What Does a Writer Do at NCTE?

I get this question a lot. I just returned from several days at the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English (in St. Louis, MO, this year). I have gone every year for the past several years, and this year, I shared more on social media. As a result, I got several private messages asking, So what exactly do you do there? What do you get out of it?

It’s true that it’s not cheap to go and there are few immediate, tangible benefits. But there are many long-term career benefits, and it’s mostly about the relationship-building that happens there.

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Teachers do some wondering at my roundtable session. You can see more pictures in this public Facebook album and here from my Twitter feed during the conference.

 

If you’re wondering about the nitty-gritty, here’s how I spent my wild (hehe–not really) NCTE time this year:

Thursday

  • Got up at 3 a.m. for flight.
  • Checked into hotel at 8:30 a.m. (hooray for room being ready that early!).
  • Practiced roundtable bit for Friday.
  • Wrote a new draft of a picture book I had taken to my crit group last week.
  • Lunch at Planet Sub, with gooey butter cake for dessert from Park Avenue Coffee Shop.
  • Welcomed roomie Janet Fagal (former teacher and current poetry lover/advocate). Walked to convention center and picked up badges.
  • Met poetry friend Irene Latham for dinner at Sauce on the Side. Spent a lovely couple of hours catching up, talking about life, poetry, children’s book industry, etc.
  • Early to bed.

Friday

Breakfast (aka gooey butter cake) at Park Avenue Coffee Shop

Attended most of a session on picture book biographies

  • Went to support critique group buddy Tracy Nelson Maurer, plus got to say hi to Phyllis Root, Jackie Briggs Martin, and Ann Matzke, all of whom I’ve met before but don’t know well.
  • Got some fresh thoughts on how to approach my own nonfiction picture books (even though they are not biography).
  • Got a lovely quote to use in my roundtable Wonder session.
  • Took pics of everyone and shared on social media.
  • Editor Carol Hinz was in the audience and snuck up to quietly give me my very first author copy of MEET MY FAMILY!, my forthcoming picture book!

Led a roundtable at a session all about wonder

  • My topic was Wonder as the First Ingredient for Fascinating Nonfiction.
  • My talk went well, and the interactive part was awesome. The activity I did with kids I now totally want to do with students when I’m doing a writing workshop.
  • Teacher friends Catherine Flynn and Kim Doele came to my table.
  • Jennifer McDonough, co-author of A PLACE FOR WONDER, the book I was passing around and recommending, was another table leader, and it was fabulous to meet her!
  • I feel like I could expand my short bit into a full session at a teachers’ professional development conference.
  • 13 tables—was worried I’d have nobody at mine, but my table filled up for both rotations. Whew.
  • Passed around bookmarks, postcards, and a handout (which had my signing info on it) with all sorts of info about me and my books.
  • Passed around several of my books, too, as examples in my wondering process—including MEET MY FAMILY!
  • Caught up with session organizer, educator and poetry advocate Carol Varsalona, plus a few other roundtable leaders I knew, like Irene Latham and Charles Waters. First time to meet poetry friend Charles in person!

Attended half of a session on humorous picture books

  • Got to say hi to Josh Funk and my poetry sister Liz Garton Scanlon (didn’t even know she was at NCTE until I happened to see an Instagram pic of the Arch!)
  • Met Tammi Sauer, whose picture books I adore!
  • Took pics of group and shared on social media.

Walked back to hotel and ate leftover calzone for lunch

Attended second half of NCTE Notables session

  • Went to support Cynthia Alaniz, presenter and lovely blogger.
  • Also went to support the Notables process, which I’ve been honored to have books recognized by in the past.
  • Got some new book recommendations.
  • Sat at Andrea Davis Pinkney’s table when she chatted about A POEM FOR PETER, which I love.
  • Took photos of presenters and authors and shared on social media.

