Monday, October 6, 2014

Author Spots for Schools is in Session for the 2014-2015 School Year!

Here's a great way to connect children's authors and readers, and it's a WIN-WIN-WIN for schools, authors and school book fairs everywhere!

AUTHOR SPOTS FOR SCHOOLS!

Author Spots are FREE mini-commercials created by children's authors which schools can broadcast to promote their book fair to kids and parents.

I'm not talking about anything fancy here - just a 30 second to 1 minute webcam, YouTube video of a children's author giving a shout-out about his/her books along with a personalized promotion for a school book fair. It might be something as simple as:

"Hi, I'm Jean Reidy, children's author! I'm super excited that TOO PURPLEY! is coming to the Abraham Lincoln Elementary book fair. (MAYBE ADD MORE ABOUT THE BOOK HERE) Don't forget to stop by and check out all the awesome books on sale. GO LIONS!"

Here are 2 sample Author Spots for you to view.  See what I'm talking about?

Author Spots could be shown in morning video announcements, during library time, in the classrooms, at PTO meetings, at the school entrance, or loaded on the school's website ... the possibilities are endless.

It's simple! Here's how it works:

Teachers, Principals, and Book Fair Volunteers: Review the authors and their books listed below and decide who might be a good fit for your school book fair. Authors who have books specifically at Scholastic Book Fairs are noted with an "S" after their name. Their names link you to their website. Choose a few options because not every author will be available at all times. Then contact one or more -- can you imagine a whole week of AuthorSpots? -- of the authors below, requesting a FREE AuthorSpot. If the author agrees, tell the author how you'd like it personalized - school name, school mascot, etc. And when the video is posted, the author will send you the link. It's as simple as that.

Children's Authors and  Illustrators:
If you're interested in recording Author Spots for Schools, e-mail me your name, your 5 most recent book titles, genres and your website link and I'll add you to the list. Send your information to reidy(dot)jean(at)gmail(dot)com. If you know that one or more of your books is offered specifically at Scholastic Book Fairs, please let me know, and I'll put an "S" after your name. Then, when a school contacts you, record your Author Spot, upload it to YouTube and send the link to the school. If you'd like to participate but you'd prefer to record only one generic book fair promotion video that ANY school can use, let me know. I'll start a separate list and link to your video. If we get enough authors participating, I'll even host a website specifically for Author Spots.

The following authors are interested in promoting your book fair! And here is just a sampling of their books. Please check their website for contact and other information.

FICTION PICTURE BOOKS:
Jean Reidy (S) -  TOO PURPLEY!, TOO PICKLEY!, TOO PRINCESSY,  LIGHT UP THE NIGHT, TIME OUT FOR MONSTERS!, ALL THROUGH MY TOWN
Mirka Breen - THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR 
Pam Calvert (S) -  PRINCESS PEEPERS, PRINCESS PEEPERS PICKS A PET
Jenny Goebel (S) - FOREMAN FARLEY HAS A BACKHOE
Jean Gralley - HOGULA, DREAD PIG OF NIGHT, VERY BORING ALLIGATOR, YONDERFEL'S CASTLE, THE MOON CAME DOWN ON MILK STREET 
Tara Lazar -  THE MONSTORE, I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK, LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD
Ammi-Joan Paquette (S) - GHOST IN THE HOUSE
Tammi Sauer (S) - MR. DUCK MEANS BUSINESS, ME WANT PET!, BAWK & ROLL, OH, NUTS!, PRINCESS IN TRAINING
Liz Garton Scanlon (S) - ALL THE WORLD, THINK BIG, A SOCK IS A POCKET FOR YOUR TOES, NOODLE & LOU, HAPPY, BIRTHDAY BUNNY!
Judith Snyder - WHAT DO YOU SEE?, STINKY FEET 
Deborah Underwood - THE QUIET BOOK, THE LOUD BOOK, A BALLOON FOR ISABEL, PIRATE MOM
Audrey Vernick (S) - SO YOU WANT TO BE A ROCK STAR, IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?, TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY DRUMS 

NONFICTION PICTURE BOOKS:
Pam Calvert (S) - MULTIPLYING MENANCE: THE REVENGE OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN
Alison Ashley Formento (S) - THIS TREE COUNTS, THIS TREE 1-2-3, THESE BEES COUNT, THESE SEAS COUNT 
Audrey Vernick (S) - SHE LOVED BASEBALL, BROTHERS AT BAT

