Not quite the final cover yet but we are very close to going to print. Just some minor edits and it’s off to the presses. R is for Rosary – a Catholic Family Alphabet is truly a collaborative effort involving my spiritual companion Sr. Patt, my critique group, art designer Lorien and the Holy Spirit. Yes, I believe that! I remember how I felt after writing the text on the R page. I reread it and wondered where those words came from. Stories about obtaining the sacred art for the illustrations are just as inspirational. And to think that this book would still be packed away in a crate under the table in my office if it wasn’t for the 4th graders at Ss. Simon and Jude asking me if I was working on any new books. When I told them about R is for Rosary, they gasped as if I was writing this book for each one of them. And in a way, I did. It was started in 2008 and in 2014 dedicated to the students at that school.
Each letter in the alphabet represents a facet of the Catholic faith. A rhyme, text and sacred art illustration along with a prayer written by a child complete the page. As Father Herb at Our Lady of Joy Catholic Church said, “R is for Rosary is a treasure for parents and children alike. The format is clear and concise. Every child learns the ABCs but these ABCs are special. This book teaches the gifts of our Catholic Faith to the young and will refresh the understanding of adults.”
Following the alphabet letters is a section called Family Faith Formation with stories about our Holy Father, Pope Francis, and ideas on how families can grow their faith. The book is interactive with places for photos, a family written prayer and even a child’s drawing of heaven.
R is for Rosary is the first selection in the Catholic Kids Book Club. Members join for three months at a time and receive a carefully selected book for their child based on the liturgical calendar. The theme of the CKBC is “faith formation through story.” To read reviews of the book selections and to sign up for the CKBC, go to the website www.CatholicKidsBookClub.com. And don’t forget to like Catholic Kids Book Club on Facebook!
PD! What is PD? Professional Development! I’m a big fan of continuing education and love to share what I learn. This summer is one big learning experience and it started with the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference held in New Paltz, NY (took a plane, train and bus to get there!) in June. It was a gathering of writers, illustrators, editors and agents, all focused on the business of nonfiction. I attended seminars on everything from what’s new in digital nonfiction to how to brand yourself to how to write for the school market and even assessment tests. An editor from National Geographic Kids critiqued my proposal and motivated me when she announced that they are actively expanding their children’s book line. I love the Nat Geo tag line – “where curiosity runs wild” since that could be my motto too.
21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference
Roxie Munro and her 3D printed likeness
3D printing scan
I was especially curious about the demonstration of 3D Printing sponsored by the SUNY engineering department. Imagine scanning a person and then making that image in plastic. That’s what they did to one of the conference participants. 3D Printing is the theme for an upcoming issue of Odyssey science magazine for kids so I took lots of photos, asked lots of questions about this new technology and then sent in my query and received an assignment for the magazine!
The American Library Association held their conference in Las Vegas and it was two days of nonstop walking and talking to exhibitors. That translates to free books, free books and more free books as the publishers are busy promoting their new lists and giving away ARCs or Advanced Reader Copies. I signed my book D is for Desert – a World Desert Alphabet in the Sleeping Bear Press booth and then had a great dinner afterwards. What could be better than lively conversation with a teacher, librarian, authors and editors?
Deb LaPlante and Peggy Sharp compare new books
Sleeping Bear Press dinner
My goal at ALA was to meet editors who might be interested in my manuscript, How to Read a Building, and to look for books to offer to members in the Catholic Kids Book Club, my latest project. (post coming soon)
Next up on my “summer school” schedule is Honesdale, PA and the Highlights Foundation workshops – the Craft of Writing Short Nonfiction and the Power of the Picture Book. I’ll have the opportunity to work closely with award-winning nonfiction writers and editors. Two years ago, I met Candace Fleming and am thrilled to be able to learn from her again. There will even be a session on nature photography. The second workshop involves educators from the Eric Carle Museum and National Writing Project who will present sessions about visual thinking strategies and the whole-book approach. Illustrators Floyd Cooper and Vera B. Williams will be special guests at the Power of the Picture Book. A tour of Highlights and Boyds Mill Press is also part of the fun.
