Friday, August 19, 2011

And So Another Chapter Ends...

Wow, it's hard to believe that it's been a month since I graduated from Vermont College of Fine Arts MWCYA program (that's Masters in Writing for Children and Young Adults), but every time I check the calendar it's confirmed. One month, all right. Here I am with my fellow graduates (L.E.C.S.) just last month at the beginning of the summer residency.

What an experience it was--too incredible to even begin to put into a blog post--and it's incredibly bittersweet that it's over. I'm happy to get my life back, but will sorely miss the learning experience and camaraderie of the VCFA community (yes, I can still stay in touch but it's not the same when life doesn't revolve around packet deadlines).

Maybe I can give more attention to my blog now--oh wait, revisions await, near-finished projects loom, there's that issue of finding an agent. And a job... Hmm... Never mind.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

RUTH A. MUSGRAVE is the Director of WhaleTimes Inc. ( and an award-winning writer. In addition to National Geographic Kids Magazine, she has also written for Scientific American Explorations, SuperScience, and Ask. Her awards include Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Magazine Merit Honor Award for Nonfiction and two Emmy Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences-Southwest.

In addition to teaching and writing, her background includes 25+ years developing and producing K-12 marine science education programs, curricula, professional development seminars, and a children’s television series.

While writing the NGK Everything Sharks, Ruth was inspired to create a holiday for sharks, called “Fintastic Friday: Giving Sharks a Voice.” She knew once kids discovered what magnificent and important animals sharks really are, they would want to protect them. Hosted by WhaleTimes, the holiday gives children a platform and opportunity to make a difference.

Congratulations on your success with National Geographic Kids Everything Sharks, just released this spring (April 2011). National Geographic is a "closed" house, meaning they don't take unsolicited submissions. Could you give us some background on how you broke into this extraordinary publishing house and what it's been like working for them?

Thank you. I'm so excited about my book. National Geographic Kids Everything Sharks is full of stunning shark photos and the layout is a delight to the eyes. Before you even get to the text, you can spend hours just looking at the photos. Writing it was fun because I was able to show sharks as they really are -- these incredible, diverse, sometimes odd and quirky creatures. It has a lot of humor and tons of great information.

The best part is, kids will read about sharks and fall in love with the real animal, not some fictional beast. The vicious animal portrayed in movies, books, and television doesn't exist. Sharks are extraordinary animals, but they are not invincible. They are in trouble and they need kids' help.

Hmmm, how I got my foot in the door at National Geographic Kids...well, Terry, I'd tell you, but then I'd have to...just kidding!

I have been fortunate enough to be a frequent contributor to National Geographic Kids Magazine for a many years. The editors knew about my marine science background and asked if I'd like to write about sharks for their very cool new "National Geographic Kids Everything" series. Working with such talented editors and a publishing house that loves animals, embraces the fun of science, yet prizes accuracy...well I still expect someone to wake me up from the best dream ever!

What is the best advice you can give for writers who want to write non-fiction (articles or books)?

This is a good question. Only write nonfiction if that's what you really want to write. Become an expert about the topics that you love, figure out what age levels you like to write for, and, as you're figuring that out, keep writing to find your own style or voice. I think readers want more than facts, figures, dates, or timelines. Your style should make the science, history, person, or whatever come to life.

What if you really want to write fiction, but heard from writer friends that starting in nonfiction is the easy way to go...get different friends! Okay, keep the friends, just get better advice! If you want to write fiction picture books or poetry or YA should do that. Don't get sidetracked. Getting published is hard enough. Don't waste time and opportunities by writing in a genre you don't love.

What is your favorite children’s joke?

Let's see, how about my 10-year old daughter's latest and greatest joke from school:
Q: How do you get a tissue to dance?
A: Put a little boogie in it!

Thanks so much, Ruth!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"First Story" in Ladybug Magazine February 2011 Issue

Some things just take time. Aged cheese, fine wine, glacially-carved valleys...and my first story in Ladybug Magazine. No, not my first story to be published, nor do I mean my first story in Ladybug (although this is my first one). I'm referring to the first children's story I ever wrote. Twelve years ago.

I wrote "The Desert Snow" when I first got that spark of an idea that I should try writing for children. The story idea came to me when it had snowed in the California high desert, where I live. I worked on it as a picture book concept for a few weeks then eagerly submitted it for a critique at the upcoming SCBWI National Conference. All fifteen pages of it. Yep, I'd written a 15-page picture book manuscript that had more twists and turns than Lombard Street in San Francisco (!). BUT, I was fortunate enough to have had Lisa Rojany Buccieri as my critiquer. She kindly told me that while my writing had real potential (okay, she used the term "great" :-}, I had to learn the basics of writing a picture book. My story was way too long and lacked focus and structure, but if I could learn how to do those things, it had publishing potential. That was all the encouragement I needed. Thank goodness for good editors!

I kept at this story off and on for years, and after many, many revisions, it was picked up by Ladybug Magazine in 2006. Four years later, I'm proud to say that the story will finally be published, featured in the February 2011 issue of Ladybug Magazine. Not only do I feel the pride in seeing a project through and getting to see it in print, but I have the joy of seeing it illustrated by Siri Weber Feeney, a talented writer-illustrator and good friend of mine (which Ladybug independently hired to do the art work--talk about serendipity!).

Despite having other works published, this story represents a real personal victory for me, as it validates that first inkling I had so many years ago, and the payoff of being a determined writer.

Ladybug has made the entire issue about the desert. Lots of fun games, songs, stories and poems all centered around this theme. If you click here you can also find a desert snow game, amongst other things. So look for the February issue in bookstores soon!