case is different, similarities in the overriding challenge abound. It helps to talk, to pick each others' brains for ideas and solutions.
My friend, and fellow blogger, Jenny Ramaley, turned me on to something I hadn't realized existed--Veteran's Benefits. As it turns out, the veteran, or the surviving spouse, may qualify for benefits by submitting an application. It can be a very long wait for approval. But benefits are awarded retroactively from date of application. My father will be eligible for a generous monthly stipend that will allow us to pursue assistance with his care that we might not have taken advantage of, otherwise. Details are available through local VA offices.
Though I don't believe we do enough for so many of our vets who need help, young or old, this benefit is a huge boon for my father. Maybe is could be for the Vet in your life, as well.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Poe is not actually new to the Route19Writers, qua critique group. But Poe is new to the blog. Indeed, Poe is new to blogging. When it comes to the Internet Tubes, Poe is Miniver Cheevy. Regrettably, Poe has always rather scoffed at blogs. . . .
But Poe has achieved a finished first draft (or, as Poe prefers to spell it, draught) of a middle grade novel. Now, Poe is revising. The time for queries draws near. And nowadays (how Poe hates that word!) with queries comes the requirement that the author establish a platform on the Internet.
So into the (back)light of computer-screen day (at bitter last) comes S. C. Poe.
Setting the Internet aside, we find that Poe has much in common with other Route19Writers. Poe shares a passion for fairy tales and folk lore with Kitty, for history with Susan, for suspense and military stories with Carol H, for the bildungsroman with Marcy and Fran, Jenny and Dave. Poe stands in awe of Andrea's versification, of Judy's craft with comedy, Cynthia's scientific prowess, and of Carol B's versatility.
Poe is a devotee of history, mythology, and the classics of all traditions. In reading and writing, Poe eschews contemporary settings. Indeed, Poe considers Mike Mulligan's steam shovel painfully modern. Poe consents to blog, but Poe will not twitter. And Poe does not cook. If you're waiting for ice cream recipes from Poe, you will wait a long time.
Say something to the nice readers, Poe.
[Poe gulps and mutters something that sounds like "h'llo."]
*Trepidation, relief, indifference, and that special glee that is only stirred up when one is able to say "I told you you'd come to this in the end."
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
by Cynthia Light Brown
It’s hot. And even here in normally comfortable Pittsburgh, it’s so humid that my brain can’t think in all this liquid. The gray matter is drowning. I can’t even imagine what it’s like in the middle of the continent. So I’m just putting up an activity from my Kitchen Chemistry book. Mmmm. Ice cream…
- ¨ Measuring cups and spoons
- ¨ 2, quart-size zippered plastic bags
- ¨ 1 ½ cups whole milk
- ¨ 1 ½ cups heavy cream, also called whipping cream
- ¨ 3 tablespoons sugar
- ¨ 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- ¨ 1 gallon-size zippered plastic bag (if possible, use a freezer bag)
- ¨ 3 to 4 cups ice
- ¨ thermometer (optional)
- ¨ 1 cup rock salt, or table salt
- ¨ cloth
- ¨ sprinkles, fruit, nuts, chocolate sauce, whipped cream (optional)
- Pour the milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla into one of the smaller plastic bags and seal. Try not to leave too much air in the bag. Place the bag into the other small bag and seal.
- Place one cup of ice into the large bag. If you have a thermometer, take the temperature of the ice, then add ½ cup salt.
- Place the small bag in the large bag with the ice. Fill the large bag with the rest of the ice, add the rest of the salt, and seal.
- Cover the bag with a cloth to protect your hands from the cold. Gently shake the large bag from side to side for about 15 minutes or until the ice cream is solid.
- Open the large bag and if you have a thermometer, take the temperature of the ice/salt/water mixture. Did the temperature change? Wipe off the top of the small bag, open carefully, and…yum! Add any toppings you like. If the ice cream is too soft for your liking, you can put it in the freezer for a few minutes to harden. If you’d like, try this again without the salt. What happens?
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
When I think of patriotic things I am reminded of an old phrase that goes something like this: "...as American as apple pie, motherhood, and the 4th of July..." Or was the third thing fireworks, or the American flag? I'm not sure, but I am sure that when I think of motherhood, I am reminded of a book I read recently that I could not put down from the moment I read the first line, "Today I am five."
ROOM is the story of Jack, now officially five years old, who along with his mother has lived his entire life (!) in Room, an 11" by 11" place with Bath, Wardrobe, Duvet, Table, Skylight, Door, Rocker, Dresser and what turns out to be most ominous, Outside. Not only does your curiosity about why these two are confined to Room make this book a page turner, but more riveting is Jack's voice, as the book is told entirely from his point of view.
" I cried so my eyes nearly melted off."
"Ma plays with Tank too long but not too long. She gets sick of things fast, it's from being an adult."
"What started Baby Jesus growing in Mary's tummy was an angel zoomed down, like a ghost but a really cool one with feathers. Mary was all surprised, she said, "How can this be?" and then, "OK, let it be." When Baby Jesus popped out of her vagina on Christmas she put him in a manger but not for the cows to chew, only warm him up with their blowing because he was magic."