Tour of Highlights
Calkins Creek editor Carolyn Yoder
Nature author Larry Pringle
Highlights Workshop cabins
Ready, set, learn
The Highlights Foundation celebrating thirty years in service to children’s writers and illustrators offers a variety of programs, workshops, and retreats. If you are interested in learning the craft of writing for children, check out www.HighlightsFoundation.org
Last stop for the summer will be the National Book Festival in Washington, DC and a jam-packed day of author talks. (Check out my post from last year’s festival to discover how authors find their ideas.)
Imagine all the new information that I’ll be exposed to and then sharing it with you! I already have professional development workshops scheduled for the Paradise Valley Unified School District (teachers check out the Course Wizard site for 8 workshops this fall) and at Gardner’s Book Service in Phoenix.
Mark your calendar for Saturday, October 18and the Writer’s Toolbox: Strategies for Reading and Writing Nonfiction. Contact Gardner’s to register for this free workshop. www.gbsbooks.com
Special thanks to the Arizona Commission on the Arts for awarding me a Professional Development Grant to help defray the travel and conference fees for my summer learning experiences.
If you’d like to offer workshops to your staff, click on the header for my page - Professional Development Workshops for Educators.
What is TFOB and WOW? Tucson Festival of Books and Worlds of Words. Both are located at the University of Arizona. The Tucson Festival of Books is a weekend of author spotlights and presentations, kids’ activities, book vendors and displays, top notch entertainment, Science City and much more!
wishes for tree
wishes for tree 2
wishes for tree 4
wishes for tree 5
Children and Young Adult authors like Lois Lowry, Robert Sabuda, Cornelia Funke, Sy Montgomery and Jacqueline Woodson were just a few of the 2014 all-star authors. And of course, there were plenty of adult authors, too.
parks in focus
exhibits and vendors
TFOB signing areas
exhibit at TFOB
Wild Thing and Deb LaPlante
For me, it was a place to learn, a place to share and a place to renew. I attended presentations by nonfiction authors Sandra Markle and Kathleen Krull and also presented a seminar on Discovering the World of Science through Alphabet Books.
Nonfiction author Kathleen Krull
Paul Brewer illustrator
Kathleen’s Krull’s biographies
Nonfiction author Sandra Markle
Native American author Tim Tingle performed in one of the tents in the children’s area. Afterwards, we chatted about where he gets his ideas for his stories. Author Nancy Bo Flood also enjoyed his musical performance and was excited to meet him since Tim is one of the authors in an upcoming anthology of contemporary Native Americans that Nancy is editing. My biography of golfer Notah Begay will appear in the collection on athletes.
tim tingle performance
Authors Nancy Bo Flood and Tim Tingle
Tim Tingle and Barbara Gowan
Mark your calendar for March 14-15, 2015 and join thousands of bibliophiles at the Tucson Festival of Books. Follow all the activity on their website – http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org
In addition to all the festival activities, I had the opportunity to tour the newly remodeled Worlds of Words in the College of Education at the U of A. The mission of WOW is to build bridges across global cultures through children’s and adolescent literature. The center is beautiful with specialized reading rooms, classrooms and workshop space plus an estimated 25,000 volumes focusing on world cultures and indigenous peoples.
World of Words
WOW Mary Wong’s Collection
WOW Kathy Short collection
WOW book shelf
WOW Culture Kits
U of A Ed bldg
Books for authors TFOB
Worlds of Words is offering free loan of language and culture kids around specific global cultures to K-8 classrooms and libraries. The kits contain picture books and novels, beginning language materials, and several cultural artifacts. In addition, the kits come with a guide containing inquiry strategies and curriculum resources. Contact Richard Clift, Coordinator of Collections and Outreach at WOW for information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can I stow a saguaro in my suitcase? Or a tarantula in my tote bag? I don’t think so but I am packing some unusual items to share at my program and book signing at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. On Wednesday, August 13, I’ll be presenting my book, D is for Desert – a World Deserts Alphabet, in the Discovery Room at the museum. It will be fun to share my experiences of living in the desert with visitors to Washington, DC. I expect many will have never ventured into the land of sun, sand, and scorpions. I’ll do my best to introduce them to the wonders and beauty of this biome and how plants and animals are adapted to life in this arid environment.
