Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Common Core Links

While thinking about my upcoming author visits, I wandered around on some nonfiction author blogs and stumbled upon some excellent recent posts on the Common Core. I thought I would pass them along.

Free teacher's guides to using award winning nonfiction trade books.

Nonfiction author Carla McClafferty on the Common Core

Darcy Pattison with links on choosing common core text exemplars

Common Core Writing Standards Rubric

Enjoy your trick or treaters tonight!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Woman and her Wheels

Our Poetry Friday host is Linda at TeacherDance.

I have bicycles on the brain this week. So here's bicycle poem for the day.

The Maiden
by Anonymous

The maiden with her wheel of old
Sat by the fire to spin,
While lightly through her careful hold
The flax slid out and in.
Today her distaff, rock and reel
Far out of sight are hurled
And now the maiden with her wheel
Goes spinning round the world.

Must get back to the work in progress. Yes, it has bicycles.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

WIK 2012

The WIK 2012 conference for Southern Breeze (SCBWI) was exceptional this year. The writing intensive on Friday before the conference featured Donna Jo Napoli. What a delightful lady she is, so passionate about writing for children. She began the day with a question many people ask her, "How do you do so many things?" Her answer -- "Badly!" -- won my heart.

She talked about writing her first draft very quickly, knowing that it's terrible, but rewarding herself with chocolate at the end of a page, a beer at the end of a chapter, and a bottle of wine at the end of a draft. Then she puts it away--for months. When she comes back to it, she looks for organization. The next step for her is to take it to readers where the goal is to read it aloud. Reading to a classroom or an afterschool program or a library group. She stressed the importance of finding those readers, watching their body language, paying attention to their responses, both verbal and nonverbal.

She delivered a marvelous keynote speech Saturday morning on why she writes about terrible things.

In the first workshop session, I taught a class on the nuts and bolts of publishing. I always determine the success of a class based on whether I had a good time or not. This one was a blast. The room was full of dry-sponge, newbie writers ready to soak up every bit of information they could. Fun!

During the second session, I attended Vicky Alvear Shecter's class on using your nonfiction research to write historical fiction. She did a wonderful job using the research on Cleopatra  into Cleopatra's Moon as examples. Some tips from Vicky that stood out:

Vicky was the Crystal Kite Award Winner for the Southern Region.

  • You need a clear bad guy from the very opening! What specific person has power over that kid that is beyond manageable. If you can’t write about it in the opening, at least hint at it.
  • Make sure it could have happened that way. Be ready to defend the choices you have made. 
  • Never assume on details.
Julie Hamm's (associate editor at Charlesbridge) workshop was a double session after lunch. Charlesbridge publishes 60% nonfiction/40% fiction. Julie read paragraphs from each of the Siebert award winners since 2002 when the award began. We plotted them on a graph from traditional/safe to expressive/edgy. As you might expect, the winners from the last three or four years leaned farther to the expressive/edgy side of the graph. 

Tips from Julie:
  • Read all applicable literature on your subject matter.
  • Revise from multiple perspectives.
  • Highlight each adjective and verb in your piece, then replace any that feel a bit weak and tweak for a sense of immediacy.
  • Hone in on the elements that most excite you. Bring those facts/events to a surprising light.
There were other workshops that I missed with Marietta Zacker, Agent with Nancy Gallt Literary Agency, Leila Sales, associate editor at Viking Children's Books, and Kevin Lewis, author/illustrator and executive editor at Disney/Hyperion. But you can only do what you can do. That's my new motto. 

All in all, it was a wonderful, exhausting weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poetry Friday: Home

At the Miss Rumphius Effect blog this week, the poetry prompt was to write a poem about home. You can see my contribution there, though it's a bit rough and should have been shored up more before I posted. Don't you hate it when you do that?! 

Since I'm traveling again this weekend, SCBWI Southern Breeze WIK (fall conference), I'm identifying with all these home poems. Here is one more, posted at Your Daily Poem this week. 

Irene Latham hosts Poetry Friday today at Live Your Poem. Irene has been busy on a blog tour the last two weeks to launch her new book, Don't Feed the Boy. Today she's hosting a community zoo poem (yes, I contributed two lines) to celebrate Poetry Friday and the new book. Join her for a real treat!

by Barbara Eknoian

I cross the miles holding
on to memories:
my children’s first steps,
their first days at school,
romping in piles
of orange and gold leaves.

The neighborhood movie house,
where Rocky played
for six months.
It was something I could rely on
when I looked up at the marquee.

The drugstore where my kids
brought their piggy banks;
the clerk counting out
pennies to buy me perfume.

Chatting over the backyard fence,
as we hung clothes on our lines.
Margaret always washed
on Mondays, shopped on Thursdays;
Vivian walked to the market at noon.

I arrive in the new land
of smog-filled haze
and star-like cacti,
I am on another planet.