MIDDLE GRADE FICTION:  
Ruth McNally Barshaw (S) - THE ELLIE MCDOODLE SERIES 
Mary Bartek FUNERALS AND FLY FISHING 
Hélène Boudreau (S)- REAL MERMAIDS DON'T WEAR TOE RINGS, REAL MERMAIDS DON'T HOLD THEIR BREATH, REAL MERMAIDS DON'T NEED HIGH HEELS (SPRING 2013), REAL MERMAIDS DON'T SELL SEA SHELLS (FALL 2013) 
Mirka Breen -THE VOICE OF THUNDER 
Jenny Goebel (S) - GRAVE IMAGES
Danette Haworth (S) - VIOLET RAINES ALMOST GOT STRUCK BY LIGHTNING, THE SUMMER OF MOONLIGHT SECRETS, ME & JACK, A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY
Lynda Mullaly Hunt - ONE FOR THE MURPHYS 
Natalie Lorenzi - FLYING THE DRAGON 
Michaela Maccoll (S) - PROMISE THE NIGHT 
Jennifer Nielsen (S) - THE FALSE PRINCE, THE RUNAWAY KING, MARK OF THE THIEF, BEHIND ENEMY LINES, THE SHADOW THRONE
Audrey Vernick (S) - WATER BALLOON Danette Vigilante - THE TROUBLE WITH HALF A MOON 
Diane Zahler - THE THIRTEENTH PRINCESS, A TRUE PRINCESS, PRINCESS OF THE WILD SWANS

MIDDLE GRADE NONFICTION
Cynthia Levinson - WE'VE GOT A JOB
Sarah Albee (S) - POOP HAPPENED! A HISTORY OF THE WORLD FROM THE BOTTOM UP

YOUNG ADULT
Penny Blubaugh - BLOOD AND FLOWERS, SERENDIPITY MARKET 
J. Anderson Coats - THE WICKED AND THE JUST
Michaela Maccoll (S) - PRISONERS IN THE PALACE
Ammi-Joan Paquette (S) - PARADOX 
Peter Salomon - HENRY FRANKS
Jeanne Ryan - NERVE, CHARISMA
Lisa Colozza Cocca - PROVIDENCE

And if an Author Spot is not enough ... So many authors, including me (see my Time Out for Teachers page), do free 15-30 minute virtual visits with schools.  And that's FANTASTIC! You can find that list right here on Kate Messner's blog or check out Skype in the Classroom and the Skype an Author Network.

Wishing you a VERY successful book fair!
Jean 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Conrad Wesselhoeft, Author of DIRT BIKES, DRONES AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY, Talks About Place.


When I read Conrad Wesselhoeft's DIRT BIKES, DRONES AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY - if you haven't read it, do it NOW - I had to know how my friend, fellow author, and Seattle dweller was able to pull off a New Mexico setting so spectacular, I felt like I was riding on the back of his bike racing over those dusty trails. So I asked. His answer inspired me and taught me a great lesson on what makes a setting work. It's sure to inspire you. Thank you, Conrad! Got an extra helmet? Let's go for a ride.

In Praise of Place: Why fiction writers should light out for personal territory

By Conrad Wesselhoeft

In my mid-twenties, I fell in love with northeast New Mexico—the high plains, broken mesas, torn shadows, and rich, drifting light. I lived for two years in the town of Raton, working as a journalist for the local newspaper.

Working for a small-town paper meant doing every job in the newsroom: writing and editing stories; laying out the paper on a composing table; and taking and developing photos.

I took thousands of photos, criss-crossing the county with my sturdy Pentax K1000 camera—later moving on to a more nimble Canon AE-1.

The vistas of northeast New Mexico enthralled me. Much of the time, they looked flat and dull, but at certain times of day, under certain light, they exploded with beauty.

I’d reach for my camera, and all would go quiet.

Several years ago, when I started writing my young-adult novel Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly, I wanted to re-capture that special landscape—both the look and feel.

I started by creating a fictional town and calling it Clay Allison, after the 19th Century gunfighter who had lived in that area. I jotted these notes:

“Clay Allison is a town in northeast New Mexico located in the high desert snug up against Colorado’s mountainous ass. ‘Clay’ has a rusty, shoddy, past-its-prime look and feel. In reality, it has never experienced a prime.”

The surrounding landscape, I noted, “is a hundred muted shades. Nearby are Eagle Tail and Burro mesas, and to the north, the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains. Many small mesas are carved with dirt-bike tracks, an insult to Mother Nature, but a playground for Arlo Santiago and his friends.”

Arlo is the novel’s 17-year-old adrenaline-junkie narrator. He loves to blast across the mesas on his Yamaha 250 dirt bike, hitting the bumps and flying high.

I stretched my vocabulary when I wrote:

“The story unfolds under the cerulean emptiness of New Mexico’s slow-fuse sky.”

My goal was to have Arlo fit organically into this landscape. I wanted him to respond—consciously and otherwise—to the monotonous-one-minute, staggering-the-next horizons, just as I had. If he could do this, then maybe readers could, too. That was my hope anyway.

