Friday, April 24, 2009

School Visit Tips

Sylvan Dell publicist Sara Dobie posted some advice on her blog today, from two of the top-selling authors at Sylvan Dell. Why do they sell so many books? Because they do so many school visits! Click here to read more.

On the same note, be sure to catch Alexis O'Neill's column, The Truth About School Visits, in the SCBWI Bulletin. Alexis always has outstanding advice for authors interested in developing this part of their career.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blackberry Banquet Reviewed on Katie's Literature Lounge

Katie's Literature Lounge has posted a review of my picture book, Blackberry Banquet (Sylvan Dell Publishing). This is a nice blog for folks who are interested in children's book reviews. I especially like how Katie ties her reviews into themes (I'd bet that comes from her teaching experiences--this is something I can totally relate to). This week, she posted a list of past reviews that tie into National Wildlife Week.

Crawl, hop or jump on over for a look!

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Feel Good Moment

Okay, this has nothing to do with writing other than the fact that feeling good helps us to be better at what we do, and this is one of those "feel good" clips that everyone should see. It just makes you want to find a mountain top and sing!

So click here then sit back, enjoy, and yes, you have my permission to dance and sing all you want! Go ahead...I know you want to!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

LISA GRAFF is an associate editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, where she has worked for the past four years. She is particularly interested in middle-grade novels, but enjoys everything from picture books to YA, especially the funny stuff. In addition to working as an editor, Lisa is also a writer. Her first book, The Thing About Georgie, was selected for seven state reading lists, including the Texas Bluebonnet master list, and her latest novel, Umbrella Summer, is due out in June 2009. With the help of seven other children's and YA authors, Lisa keeps a blog about the writing and the publishing world, The Longstockings. Her website is can be viewed here.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa at a recent SCBWI retreat. She was funny, insightful and charming. I'm so happy she agreed to answer some questions for us!

What is it like wearing both the author and editor hats, and how does this benefit each role?
I feel very lucky that I get to be both an author and editor—two awesome jobs, and I get to do both of them! The thing I like most about it probably is talking to other authors about their craft, and getting an inside look at how stories develop, which helps me tremendously as a writer. Just knowing that other writers face the same struggles that I do all the time, and yet somehow manage to be brilliant storytellers in the end is very inspiring. And there’s nothing that makes you want to buckle down and write more than being surrounded by good books all the time! I also think that being a writer helps me when I have my editor hat on because it makes me more empathetic to my authors and to aspiring authors—and hopefully helps me skew my thoughts and criticism in a way that is most helpful to them.

Another great thing about being both a writer and an editor is that I get to work on stories I would never be able to write myself. So far all of the books I’ve written have been funny, contemporary middle-grade novels (although I’ve just signed up a funny, contemporary chapter book—so you can see I’m branching out!). But as an editor I can work on anything from historical fiction to non-fiction to picture books, all of which I think I would write extremely badly myself. So I get a chance to learn about new genres and styles, which I really enjoy doing. Still, my favorite stories to work on are funny, contemporary novels (go figure), from chapter book up through YA.

The double-life can be a bit hard, too, though. I think it’s especially taxing when I’m in the throws of working on something really wonderful and tricky at the office, and also working on my own writing at home—trying to use the same part of your brain all the day long can be very tiring! Those are the days I think I’d rather be a welder. But it’s very satisfying, too, so I really can’t complain much.

Can you tell us about your latest book?
My newest novel is coming out in June, and I’m getting very excited about it. It’s called Umbrella Summer, and it’s about a ten-year-old girl named Annie who becomes a bit of a hypochondriac after her older brother, Jared, dies unexpectedly. It’s a weighty subject, obviously, but there’s a lot of humor in there, too, and some very fun characters that just a ball to write.

What is your favorite children’s joke?
My absolute favorite joke makes no sense written out, unfortunately, but I’ll give it to you anyway:

Q: What do you call a pig with four eyes?
A: A piiiig.

See? Totally not funny on paper. But for some reason every time I tell that joke it makes me bust up laughing. I am obviously very easily amused.

Thanks so much, Lisa!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

PW Interview with Graham Salisbury

Hey folks! Check out this interview from Publisher's Weekly with children's author Graham Salisbury.

I'm a huge fan of Mr. Salisbury. I love his writing style, the way he connects with boy readers, his strong tie-ins to nature and his page-turning novels. Plus, he's ultra-cool because he grew up in Hawaii (his Hawaiian heritage is evident in his writing). I had the pleasure of meeting him at an SCBWI summer conference years ago (while it was meaningful for me, I'm sure he doesn't remember me!).

He's not only a fabulous speaker, but he's also a genuinely nice person. And now he's written a series for 7-12 year old boys titled Calvin Coconut.

Happy reading!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Humor for Teachers

I promised some ideas for teachers (and parents) on how to incorporate humor into a learning situation. Here's one that's fun to try:

Spelling Words: Incorporate spelling words into a joke, riddle or funny paragraph. Have each student get in front of the class and use one spelling word in a joke or riddle (their choice of which word). For example, suppose you’re a 2nd grade student and the word “teacher” is on your spelling list. Read through a joke book (or use the index) and find a joke that uses your work, such as:

What did the fish teacher say to her school?
"Attention, gills and buoys!"
(from Greatest Goofiest Jokes, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.)

What a FUN way to learn spelling words! You'll have kids begging to get their new spelling list!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's National Humor Month!

It's that time again--National Humor Month--where we focus on the joy and therapeutic value of laughter. Not only is laughter the best medicine, it also reduces stress, creates endorphines (those "feel-good" hormones in our bodies) and is a great tool for classroom teachers.

This month, I'll be posting some humor-related activities for teachers (so stay tuned), but to start off, I'd like to announce a Joke/Riddle Writing Contest for Kids that I'm running on my website. I welcome students, teachers and parents to visit my site and join in the fun! Please click HERE for details.

In the meantime, here's a funny story that I shared in response to an interview I did for Stories for Children Magazine.

SFC: What was the funniest thing that's ever happened to you in your writing career?

Okay, this one is a funny sort of writing-related story. One day I decided to go to my local coffee house and do some writing. I threw on some clothes and headed out. I hung out there for a couple of hours, even meeting my husband for coffee on his lunch break.

When I got home, I walked past a mirror and noticed something. Hanging out of the back of my pants was a strip of leopard print faux-fur. Apparently, in my rush to get dressed, I had grabbed a pair of pants that had been lying on my bed, where apparently, one of my cats’ toys had also been laying. I grabbed the pants along with the toy and threw them on, not realizing that I had a cat toy hanging out the back of my pants! I supposed that if anyone would have said anything, I could have just said that I was writing a story about a cat and was getting into my character. ;-}