Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thanks to Winslow

No, I am not giving credit to Winslow Homer for inspiration, although I do want to visit the current exhibit in Portland. I am thanking Winslow Elementary School for hosting my fourth visit to their school - three in this school year! 

I did a birthday visit last year in one of the first grade classrooms. We had a great time and the teacher was very happy with the visit. This past December I was contacted to return to Winslow to present to 100 students and their parents. An interactive presentation was requested! In January I arrived with 100 "faux" balloons and in a breathless half hour had the kids and parents making body percussion music, counting with their balloons and adding movements to The Number Dance. I was pleased with the day and surprised at how well it went. I guess I wasn't the only one pleased, as I received a call from the principal asking me to return and once again lead a reading and counting session - with the entire school of 500 students! My first thought - do I have to make 500 balloons? I didn't, the parent group did - bless their souls:)

I arrived for the big event, which was the kickoff for their March Madness Math-a thon to raise money for their playground. An inflatable screen was set up and the principal, who had scanned Zero, ran a powerpoint as I read the book. What fun to see all those balloons going up and coming down. I am happy to report that the kids raised $5000 in two weeks gathering pledges to support a 30 minute all school math session. After the assembly, the  first grade teacher from the year before asked me to her room. Would I come back in April and spend a day with PreK, K and Grade 1?

Yesterday was packed full of double and triple class sessions with the youngest students. We focused on A Isn't for Fox, writing a group poem together based on rhythm and learning about Cowboy Billy. We had a wonderful day together - again.

We all know how nice it feels to be wanted, but Winslow has opened its arms to me in a way I never expected. Thank you, Winslow Elementary - but those words don't come close to expressing my appreciation for your interest and support of me and my writing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

No one way

Today I attended the first of two sessions with an award winning journalist. I look forward to the next eight weeks of working on a manuscript, having access to the journalist's ear and in June sitting down with fellow participants for constructive criticism and input. Beyond her work as a journalist, our mentor has published an adult memoir and a children's book.

I was surprised how parts of her children's book were similar to Cowboy Billy, especially the ending. But even more interesting was the incredibly different path we took in getting that first book published. Both books were based on a true family story. Cowboy Billy was picked off the slush pile - the pile of unsolicited manuscripts that arrive at every publishing house and linger there for months waiting for an intern to read them and maybe send it upstairs to an editor for further review. She wrote her book (we both had various people critique and offer suggestions), and then approached a famous artisit to do the art work. We both were rejected several times in our first attempts to find a publisher. When she had her agent shop it around, she landed a contract, despite breaking the cardinal rule of not acquiring your own illustrator. But who is going to turn down a famous artist who has already agreed to do the book? I don't have an agent - an ongoing question in my mind! I saw one or two sketches from Cowboy Billy, but never saw the real artwork until the finished book arrived. No input allowed. She worked hand in hand with both the illustrator and the editor in developing the book.

I don't begrudge her any of the success she has found. Her life as a journalist has allowed her to meet many people and she has developed the self confidence to make the most of her talent and abilities and to put herself out there when it counts. I just hope I can develop some of that over the next eight weeks as I work with her on my writing. I don't want to be her when I grow up, but I do need to be me.