Whether I pulled it off is not for me to say. What I did learn, however, is how important setting can be to a story—so important, in fact, that it can become a galvanizing character in its own right, one filled with moods and fancies, passions and mysteries.

Writers often overlook setting in favor of more obvious characterization tools— for example, action or dialogue.

The result is that New York City appears no different in the mind’s eye than Portland, Oregon, and the Grand Canyon exudes all the gravitas of a touched-up postcard. Hasty writers like to locate Denver in the Rocky Mountains when, in fact, “the Queen City of the Plains” is located just east of the Rockies.

It’s as if the writer had carelessly stuck a pin on a map and said, “I think I’ll set my story here.”

But when setting works—when a writer taps into emotions associated with a place—it can be glorious, as in Huckleberry Finn (the Mississippi River), The Old Man and the Sea (the Caribbean), or To Kill a Mockingbird (small-town Alabama).

It’s no coincidence that Twain, Hemingway, and Harper Lee lived and worked where they set their stories, or that they acquired far more than an eyeful of land or water. By the time they embarked on writing their novels, they had mingled their souls with those places.

And therein lies the beauty of “place” or “setting” in fiction.

When a writer dips into his or her own life and bares emotions connected with a place the result can exalt a story and illuminate the characters.

Scott O’Dell’s love for California’s coastal islands shimmers on every page of Island of the Blue Dolphins, his 1960 young-adult novel about a girl left on a remote island to fend for herself. You more than hear the gulls cry, waves crash, and wind blow. The island on which Karana lives seems alive. You hear it mourn for all that is missing from her life, just as it rejoices in her victories over storms, hunger, and wild dogs.

Lois Lowry’s ambivalent memories of growing up on military bases darken the stark, regimented world of her 1993 dystopian novel The Giver.

C.S. Lewis based his sweeping Narnia vistas on the Mountains of Mourne in Northern Ireland. About them, he wrote: "I have seen landscapes . . . which, under a particular light, make me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge.”

In every case the writer traversed a personal geography to inform a fictional one. His or her emotional connection to a real place grounded the reader in an imagined place.

Contemporary young-adult fiction writers traversing this personal geography include Molly Blaisdell, whose Plumb Crazy makes small-town Texas taste like a sweet-potato pie glazed with dust and peppered with grit; Louise Spiegler, whose historical novels capture the damp majesty of Puget Sound country; and Holly Cupala, whose Don’t Breathe a Word gives the midnight alleys of homeless America a heartbeat.

When a writer soaks up the spirit of a place—whether it’s a town, city, mesa, or just about anywhere else—that place can inspire a profound fictional setting.

A great story puts you there, so that you see and feel the landscape around you. Writers get there by digging into their personal geography—and listening for the heartbeat.

Conrad Wesselhoeft worked as a tugboat hand in Singapore and Peace Corps Volunteer in Polynesia before embarking on a career in journalism. He has served on the editorial staffs of five newspapers, including The New York Times. He is the author of the young adult novels ADIOS, NIRVANA (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) and DIRT BIKES, DRONES, AND OTHER WAYS TO FLY (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). His ancestors were doctors to Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcott, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. His three children are in various stages of university study or job searching. He lives in West Seattle with a poodle named Django (the "D" is silent). Druid Circle cookies (from Trader Joe’s) are his weakness.








Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me, an NYC Editor Critique for YOU, and the Gift of Literacy for ALL!


Happy Birthday to me ... 8 months late. But no matter, I'm still 55 and it turns out that 55 is a very special number.
 

It was the highest speed limit allowed in the United States between 1974 and 1986. So slow!
 

It is the largest Fibonacci number to also be a triangular number. Whatever that means!
 

Most importantly it's the cost to prescribe reading and provide new books to a child from 6 months to 5 years old.
 

$55! That's all!  

Reach Out and Read Colorado does just that. 

Reach Out and Read prepares Colorado’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. Reach Out and Read trains doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric checkups from 6 months to 5 years of age with a special focus on children growing up in poverty. By building on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers, Reach Out and Read helps families and communities encourage early literacy skills so children enter school prepared for success.
 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently recommended "that pediatric providers advise parents of young children that reading aloud and talking about pictures and words in age-appropriate books can strengthen language skills, literacy development and parent-child relationships." This is particularly important for bridging the education gap for kids at risk. That's why the AAP supports Reach Out and Read.
 

And that's why I'm so very proud to serve on the board.
 

It's a prescription for literacy and it works. It's that simple. But if you need more convincing:


Friends, I'm only 55 for a few more months,  so here's how I'm celebrating ...

For every $5 you donate to Reach Out and Read Colorado you receive one entry to win your choice of:


A critique of the first 5-pages of your picture book, middle grade or young adult manuscript from amazing Bloomsbury New York Editor - Brett Wright
OR
A classroom gift pack from me, which includes autographed books, coloring sheets, bookmarks, a Skype visit and more. 
OR
An autographed set of my books plus a $100 gift card to the bookseller of your choice.