Satellite view of the Sahara Desert
Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum
Desert storm coming
Healthy and dying saguaro
crestate cactus in Desert Botanical Garden, Papago Park, Phoenix
Imagine my delight when I received an email from Shirley Berow and Kerrlita Westrick, co-chairs of the Grand Canyon Reader Award committee, announcing that D is for Desert – a World Deserts Alphabet is a 2015 nominee in the Nonfiction category. Wahoo! The Grand Canyon Reader Award is sponsored by the Arizona Library Association and is the state’s kids’ choice award. Nominated and voted on by Arizona’s children, the award is a special honor for an author. Ten books are in this year’s Nonfiction list. Kids must read or have read to them at least five of the nominees to have the opportunity to vote for their favorite. Competition for me is stiff this year as it is every year! Votes are due by April 1, 2015 so get started reading now. For the list of books in all categories – nonfiction, picture book, intermediate, tween and teen, check out the GCRA website. http://www.grandcanyonreaderaward.org
The website also has curriculum ideas, teacher’s guides, bookmarks and voting stickers. Consider inviting me into your class or to visit your school to share my presentation on D is for Desert. Check out the details on my SCHOOL AUTHOR VISIT PRESENTATIONS page.
Sharing the first pages of the book
Looking closely and carefully at a prickly pear pad
Sharing the rough draft
D is for Desert presentation at Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix
D is for Desert is an Outstanding Science Trade Book
Photos from the visit to Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix, AZ
Imagine a three week adventure in the rainforest. That’s how 22 future fourth graders at Cotton Boll Elementary School in Peoria spent their summer vacation. And they even wrote a book about it! I was invited to take students on a journey through the nonfiction writing process to create a class alphabet book. Everyone first learned about the biome they live in when I shared my book, D is for Desert – a World Desert alphabet and then it was off to the rainforest via a slide presentation of my photographs of the Amazon. It was a trip that didn’t require a passport or inoculations! Kids met in the library decorated as a colorful rainforest by library tech Margaret Crabtree. I visited four mornings and in that time we brainstormed and selected an animal for each letter of the alphabet, researched, wrote (and rewrote) and completed illustrations. Teachers continued the writing process (including peer editing) and also shared activities from rainforest read-alouds to tie-dying tshirts to puzzles and more on the other days. The books will be published by Vesuvius Press and distributed to the kids during a family literacy celebration in September.
Research – collecting awesome information
Writing using colored strips to help construct an organized paragraph
Illustrating ABCs – Accurate, Bold and Creative using oil pastels and background techniques like painting with bubble wrap
Thanks to Title 1 coordinator Kevin Adams and teachers Margarita Garcia, Linda Lavender, Amy Wallander and Sharon Stutzman.
To learn how to bring this writing workshop to your school, check out the Build a Book Writing Workshoppage. Other author opportunties are outlined in the School Author Visit Presentationsand Family Literacy Night pages on this website.
“Barbara, some nights I can’t sleep because I have this dream – the dream to bring literacy to the people of the islands.” “Victor,” I replied, “I know people in Arizona that will help you.” And so the Lake Titicaca Literacy Project was born.
Situated in the snow-capped Andes at over 12,500 feet and bordering Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and site of the famous Uros floating islands. These islands composed of thick mat-like layers of tortora reed, a cattail-like rush, are home to members of the Uros tribe or “people of the lake.” The tortora is the source for their food, shelter, transportation, and livelihood. About fifty islands float in the shallows with only a few families inhabiting the smaller ones. Children row their boats to the school on the largest island. Victor Pauca, my guide, distributed books to a young mother on Toranipata Island as he checked on her progress of reading to her son. Victor realizes the importance of literacy and how it can offer opportunities to the island people.