Attended a nonfiction session

  • Went to support nonfiction writer friend Melissa Stewart and educator, blogger, and session organizer Alyson Beecher (I’ve presented in sessions organized by her in the past).
  • Loved hearing Candace Fleming (whom I’ve met several times but I didn’t get to say hi to here) and Deborah Heiligman (whom I’ve never met) and Melissa speak.
  • Sat with educator friend Catherine Flynn.
  • Took a couple of pics and shared on social media.
  • Got some ideas/thoughts that might affect how I talk about my own nonfiction writing, especially with teachers.
  • Got a fabulous idea for a school visit activity from something Candace Fleming shared.

Attended last half of Poetry Notables session

  • Went to support the presenters (some of whom I know from my former volunteering with the Children’s Literature Assembly) and the process. BookSpeak! was a Poetry Notable years ago.
  • Got to see many friends’ books shared. Snapped some pics and gave social media shoutouts as much as possible.
  • Said quick hi to poetry friends Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong as they left for their session.
  • Chatted with organizers afterward. They’re looking for committee members, but my next book would be eligible, so I can’t be on it. But another time.
  • Also chatted about a way I might be able to help out one of the other committees informally (not as a Chair or Co-Chair, in other words), because they’re organizing a session for next year about poetry.

Dinner at The Bridge with roomie Janet Clare. Remember going to the same restaurant a few years ago with poet friend Leslie Bulion! Yummy food, great conversation, but very loud. Still, a nice time. Ubered back to hotel.

Early to bed.

Saturday

Workout in hotel fitness center.

Breakfast at Park Avenue Coffee Shop with roomie Janet.

  • Stayed there after Janet headed to convention center so that I could finish reading a great book (GARVEY’S CHOICE) and catch up a bit on email and social media stuff.

Signing in the exhibit hall for another new book, HOW TO MAKE A RAINBOW.

  • Got to say hi to editor Carol Hinz plus the marketing folks at Lerner.
  • Signed 80-100 copies of the book, and also gave people bookmarks, my rack card (with book covers and awards and bio) and school visit flyers.
  • Met several teachers who have used my books in their classroom. Met one teacher who has a forthcoming book, THE REVVED UP READ ALOUD, from Corwin Press, and she recommends one of my books in it :>) Connected with her on social media after NCTE.
  • Author Loree Griffin Burns and teacher/poet Mary Lee Hahn and a few other friends swung by to say hi, which was lovely.
  • Lerner gives away the book for signing, so it’s always a nice long line of appreciative teachers. Makes for a great atmosphere!

Children’s Book Award Luncheon

  • I was a table host, meaning the folks at my table all got a free copy of IF YOU WERE THE MOON. I also handed out my promo materials at each spot.
  • When they introduced the table hosts, each table had to do a brief cheer. My table did a lovely little moon twirl and shoutout:>)
  • Teacher/poet Margaret Simon, Janet Fagal, Catherine Flynn, and Notables Committee Chair Diana Porter were at my table, along with 5 or 7 more people I didn’t know. Had lovely conversations about books, life, children/grandchildren, classrooms, dogs, travel, and so forth. Nice connections.
  • Got to recommend several of my favorite books of the year, including one by a critique partner.
  • Heard amazing talks from award winners Marilyn Nelson, Melissa Sweet, and Jason Reynolds.
  • Took a few pics and shared event on social media.
  • Noted several books I need to read!

Attended a poetry session

  • Went to support poetry friends Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Irene Latham, Jeannine Atkins, and Kim Doele, who were all presenting. Plus I knew I’d hear great, insightful things about poetry.
  • Also went to hear the two teachers I didn’t know, Mary Anne Sacco and Emily Callahan, speak. It’s super informative to hear teachers talk about how they use poetry in their classrooms. Gives me great ideas for speaking, for writing, and for school visits.
  • Loved hearing Heinemann editor and author Katie Wood Ray talk about poetry, too.
  • Took pics and shared with quotations on social media.
  • Connected with the teachers I didn’t know afterward on social media.
  • Sat with Dylan Teut, educator and aspiring children’s writer and all-around amazing person. And sat with Catherine Flynn and Margaret Simon.
  • Waved at many other poetry friends in the room.