Read the rest at Your Daily Poem.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bathroom Reading

I was avoiding the chores that needed to be done this morning by scrolling through old blog posts by some friends I enjoy reading. I stumbled upon this bit from an interview Irene Latham posted with poet Barry Marks. 

What do you read in the bathroom?
Magazines: Esquire, Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, etc


I suppose it caught my attention because one of the chores I did just manage to complete was cleaning out my bathroom reading bucket. I threw out 2011 catalogs from Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, and Peachtree Publishing. I filed 2011 to 2012 copies of SCBWI Newsletter.

My Chevrolet green fifties bathroom and my reading bucket. 
I left in about two years worth of the Chrildren's Writer Marketplace, the latest copy of the SCBWI Newsletter, 2012 catalogs from Sleeping Bear, Pelican, and Charlesbridge, one copy of the Birmingham Arts Journal, a small volume of the Gospel of John, and Letters to a Young Poet by Ranier Rilke that I bought when I was in Portland visiting my daughter. 

Okay, back to the must-get-done list before I head to Albany tomorrow. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Poet and his Dog

"I came to poetry with no particular qualifications. I had begun to suspect, however, that there is a poet—or a kind of poet—buried in every human being like Ariel in his tree, and that the people whom we are pleased to call poets are only those who have felt the need and contrived the means to release this spirit from its prison."
                                 --James Dickey in Howard Nemerov's Poets on Poetry

The Poetry Friday Roundoup is at Teaching Young Writers

A Dog Sleeping on My Feet
By James Dickey

'Being his resting place,
I do not even tense
The muscles of a leg
Or I would seem to be changing.
Instead I turn the page
Of the notebook, carefully not

Remembering what I have written,
For now, with my feet beneath him
Dying like embers,
The poem is beginning to move
Up through my pine-prickling legs
Out of the night wood,

Taking hold of the pen by my fingers.
Before me the fox floats lightly,
On fire with his holy scent.
All, all are running.
Marvelous is the pursuit,
Like a dazzle of nails through the ankles,

Like a twisting shout through the trees
Sent after the flying fox
Through the holes of logs, over streams
Stock-still with the pressure of moonlight.
My killed legs,
My legs of a dead thing, follow,

Quick as pins, through the forest,
And all rushes on into dark
And ends on the brightness of paper.
When my hand, which speaks in a daze
The hypnotized language of beasts,
Shall falter, and fail

Back into the human tongue,
And the dog gets up and goes out

To wander the dawning yard,
I shall crawl to my human bed
And lie there smiling at sunrise,
With the scent of the fox

Burning in my brain like an incense,
Floating out of the night wood,
Coming home to my wife and my sons
From the dream of an animal,
Assembling the self I must wake to,
Sleeping to grow back my legs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Conference Crazy!

Conferences galore the last few weeks. I just haven’t had time to stop and blog about it all.

I’ve been to:

The Local Author Showcase at the Columbus Library where about 40 local authors attended. It was lots of fun connecting with folks I knew and meeting other like-minded writers who live nearby. Steve Scott, the Kudzu King, occupied the table next to me. He’s a great hit at local school libraries. 

At the Maneuver Conference in Columbus, I walked the exhibit hall talking to vendors, looking for advertisers and articles for the magazine, the Infantry Bugler, where I work as an editor. I’ve been doing this job for ten years now. It’s a quarterly magazine, so I’m only there one day a week. With the added responsibilities of my mother and dad in different nursing/assisted living facilities, I’d love to find someone to replace me. So if you live near Columbus and are reading this and are interested, get in touch with me.

The Chattahoochee Valley Writers Conference in Columbus is put on by a group of local writers. Most of the workshops are geared for adult writers, but I taught a class on writing for the educational market. Two highlights. I got to hang out with my sweet friend, Irene Latham. I enjoyed Irene’s class on writing poetry from artwork. She does such a wonderful job teaching poetry.

And I rubbed shoulders with the amazing Terry Kay, the keynote speaker. I took a workshop with him years ago and the exercises he used, one impromptu drama sketch in particular, remain vivid in my memory. He drops names like Pat Conroy and James Dickey, both of whom were/are close friends, says outrageous things that most of us could never get away with, and just keeps writing wonderful Southern stories. He recommends typing out the text of great literature as a means of learning the rhythm of a good story. And he follows his own advice.

Last week, I donned my business suit and manned the Delaney booth at the COMO (Council of Media Organizations) conference in Macon. Lots of librarians. Lots of books. Lots of good friends. Fellow writer and vendor, Annette Laing, is always a pleasure to visit. I was wishing for a good cup of English tea, but she didn’t bring the teabags along this year, just her delightful British humor.

 And at the author reception, fellow Southern Breeze authors Vicky Alvear Shecter and  S.R. Johannes signed copies of their new books.

 Next week is WIK, the fall conference by Southern Breeze (SCBWI) in Birmingham.

Then there’s only one more (the Georgia Literature Festival) and I can breathe again. This is what happens when you have too many jobs!