Our journey continued as we traveled for three hours under the intense sun to Taquile Island, a fixed island, fifteen miles away. Here I would visit a school to share the pencils, notebooks and picture books that I brought from home. The terraced hillsides of the island were visible from a distance. Corn, potatoes, fava beans and quinoa are the main crops for this self-sufficient community of about 1200 people.
Silvano and several schoolchildren met us at the dock. Silvano wore the traditional dress of a married man – black pants and a white flannel shirt, a wide, colorful, woven belt called a chumpis and a chullo, a knit cap ending in a red tassle. Boys wear chullos with white tassles. Women and girls dress in multi-layered skirts, colorful blouses and dark shawls for protection from the sun. As we slowly hiked the steep stone path to the missionary school, I was handed an aromatic herb to smell to help alleviate the shortness of breath caused by the thin air of the altiplano.
The young professora and her students greeted us with wide grins and laughter and enthusiastically showed me their one-room school.
The people of Taquile Island are recognized for creating the finest textiles in Peru. Girls and boys are proficient knitters by the age of seven but can they read? School supplies are minimal and books are hard to find on the remote island. Yet, Victor is determined to help the indigenous people of Lake Titicaca. It is his dream to build community libraries, offer parent education programs and encourage families to acquire the habit of reading. He believes that literacy will lead to people with leadership skills, a necessity for the future of these communities.
Promoting the LTLP at Arizona Reading Assn. conference
Book Fair to raise money for LTLP
Since that boat ride on the lake, Victor has seen his dream become a reality. The Greater Paradise Valley Reading Council (part of the Arizona Reading Association) adopted the Lake Titicaca Literacy Project as their international community service. We held raffles and book fairs to raise money. School kids had used book sales. It only takes $2000 to build and furnish an island library. Victor’s plans are for libraries in seven communities. I completed the Developing Countries grant from the International Reading Association that resulted in a $1500 donation. Visitors to Peru have joined Allways Travel and Victor in donating their time and money to help community members build their libraries…brick by brick and book by book. In 2014, this grass roots project that began on a boat ride eight years ago was nominated by USBBY, the United States Board on Books for Young People, for the IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People)-Asahi Reading Promotion Award. Although we did not win the $10,000 prize, more people have become aware of the Lake Titicaca Literacy Project.
If you would like to help Victor in his dream to bring literacy to the people of the lake, contact him at All Ways Travel (his daughter started the travel agency to promote socially responsible tourism.)
Four years ago, I attended the Chautauqua Institute sponsored by the Highlights Foundation with the intent on learning about the children’s magazine market. Lucky for me at the first dinner, Kent Brown of Highlights seated me next to the editor of Cobblestone’s nonfiction magazines – Appleseeds, Faces, Cobblestone, Calliope, Odyssey, Dig and Muse. Each magazine has a different focus from American history to science to geography and culture. Each magazine also has a specific theme. I’ve had articles published about the dog’s unique sense of smell, monster snakes, big trees, unsolved mysteries, places in peril, the Library of Congress – to name a few.
I’m always anxious to see the theme list for the upcoming year and what topics excite me. Then I try to think about what a child would want to know and look for a unique angle. I suggested the ABCs of the LOC (Library of Congress) and it was accepted.When I submit a query to the editor for that issue’s theme, I send an outline, bibliography and suggested article length. Because I enjoy photography, I always try to include pictures that I’ve taken for a photo essay. Honestly, magazines pay more for photos than for words and neither pays well so it’s really an exercise in writing and impacting kids with great information.