Dashed back to hotel to grab a soda and freshen up

Robinson Dinner

  • A Thanksgiving dinner put on by Scholastic.
  • Probably 1,000+ people there.
  • Sat with Carol Varsalona and many other poetry friends.
  • Tracie Vaughn Kleman, educator and poet/author, joined us! Haven’t chatted with Tracie in years! SO good to catch up with her.
  • Heidi Mordhorst, educator and poet, was another person I hadn’t seen in too long!
  • Nikki Grimes joined us! I have known Nikki and admired her work for quite a few years, but I haven’t seen her in person in a few years, I think.
  • The traditional speech and then talk given by Dick Robinson sparked an idea. I have a topic I’m writing around, trying to figure out an approach. A phrase he used made me think of another approach I could try, and I sat there doing some brainstorming and list-making while ignoring the stuffing and green beans on my plate:>)

Casual poetry gathering

  • About 10 of us gathered in the non-atmospheric bar back at my hotel: me, Janet Fagal, Nikki Grimes, Carol Varsalona, Tracie Vaughn Kleman, Heidi Mordhorst, Catherine Flynn, Margaret Simon, Colette (whose last name is escaping me at the moment)…gosh, I think there were a few more of us, but my brain was just fried. And still is. We sat and chatted about poetry, writing retreats, books, and lots more. It was just lovely.
  • Headed up to room around 8 or 8:30 because I needed to pack and get ready for a very early morning the next day.

Sunday

Up at 5.

  • Ubered around the corner (it was still dark) to the convention center to help set up for the CLA Breakfast.

CLA Breakfast

  • Helped set up—centerpieces, table decorations, etc.
  • Reconnected with many CLA folks. These are all educators who are movers and shakers and who are passionate about children’s literature. They’re really inspiring—and funny. Very nice to catch up with them, as I stepped down as CLA Secretary last year at NCTE, so I haven’t seen/chatted with them since.
  • Sold raffle tickets for sets of Notables winners.
  • Passed out my postcard with the poem for teachers on it to about half the tables (before people sat down).
  • Heard Nancy Johnson read Georgia Heard’s beautiful poem, something like “Star Stuff.” It was a real moment. Must track down the poem.
  • Listened to a truly inspiring keynote by Kevin Henkes.

 

WHAT WENT WELL FOR ME THIS YEAR

  • Meeting new people and connecting with those I already know
  • Talking on a deeper level: My online friends and colleagues are people with grandchildren they’re excited about, professional issues they’re worried about, family illnesses and deaths they’re sad about. They are real people, going through real life. Getting to chat in person, especially one-on-one, deepens our connections very quickly.
  • Tips about speaking
  • Getting ideas for school visits and for books
  • Putting my name in people’s ears again, however briefly
  • Meeting folks I might present with in the future
  • Hearing from teachers how they use my books in their classroom
  • Showing my publishers that I am committed to promoting my work
  • Showing up for friends’ sessions and providing moral support
  • Handing out my promo materials
  • Sharing pics and tidbits from sessions on social media (did much better at this than in previous years)

WHAT DIDN’T GO SO WELL

  • Basically, I didn’t get to the exhibit hall other than for my signing. That means little to no publisher research as far as gathering catalogs, saying hi to marking and editorial folks, and browsing the books they’re promoting.
  • I also didn’t get to friends’ signings. I stopped by one, but she had left early. And other than that, my Fri and Sat were just too tightly scheduled. It’s always a balancing act between sessions and exhibit hall and unofficial events. This year, sessions and events won out, and exhibit hall lost.
  • Didn’t get to the Nerdy Book Club gathering, which I would have loved to have gone to.
  • Left my laptop cord in hotel room, so I lost almost a full day’s work when I got home:>(

Overall, I came home happy and exhausted. I have lots more notes to type up and books to put on reserve and emails to send. I’m glad this event is annual instead of monthly. But I’m also very glad that I’m usually able to attend. If you have at least one book out or a book forthcoming in the next year, I think NCTE is an awesome investment to make in your writing career.