Who among us has not heard time and time again over the years that editors are always looking for that 'voice'? I can't remember ever hearing a more compelling voice than Jack's. We learn all about Jack and his Ma's world through Jack's observations and in particular what Ma goes through to make their 11" by 11" life bearable. How is she able to do it? And can she continue to do it?
"Today is one of the days when Ma is Gone. She won't wake up properly. She's here but not really. She stays in Bed with the pillows on her head."
Dare I say this story was 'ripped from the headlines' when we have all just heard about Jaycee Dugard? Mothers are out there who are driven to do incredible things, and thank goodness for their children. I encourage you to pick up this book to learn about the power of motherhood, as well as to listen to Jack's voice.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
By Susan Chapek
This Independence Day holiday wasn't going to be about books or writing—or so I thought. It would be about Uncle George's funeral.
Uncle George first saw combat on the beach at Normandy. He was wounded that day, and four more times during his year in Europe. He came home with three Bronze Stars, four Purple Hearts, and a metal plate in his skull.
At the funeral Mass, the priest summed up that part of my uncle's life with picture-book simplicity and clarity: George Doyle made the world what it is today.
Yet I was almost twenty before I even learned exactly where and when Uncle George served. (He didn't avoid the subject—or the memories. He and Aunt Kay visited Normandy a number of times after he retired. And he was active in several Veterans' groups. But he didn't jaw about it, either.)
No, the Uncle George I knew as a kid was a union printer at the World Publishing Company's Cleveland shop. World published many beautiful children's books; occasionally, Uncle George was able to snag a carton of "imperfects," and some of them came to me!
My favorites were part of the Rainbow Classics series—Twain, Alcott, Swift, Hans Christian Andersen, Johanna Spyri. Each was generously illustrated with drawings and colored plates by artists like Louis Slobodkin, Nettie Weber, and Cleveland muralist James Daugherty. I devoured them. Since I owned few books, I returned to the Rainbows over and over again—and they stood up to repeated reading. They taught me the joy, not only of reading, and of reading the stuff that has endured through centuries, but of re-reading.
These were books I would never have possessed, but for him. Maybe I would never have discovered them. They were beautiful, unabridged editions. Some of them were a lot to chew. The illustrations matched each writer's voice and were the opposite of kidlike—Howard Simon's scrawls for The Prince and the Pauper looked rough and raw as Twain's England; Jean O'Neill's fairies were dark and light, sly and innocent all at once—like Andersen's tales. And R. M. Powers' Gulliver scenes repelled and puzzled me as much as Swift's cynicism. But if World Publishing thought a book should interest me, then by golly I would figure out why, if it took me my whole life.
(Was it my dogged determination to find something to love about Jonathan Swift that made me relish Uncle George's own sharp, sarcasm-based sense of humor—something that my sibs often found intimidating? Maybe. Certainly Swift helped kindle my lifelong delight in reading and writing satires.)
So as the Mass went on I found myself thinking about books after all, about Uncle George and books. And by the time the bagpipes played him out of church, I had realized for the first time that by connecting me with the classics, Uncle George made me what I am today.
Ave atque vale, Uncle George!
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Look at this picture and what do you see?
Monday, July 4, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
Let's say you have a new picture book coming out. Should you concentrate on promoting your book to parents? Librarians? Three year olds? All of the above? You need different approaches for different audiences which multiplies the time and effort you spend. Since authors generally don't know who most influences purchasing decisions, and how those buyers go about making decisions, it's hard for them to figure out who best to target and how. I don't know to what extent publishers already know this information and just need to share it with us or to what extent it's a question in need of research, but I'd love to find out.
Connecting with Some Readers Can Make Others Disconnect
Being a real person to your readers can entice some to pick up your books or help them enjoy them in a deeper way. But whatever personal details you reveal to make that connection may also alienate other existing or potential readers - because no matter how benign or inoffensive you consider some trait or group membership or experience you've had, it will offend someone.
Even if you don't offend anyone, knowing details about the author can change how readers view her work. For example, a huge proportion of children's book writers are middle-aged white women (if you doubt this, try attending any kids' book conference); I know several writers who have gone to considerable lengths to disguise their identities because they fear that kids will be turned off if they learn that their favorite book was written by someone old or white or female. But so many of the social media platforms that publishers urge authors to use make it impossible to remain a shadowy background figure. And that can be a shame. Because sometimes the book should just be about the story and characters, and not about the person who created them.
Don't get me wrong. I always work hard to promote my books; I've put a lot into them and so have lots of other people. Our efforts would be wasted if we don't get the books in the hands of readers. And many of the promotional efforts I've undertaken, I'd do again even if they didn't help my sales because I feel like I'm giving back or paying it forward in some way through them. I genuinely enjoy meeting readers and making friends and just generally being a contributing member of the book community. But I'd like to channel my resources where they'll do the most good toward those ends so I'm also free to keep creating new books.
So what has worked for you? Are there other issues that frustrate you? Do you have ideas for improving interactions between writers and readers?
And if you're someone who buys kids' books, what's the tipping point for you in deciding what to get?