You can imagine how thrilled I was when Appleseeds announced an issue dedicated to the rain forest theme. After all, whose family had taken a vacation to the Amazon rain forest? Mine! So it was time to dig out those old slides (way before digital images), journal entries and nature books and reaquaint myself with the 3-toed sloth, 110% humidity, adventures like piranha fishing and canoeing in a dugout. The result was a four-page spread including 18 images in the January 2012 issue. I had to convert my slides into jpegs and convince my now adult daughters that it was OK for the world to see them as pre-teens “roughing it” in the Amazon. A year later, I received a big surprise. McGraw Hill sent me a contract requesting the use of my images for their PARCC testing. I hold the copyright on the photos (magazine owns the words) so now thousands of kids will be reading about my family’s adventure. My check was more than I’ve made on all my published articles - a nice perk of magazine writing.
The JulyAugust 2014 issue of Appleseeds has a desert theme and I took on a new role as contributing editor for the issue. It was a great learning experience to work with the editor and help choose the articles, check them for accuracy and involve a class at Laveen Elementary as the AppleCorps kids. In the issue, you’ll find three of my articles including a photo essay on the Prickly Pear Harvest.
Other children’s magazines including Highlights for Kids do not have themed issues so writers can submit articles that fit their guidelines and philosophy. If the editor shows an interest in my article (as in not a flat rejection), I will rewrite and revise to suit them. Highlights recently purchased an article on George Washington’s Christmas camel (George’s Christmas Surprise) and a photo essay on mushroom hunting in Slovakia (from a trip I took several years ago) for their world culture feature. Just remember that writing for children is not simple. It’s often more difficult to write for kids than adults!
Here’s my TOP TEN OF WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT WRITING FOR CHILDREN’S MAGAZINES. I hope it helps you get published!
Write in the present tense. Fiction for younger audiences works best in present tense so the reader can fit into the story. Switching tenses may confuse the reader.
Look for the UNUSUAL slant on a usual topic. Take a different approach. Be fresh and original.
There is a story line in non-fiction with drama, action and conflict. Facts will appear naturally and everything that does not support the story line is left out. Those facts can become sidebars or back matter. Setting is true to research.
Get to know your audience. Kids today are different than when we grew up. Be an observer. Listen to their language. Read the “Dear Editor” and reader submissions in children’s magazines.
Choose a story that you are passionate about so that you can find your voice. Give yourself permission to let go of the story that is within you.
Tell me something that I don’t know. Seek out elusive details when doing your research. Get personal when researching for a biography. Look for uniqueness and anecdotes. Research is key.
There are limits of space. Everything in a good piece of writing must be CHOSEN into it.
Put kids into the mix with either real or historical characters.
Study magazines, at least a year’s worth, and editorial needs. Analyze the content. Obtain write’s guidelines online. Create a drawer of magazines so you are ready to send your story to the proper magazine.
Most magazine editors welcome new writers because of their new ideas, voices and passion.
When Ed and I visited Scotland, we took a side trip from the incredible golf courses and journeyed to Wigtown in the far southwest corner of the country. Wigtown is Scotland’s National Book Town. Our adventures in Wigtown involved hours rummaging through used book stores in search of golf books for Ed, material for Katie’s English lit thesis and folktales for me. I did find a surprise – a Happy Hollisters book just like the ones I received when I was a member of the Book of the Month club as a child.
I always do my homework before I travel and look for any story ideas as I peruse through travel books. Just a mile down the road from Wigtown is the village where a Scottish folktale, the Brownie of Bladnoch, takes place. The Brownie of Bladnoch originated as a poem written by William Nicholdson in 1825 and is considered to be “the greatest piece of vernacular literature that Galloway has ever produced.” Too bad no one that I spoke to remembered the story unless they recently visited the Bladnoch distillery where a diorama featuring the grotesque brownie enlightens scotch drinkers. Too much scotch and they wouldn’t remember it for long!
So I hit the trail in search of material to help me in retelling this folktale. I scoured books in the St. Andrews library and learned that the hump-backed, toe-less brownie of Bladnoch may actually have suffered from leprosy which explains his unsightly looks. Not suitable information for kids but I found it interesting. I toured the Fife Folk Museum in Ceres. There I discovered that bannock or oat pancake is cooked on a girdle – not a griddle and that belted cows sleep in a byre. Scottish culture is filled with fairy folk including helpful little brownies and the Brownie Girl Scouts are named after them.