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Good News and Why It Matters

I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment. After doing some figuring with my husband’s new job/benefits and one of our daughters turning 26 in 2018, I am bleary-eyed with medical plans, premiums, deductibles, and such. And a little sick at the fact that our MINIMUM medical expenses for 2018 will be $15,820. Before any copays. Assuming no medical emergencies. If our other daughter, overseas, needs no medical care at all. That is daunting.

Helping to balance that a little is the lovely news that If You Were the Moon is a Finalist in the Science Picture Books category of the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes. Does this really mean that the five Finalists in my category are better than all the other science picture books published this year? Of course not. But it’s still amazing to have my book grouped with other books by writers I so admire: Melissa Stewart, David Adler, Jess Keating, Steve Jenkins, and more!

The Finalists in all three categories

And it does mean that some group of people with a passion for science and education loved my book and named it to a list that gets nice exposure, especially with science teachers. The exposure means the book may find its way into a few more hands. Those extra hands mean my words and Jaime Kim’s gorgeous art have a few more opportunities to make kids fall in love with our world and with wondering about it.

Moments like this can’t pay medical bills, but they sure do my heart good:>)

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A Surprise Royalty Statement

It’s hard to budget as a writer, since you don’t know what you’re earning until it shows up in your mailbox. A few days ago, I got a royalty statement and check for my most recent poetry collection, which is six years old. (That makes me sad that none have come out in the past six years, but happy that one is coming out in 2019!)

I expected the check to be for $100-500 for the six-month period, since the book came out a while ago, and most people who want to buy it have bought it. Instead, the check was for about $3,400 (after my agency’s 15% commission was deducted). What a nice surprise!

Checked in with the agency of record for this book and discovered that my publisher was paid $15,000 permissions rights by what appears to be Milwaukee Public Schools. So I’m assuming they’re using one or more poems in their curriculum or testing materials or something. I get 25% of that, so that’s where $3,750 (AKA almost all) of my royalties came from.

Even better, one of my poems is reaching a new audience of kids and teachers who probably haven’t seen it before, which is super exciting!

I have writer friends who have had excerpts reprinted from published prose books, too, but I’ve only ever had poems reprinted (and I think this is only the third time). In fact, for this title, my reprint income almost equals my actual book sales royalties income at this point (about $8,500 and about $10,000, respectively).

Have you ever had reprint rights bought for an excerpt of one of your published books? Did you get to hear what it was used for? I always think it’s odd how little the author gets to know!

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Book Covers!

Book covers are so crucial to a book’s appeal to readers because, let’s face it, we absolutely do judge a book by its cover!

As a writer, I don’t have a whole lot of say in the choice of cover, but I always await the reveal with both anxiety and excitement! Today is the first time that the cover of my next book, Meet My Family! (Millbrook, 2018), is appearing online. The cute and colorful art for that book is by Stephanie Fizer Coleman–I adore the expressions of the animals looking right into the camera on the cover. You can see it over at Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’ blog AND read a fun interview with Carol Hinz, who has been my editor at Millbrook for 5 years now.

The past couple of days I’ve been on school visits, and yesterday, I received emails with cover art for 2 forthcoming picture book titles. One in the final art only, no type yet, of the gorgeous cover art for In the Middle of the Night (Wordsong, 2019). Oh my goodness. I would pick up that book based just on the beautiful and fun cover art by Angela Matteson! And the other was a cover sketch for Snowman-Cold=Puddle: Spring Equations (Charlesbridge, 2019). I’m not that great at visualizing final art based on just sketches, but I already know Micha Archer’s cover will be amazing.

I have gotten to weigh in on covers for a number of my books, but I will say my choice has never been the one eventually picked by the publisher! The covers have all turned out wonderfully–I just have a very particular aesthetic for what kind of cover appeals to me.