Any donation, big or small, has a chance of winning!

It's easy to enter. Here's how:

2. Forward your e-mail receipt to me at reidy.jean@gmail.com

3. For every $5 donated you'll receive one entry into a random number drawing for one of the prizes above.

4. Then, on September 26th at high noon (here in Colorado we like such things) Mountain Time, I'll pick a winner!

5. If you're my winner, I'll e-mail you to let you know. And if you pick the critique as your prize, you'll have 48 hours to send me your 5-pages. Then I'll send them on to Brett. So make sure they're polished long before 9/26. You only have one chance at a first read.
So celebrate with me and support early literacy for every child.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Jean

P.S. And if you want to get weird, there's always this:


Monday, August 18, 2014

3 Critique Questions with Author Parker Peevyhouse

Recently, on the SCBWI Forum, a new children's writer posted her doubts about her ability to critique manuscripts. My agancy-mate and fellow author Parker Peevyhouse offered her wise advice, which spoke to me as a critiquer and a writer. So I invited her to expand on her thoughts for my blog.

I hope it speaks to you.

3 Questions a Good Manuscript Critique Answers by Parker Peevyhouse

Manuscript critiques have been the greatest tool for improving my writing. But it’s not only getting a good critique that has helped me improve--I’ve learned just as much from giving critiques. Whether I’m giving or getting a critique, I’m thinking about story choices, and that kind of analysis hones my story-telling skills.

When I give a critique, I find myself focusing on three particular questions--questions that explore character, plot, and the intersection of the two:

1. Plot: Where do I feel like I can't make sense of what’s happening OR I don't believe what's happening would actually happen?

Sample comments I might write on a manuscript:

How did the dog get out of the yard if the gate was locked?

It’s hard for me to believe that a tree branch would break the fall of someone dropping from outer space.

2. Character: Where do I feel like I don't like (or am not interested in) the main character (or other characters)?

Sample comments I might write on a manuscript:

Darren complains about so many things--I’m starting to feel like he’s a whiner.

Why doesn’t Petunia speak up for herself when her sister blames her for spilling the milk?

3. Plot + Character: Where do I feel like the character doesn't actually have a reason to do what he/she is doing in the plot?

Why does the kid try to nab the thieves himself instead of calling the police?

So Winnie walks into the villain’s lair even though she knows he wants to steal her ruby wand?

Not only do these questions help me focus my critiques, but they also help me interpret comments I get on my own manuscripts. For example, a comment like “I can’t believe he won’t help his own best friend!” makes me think, My character is losing likeability here (#2). A comment like, “Why does she bother to figure out who created the virus?” makes me think, I need to strengthen this character’s motivation (#3).

I hope you find these critique questions helpful. If you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Twitter @parkerpeevy or sign up for my occasional newsletter right here! 

                                                                                                            
Parker Peevyhouse lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family, where she teaches part-time. Her debut YA science fiction novel, FUTURES, will be published by Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin in 2015.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Secret and Sensational Opportunity for Kidlit Writers Coming in Late August!

Whether you write picture books, chapter books, middle grade or young adult, stay tuned. I have a chance of a lifetime coming in late August. But I'm not ready to spill the beans quite yet. So polish up your favorite manuscript (Oops - now there's a hint!) and hang on. August will be here before you know it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

All In a Day's Walk

One of my Top Ten Super Secret (so this one's no longer a secret) Writing Tips that I share with students is

DO NOT WRITE!
As in,
  • Step Away from the Computer, 
  • Unplug
  • Shoot Some Hoops
  • Take a Shower
  • Go For a Run
  • Get a Massage
  • Strike a Yoga Pose
  • Meditate
  • Go For a Walk

And I mean it.

I've learned to build this kind of time into my day. It's been proven to me again and again that my best ideas come when I'm away from the page. I keep my story with me. Inside my head. Dangling there like the carabiner hooked to my backpack. I let it dangle, and inevitably, ideas surface. 

Two walks from the past two days yielded:
  • Two universal truths
  • Two endings
  • Five funny lines
  • One story arc
  • One final scene
  • A whole new character
  • Three illustration ideas
Need more convincing?

Try it! For thirty minutes -

DO NOT WRITE.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hooting About My 2-Book Deal!

Hoot! I'm beyond excited about my latest book deal.

From Publishers Weekly.

"Virginia Duncan at Greenwillow has acquired two picture books by Too Purpley! author Jean Reidy; the stories feature Specs, a not-so-clear-sighted young owl who explores the world with his friends. Book one is scheduled to release in summer 2016; Erin Murphy at Erin Murphy Literary did the deal for world rights."