I think this is a great story for kids and that’s where the problem lies. I’m a writer of nonfiction and the concept of story arcs, character development and dialogue are foreign to me. But I’m not giving up. I’ve written and rewritten, had it critiqued and rewrote it again. So now it’s just the hunt of finding the right publisher. And my visit to the American Library Association conference may have uncovered the one. I’ll keep you posted.
A trip into Edinburgh meant a visit to museums including the Writer’s Museum. I also stumbled upon an interesting exhibit on children at work. Imagine being hired as a bird scarer! All the images, sounds, information, smells, and tastes (yes, I did drink scotch and tasted a morsel of haggis but couldn’t wrap my mind around eating something containing sheep’s pluck!) are tucked away for that future story, magazine article or book. That’s the fun of being a writer – I’m always looking for story!
What could be better than a weekend at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC? Huge tents covered the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Castle and thousands of bibliophiles (including my grandsons!) gathered to listen to their favorite authors. The Library of Congress sponsors this wonderful event. I parked myself in the front row in the children’s tent and enjoyed inspiring words from award-winning authors about where they get their ideas for their stories. Katherine Applegate wrote The One and Only Ivan in 1st person gorilla! She read an article in the NY Times over 20 years ago about a gorilla in a Tacoma, WA shopping mall. That story is the basis for this Newbery Award winning book. And Katherine recently paired with illustrator G. Brian Karas so watch for the picture book, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla in October 2014. In the Caldecott winning book Locomotive, author/illustrator Brian Floca tells the story of a steam locomotive similar to the one in a park in his hometown. Lesa Cline-Ransome and her husband, James, write picture book biographies giving them the opportunity to eavesdrop on conversations of famous people. They gave the advice to write about what you know and love and that’s evident in their book Light in the Darkness. Where do they look for ideas? the obituary pages! Richard Peck’s The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail grew out of a trip to London. He saw a mouse darting around an old castle. Why not tell a story from the point of view of the mouse? And so he did. Even Queen Victoria is in the book.
One and Only Ivan
James and Lesa Cline-Ransome
Christopher Myers, the son of award-winning author Walter Dean Myers, speaks at youth prisons. Questions from prisoners about “power” led him to the idea of the power of the pen, a new release coming from Hyperion books. Growing up with five brothers and being a really funny guy has benefitted Jon Scieszka (his name rhymes with fresca) with ideas for books like Smash! Crash! and Battle Bunny. How about a book with a chapter written in “hamster?” Just download the free hamster language app and you’re all set to enjoy Spaceheadz. Creative people like Suzy Lee can turn a day chasing waves at Galveston Beach into a book called Wave. Her design was used on the Festival posters and promotions. Katherine Paterson was at a women’s conference when she heard about letters written by Vermont farm girls. Anyone know which book that became? “It seems like I always have a pencil in my hand, ” remarked illustrator Mark Teague. His pencil is not for writing words but for sketching illustrations. Teaming up with award-winning author Jane Yolen, How do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad? is just the latest book in that series for preschoolers. Did you know that each book features different dinosaurs?
In addition to the author and illustrator presentations and panel discussions, there are huge tents filled with books and book sellers. In the Let’s Read America tent, each state is represented by “their books” and kids travel from table to table getting their reading passport stamped. And of course, there are free books, posters and more plus fun photo opportunities with our favorite storybook characters.
Let’s Read America
When I read, I can…
Barb and Clifford
books that change the world
Excited to be at the Book Festival
Let’s Read America tent
You don’t have to travel to our Nation’s Capital to enjoy a book festival. The Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus is a great event. Spend the weekend soaking up all the wit and wisdom from your favorite authors. Mark your calendar for the 7th annual TFOB March 14 and 15, 2015.