It feels wrong to have a blog post about book covers and not share a single cover, but I want you to visit Michelle to see the new cover, and I don’t have permission to share the ones emailed to me yesterday. So, I will leave you with the beautiful cover of If You Were the Moon, art by Jaime Kim (Millbrook, 2017). Isn’t it gorgeous? I can say that with all honest, even though it’s not the exact cover I voted for:>)

Now I’m off to speak at a library on The Nuts and Bolts of Writing for Kids. As always, I’ll enjoys the sighs when I show off the book covers I’m lucky enough to have encasing my words and the small gasps of surprise when I share how little authors have to do with the illustration and cover choices. Happy writing, everyone!

Moon cover_lores

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How a Poet Writes a Novel–The Wolf Hour, with Sara Lewis Holmes

Wolf Hour Blog Tour tag
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Sara, a modern-day Red

Hi, writers! This is a bit of a different post today. Usually I’m just sharing tidbits from my life as a writer, but today, I’m featuring a friend, Sara Lewis Holmes, who has a fabulous new middle-grade novel out with Arthur Levine called The Wolf Hour.

Sara and I write monthly poems as part of the Poetry 7 or Poetry Princesses (because our first project was a crown sonnet). So to celebrate Sara’s new book, I thought I would talk poetry with her. On my main blog (geared toward educators), Sara answered a number of questions about the poetic elements in her novel–which is not a novel in verse. It’s prose, and it’s dark and ominous and magical, full of complex characters and a plot that incorporates elements of several fairy tales. I wanted to share Sara’s answer to my final question here, though, because I asked:

Is there anything you learned that might help other novelists think about how they might incorporate elements of poetry into their prose?

Sara: I know that part of your purpose in asking me these questions was to tease out my techniques—-or as you put it in your email: “how purposeful was your use of specific poetic elements and at what point in the writing process did you work on them?”

Oh, how I wish I could answer this question. You ask it so well. And yet—GAH! I have a terrible time identifying my own techniques and the order in which I used them because for me, poetry is extremely instinctual. I’ve spent many years writing poetry for myself alone…therefore, I’ve had no motivation to prevaricate in it or please anyone but myself. It gave me a place to learn and grow as a writer in a way that my paid work couldn’t. At one point in my life, I thought

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A wolf in Sara’s office

transferring these insights to novels would be easy, but it turned out that it’s one thing to write a one-page poem “out of your gut” and quite another to write a whole novel from that place.

And yet, to answer your question, I think I allowed myself to draft this novel as if it were a book-length poem. To write in great bursts of language, and to generate piles and piles of words about a make-believe place and odd characters and especially, to tolerate a plot which turned on, as you say, “beauty and

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Art by Diana Sudyka

grotesqueness,” before it made any sense in the literal world.

Only after that wild draft did the work of turning it into a civilized novel begin. And there were many times when I thought it wouldn’t survive the process. I thought the poetry in it would die. Even now, I’m surprised by how much stayed in.
 
In the end, it’s not a book with poems in it…or even a book-length poem. I think it’s what I wanted it to be: a book written out of the place where my poetry comes from.
The Writing Process Chart Product ImageI love Sara’s answer because it acknowledges that while, yes, we use “the writing process” as we write, the reality is a lot messier than the typical classroom poster. If only it were so straightforward!
It’s also perfect because The Wolf Hour reminds us that each of us (person, story, wolf…) decides what to be, in spite of other people’s expectations. I love the hopefulness of that.
Of course, Sara’s answer also terrifies me almost as much as Miss Grand in The Wolf Hour. As a plotter (not a pantser), I can’t imagine writing a novel in the way that Sara did. And yet such richness and beauty came out of it. I guess it comes down to giving yourself permission to write using whatever process feels right to you!
Check out The Wolf Hour to soak up an example of weaving several stories together, to study a novel using poetic elements, or to just immerse yourself in a dark, Polish forest, full of magic and fear and love–and wolves!
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When It’s Time to Change…

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At the bus station with Randy and Jack

I am a creature of habit. At least when it comes to my writing and my productivity. My habits keep me focused and creating. For the past 15 months, living in our new place, I’ve had a lovely morning routine. Get up, take Jack out, do my morning SAVERS routine (about 15-20 minutes of mindfulness exercises), fix a fast breakfast, and then walk (with Jack) Randy to the bus station to go to work. After he leaves, I zip to the gym to do a workout. Once back home, I settle in for my official work day.

