Friday, April 30, 2010

Indie Shops

I love local, independent bookshops. Now don't get me wrong, I also believe there is a place for the big chainstores and internet sites. We don't all live in or near a community that has an independent shop and being able to go to an urban area to a big store or to shop online may be the only way to get our book fix. I also support libraries. But sometimes you just have to own the book, write in the margins, dog ear favorite pages and reread it until the cover has the soft patina of an antique table. But, I digress.

Independent book shops are like family. The people running the shops love books as much as you do, squeeze every second of reading in just like you do, let the clothing wrinkle in the dryer until the chapter is finished, just like you do. When you walk in your local book shop, there is a smiling face ready to tell you Jodi Piccoult's next release date, why your mystery reader will love the next Clive Cussler and how your toddler will ask you to read Mo Willem's new book every night for the next month. You say you want to try something new, your local bookseller will be glad to enthuse over the newest releases or best authors of historical fiction or gardening or whatever strikes your fancy.

If you live near an independent book shop, please check it out. And don't forget to seek them out when travelling on vacation this summer. These shops usually have a good selection of local authors and what better way to expand your reading horizons. After all, every author is a local author somewhere!

So give a shout out for your favorite independent shop and if I am ever nearby, I will check it out and hopefully find my books in their children's section!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

As the publication date approaches of Zero, I find myself thinking about my math phobia. I know there are going to be questions as my "condition" is mentioned in the official publisher's press release. First, however, I want to thank the second graders who are teaching me strategies to work with my affliction. Most of them, thankfully, are free of this problem.

To this day, when I hand over a twenty to pay for an item, if someone were to say "What should the change be?"- I will panic. Any knowledge I have of how numbers and money works will immediately morph into a foreign language I have never heard. The blood will flood from my face, a 'deer in the headlight' look will shoot from my eyes, and my tongue will turn to stone. A blubbering idiot, I will quickly grab the receipt and change, clench my fist around them, stuff it in my pocket and quickly take the nearest escape route. Pathetic.

Another painful scenerio. We stop at a gas station on a trip. Unfortunately, I often seem to ride with gas mileage watchers who make it an extreme sport! Gas is pumped, odometer reading written down, number of gallons bought written down, paper handed to me - What is the mileage? See reactions above - followed by my comment - "Does it matter - we got here?"

In my defense - when left in isolation my math brain works just fine. I design and make quilts which are all based on math, I play the piano daily which requires understanding fractions in time and now I seem to be writing stories to help children understand and enjoy math. Go figure.

So please - read my books, snuggle under my quilts, but don't ask me how much change I should receive or how many miles per gallon my Beetle bug gets. Blue one!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It costs how much?

OK - let's be blunt. Unless you are J.K. Rowling or Lois Lowery, your books don't exactly pay the bills. And that is fine, that isn't why we write. But it would be nice to make a bit of income from the hours spent sweeping the cobwebs out of our imaginations and shaping them into something other than half the dream I remember from last night. One way this used to be possible was with author visits to schools and libraries. This however, due to the economy, is no longer possible for many districts. PTA's, once the champions of enrichment programs, are needed to help fund textbooks and school supplies. And thank goodness for the dedicated parents, grandparents and teachers who continue to keep these organizations running. So much for the problem - on to some ideas that may help.

I belong to a professional organization called the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It is considered THE professional organization for children's writers in the U.S. This month's issue had a great article by author Alexis O'Neill who lives in California - where schools are in very dire straits. Her article focused on finding funding through partnerships between schools/libraries and local community organizations, ie Rotary, Lions,etc. It also refers to places where the local Target/Walmart stores entered into partnership with schools to help fund enrichment programs. I don't think this should happen just for authors, this needs to happen for artists, musicians, dancers, poets, sculptors, actors, storytellers, etc. With the arts being cut in many schools, alternative ways need to be developed to insure some continued exposure to the arts for our children.

If you would like more information regarding the ideas in the afore mentioned article, please email me and I will send it to you. We all need to be creative about money these days. Funding enrichment for our children can happen if we all work together. I am currently exploring alternative time/pricing structures for my visits which would allow a single teacher to bring me in for a class as well as continuing the traditional all day visit to a school. If you have ideas or suggestions regarding this subject, please email them to me.

One last thought - I had two visits last year which were birthday gifts funded by individuals for their child's classroom. What better gift than a time of inspiration and sharing with a real live artist, author, musician, etc.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Much to Tell!

First of all, an apology for being out of touch for so long. No one excuse, just several life events interfering with time and concentration. I have also been trying to up my technological expertise and am not much further, but improving. With any luck, this blog should soon be appearing on my Facebook page. There will also soon be a Facebook page dedicated only to my books.

Speaking of books - Zero, Zilch, Nada: Counting to None will be arriving in mid May and in the stores in June. The final layout and art work looks great and I can't wait to actually hold one in my hands. What a long birth this has been! Check the upcoming events section as there are already several events scheduled with the book - including a return to the Red Balloon in St. Paul, MN.

A Isn't for Fox is finishing up its year in two reading programs - The Keystones to Reading program in PA and the Delaware Diamonds program. It was an honor to be selected for these two programs in which school children read several chosen books and vote for their favorite.

Last, but not least, A Campfire for Cowboy Billy is supposedly going to be reprinted as a paperback, although we have yet to see a contract. But we (Ken, the illustrator and I) are excited to have been contacted by the current publisher who owns the films from the original printing. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Second grade is finishing up our Community Reads program. The students have done an awesome job interviewing our guests and writing their reports. We look forward to our celebration next week when we will present our community guests with copies of the reports and display our posters. Great job!

I am continuing my work on several math oriented picture books and also my early reader fantasy. Here's to a beautiful spring full of sunshine and inspiration. Read and write a little each day!