But now…everything is changing. Randy has a new job–which is awesome and cause for celebration. But for the first time in many, many years, he isn’t taking the bus. So he doesn’t leave at the exact same time each morning. And he’s driving the car, so I have to Uber or go work out before he leaves for work (which I did this morning). And because I needed to rush out before he left for work, I didn’t have time for my SAVERS routine. And Jack (an already very needy dog) is even more so, as he likes his routines, too, and they are all messed up. And…and…and…

None of these changes is earth-shattering. But my morning routine was comfortable and helpful. So now I’ll be struggling to figure out a new one. I’m going to think about all the elements of what I need to get done first in order to sit down to my work time with a clear head, in a good mood, and feeling enthusiastic about the day. Then I’ll play around with the timings and see what new routine I can piece together.

Changing routines is hard. But I know two things. Today’s start to the day didn’t work for me. And whining about that isn’t going to fix anything. It’s up to me to change my routine, working within my new parameters of timing, car availability, dog needs, etc. Wish me luck!

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Book Review: Big Magic

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert: Honestly, I didn’t expect to like this book. Gilbert’s beliefs about creativity and stories finding their way to a teller, as related to me by a crit group member, are much too woo-woo for me. On top of that, I don’t really struggle with writer’s block and I’m not afraid of failure or hard work. And I hated Eat, Pray, Love when I tried to read it. But then I read a delightful excerpt of Big Magic in my sister-in-law’s Reader’s Digest Magazine, and I decided I had to read the book.

And I really liked it! Gilbert has a lovely way of spinning anecdotes and sharing her own foibles and failings in a very approachable way. And while I didn’t feel like I *needed* to hear a lot of the lessons, I totally enjoyed reading the book and felt inspired and fired up by her stories. I also got tons of bits to share with writer friends who fight their own creativity demons.

I highlighted 27 pages‘ worth of short bits on my Kindle version of the book. 27! Here are just a few favorites:

“I sit at my desk and I work like a farmer, and that’s how it gets done. Most of it is not fairy dust in the least.” Yup.

“Creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a gift to the audience.” Love.

“It’s okay if your work is fun for you, is what I’m saying.” Thank goodness, because I love to write.

“Whenever you make art, you’re always gambling. You’re rolling the dice on the slim odds that…somebody might buy your work, and that you might become successful.” Exactly.

Gilbert presents a view of creativity that is always enthusiastic but also blunt and realistic! I kept thinking, “Somebody should knit a pillow with this on it so I’ll be reminded of it daily!”

All in all, this is a book that I’ll be recommending to loads of writer friends. So glad I was wrong about it!

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Sometimes, I Just Screw Up

I try to mostly be positive about my writing life, because, really, I love it. And I’m a positive person. But that doesn’t mean everything always goes smoothly.

Over the past week, though, I’ve failed in many respects.

  1. I attended a writing conference that was not a good fit for me. I try to research conferences and make good choices. But every so often an event ends and I think, “Well, that was kind of a wash.” That’s how this was for me. It’s not that the event was bad. It was well organized and well run. But most of the speakers presented broad overviews of topics geared toward beginning writers. So, in the end, it was not worth what I paid for it. Lesson learned on that one.
  2. I am excited to hear Leonard Marcus speak Monday at the Kerlan at the U of Minnesota! This morning, I went to see if there was any way I could get an extra ticket so my husband could come with me, as we’ll be celebrating my birthday on Monday. And I discovered I put the event on the wrong date on my calendar. It was last night. I am so bummed. What a careless mistake!
  3. I just discovered that a poem I have that’s in a book published this year is similar in topic and style to a poem published 5 years ago by someone else, a poet whose work I really like. I’m sure I read that poem then. It’s not exactly the same, of course, but the topic and style are similar enough that I feel very awkward about it.

None of these are life-shattering events, but I’m feeling kind of “what the heck?!” Still, they’re not worth focusing on. Today, I’ll focus on being productive. That will involve creating the large bibliography for my WINTER manuscript that’s due in 2 days, as well as continuing to work on the revision of my MAKING A LIVING AS A CHILDREN’S WRITER manuscript.

I wish you all a week filled with only epic successes!

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Observing School Visits

When I first started doing school visits, I sat in on several authors’ sessions and learned SO much. But it’s been a while!

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Miranda Paul with media specialist Lisa Huninghake

Yesterday, I went to watch Miranda Paul do a school visit presentation at Wilshire Park (a school I went to informally last year to hang out with a few special ed teachers and students for a work in progress). She rocked it! I loved the way she worked in bits about her life and history through interactive games with the kids. Really fun, and the kids were so engaged. Her whole fiction vs nonfiction and how to determine what’s fiction and what’s not was on point—perfect for the 2nd and 3rd graders she was presenting to. And then at the end, she had the teachers doing the Water Is Water dance, which was totally awesome, and which the students loved.

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The kids research the statement, “Miranda Paul has no holes in her socks today.”

It was extra great to observe her, because her presentation style is very similar to mine—pretty high energy, with an informal tone, interactive, but also with an important message underneath that’s about more than reading and writing. Hers yesterday was, “Even if you are small, even if you are just one person, doing one small thing matters, especially if we all do them.”

I got some ideas for some changes I’d like to make to my own presentations from watching hers. When I was a classroom teacher, I learned the most from watching excellent teachers. I think seeing effective presenting in action is such a great tool for us as presenters. Even if you’ve done school visits for years and years, you can always learn something new. And I did. Thanks, Miranda and Wilshire Park Elementary, for letting me sit in!

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What Should I Work on Today?

This is one of those days when I have lots of projects/tasks bickering in my head. They all want attention.  I’m getting ready to settle in for my two hours of trade writing time today, so I’m going to ignore everything related to school visits, promotional activities, and work-for-hire projects. But that still leaves a lot of options, all for picture book projects that are either in the publication pipeline or are simply works in progress:

  1. Continue fact-checking WINTER (involves a lot of emailing back and forth)
  2. Work on backmatter for WINTER
  3. Start working on backmatter for RIDDLE-KU
  4. Brainstorm further twists for MOMMY (the ones I did Fri or Sat are not cutting it)
  5. Take a fresh look at KITTY and think about revision
  6. Think about my MYSTERIES idea and start jotting some notes, thinking about possible shapes/structures for this project
  7. Start revising EMMA stories

Oh, lord. That’s a  lot of possibilities. My deadline on #1 is Oct. 15, so I need to devote at least some of the time to that. #2 backmatter isn’t due at that point, but I had a great interview with a scientist over the weekend, and I’d like to draft some backmatter based on her explanations while they’re still fresh in my mind. #3 isn’t calling to me. #4 isn’t either. I’m still feeling the blah failure of the bad ideas I worked on a few days ago for it! #5 is appealing. This is a fun picture book, but it needs work. #6 is also calling to me, but since I haven’t even started this project, I think it’s ok to let it simmer a while longer. I just read several mentor texts and had some brainstorming for some approaches for revising #7, EMMA, so that is feeling like the other thing I should work on during my trade writing time.

I’m going to start with EMMA and give her an hour. Then I’ll devote an hour to fact-checking/backmatter on WINTER.

Are these the right decisions? I have no idea. But I know if I spend a whole lot of time trying to figure out what to work on next, I’ll end up using all my writing time on not writing. So…here I go!

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