Monday, November 12, 2012

It's 11-12-12 and Nonfiction Monday

I'm pleased to be hosting Nonfiction Monday here at The Flatt Perspective. I can't wait to see what nonfiction books other Kidlitosphere bloggers have been talking about this week. I know it's going to be great. Please leave the info about your Nonfiction Monday post here on the Google form. Then check back tomorrow, Tuesday, to see the complete round-up of what's what in nonfiction for kids and teens this week.

For now, I'd like to share the terrific "Counting on Fall" Teacher's Guide pdf that OwlKids Books put together for my newest nonfiction picture book. It's free and full of activities and reproducibles for the K-2 classroom or home or library. "Counting on Fall" is about math and fall nature phenomena. What if animals and plants knew math, just like you? Would leaves fall in patterns? Would whales enter a race? Count on some math fun while thinking about those what if's and more.

Thanks for stopping by, and I'll count on seeing you tomorrow!


Okay, now we're ready for our roundup! Don't you love how those asterisks let us jump in time? Magical I tell you.

Nonfiction Picture Books
Waiting for Ice | Going Up!: Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top | Seahorses

Laura Salas is talking about Waiting for Ice over at her blog LauraSalas: Writing the World for Kids.  Laura says "Waiting for Ice is a beautiful nonfiction picture book about an orphaned polar bear cub's efforts to survive."

From The Nonfiction Detectives, Louise and Cathy share that "We had the opportunity to interview Monica Kulling about her new picture book biography." Check out the interview and a review of Going Up! by Monica Kulling.

Jen at Perogies & Gyoza is also featuring Monica Culling's  Going Up!: Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top this week. She says of the book: "Great introduction to the world of invention and entrepreneurship via the invention of the elevator."

Over at Shelf-Employed, Lisa is featuring a review of the nonfiction picture book Seahorses, by Jennifer Keats Curtis.  She adds "Check out the video, too!"
Noah Webster & His Words | Barnum's Bones | Brothers at Bat
Hop on over to Supratentorial to see Alice's review of these three books. Alice says: "I am sharing three new picture book biographies: Noah Webster and His Words, Barnum’s Bones and Brothers at Bat. The subjects are different but all three books have in common that they are great short biographies for elementary school students."
Helen's Big World | Touch the Sky | A Leaf Can Be...

Amy at Hope Is the Word features Helen's Big World: The Life of Helen Keller. Amy adds "This is a fantastic new picture biography of Helen Keller by Doreen Rappaport.  It is a part of her Big Words series." Amy highly recommends it.

Jeanne's blog True Tales & A Cherry On Top features the picture book biography Touch the Sky - Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper. Jeanne says: "Touch the Sky is an inspiring true story about a young woman who dreamed to soar, and pursued her dream. As the book jacket says, 'In Alice Coachman's Georgia hometown, there was no field where an African-American girl could do the high jump, so she made her own crossbar with sticks and rags.'"

And don't miss Heart of a Child where Rob Reid features A Leaf Can Be.... as a great read-aloud choice. And there are a few Q&As, too, with the book's author, Laura Purdie Salas.
Animals Big and Small | Patterns Outside

Finally Roberta of Wrapped in Foil brings us two titles in the Math Every Day series. She says "These books are a great way to introduce beginning math concepts."

Early, Middle Reader and YA Nonfiction
Bill the Boy Wonder | Snakes | Environmental Disasters
Amelia at Challenging the Bookworm features Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. She explains, "I bought this book for my library specifically with a graphic novel fan in mind, and she didn't disappoint me. I've never known a lot about comics, although I've enjoyed the films over the years, and now I can impress someone with my new knowledge. Plus, it's a Cybils contender in the Nonfiction Picture Books category."

And you won't want to miss Sal's Fiction Addiction where Sally shares Nic Bishop Snakes. Sally says, "I love sharing the books that I am reading with others who are interested in literature for children and their they teachers, parents or extended family."

SimplyScience features the timely Environmental Disasters. Shirley describes the book: "Environmental Disasters is about several major environmental disasters, their causes, and their consequences. It discusses the efforts made to change or improve conditions so that they don't occur again."
Becoming a Ballerina | National Parks | Surf Dog Miracles
Abby of Abby the Librarian shares that "Just in time for Nutcracker Season, I have a book all about the behind-the-scenes of becoming a ballerina and starring in the show." She does indeed. She features Becoming a Ballerina.

At A Teaching Life Tara brings us National Parks: A Kid's Guide to America's Parks, Monuments and Landmarks  by Erin McHugh. Tara enthusiastically states that the book is "a wonderful book on National Parks and monuments." You'll want to head on over to see the other great nonfiction titles she's highlighted as well.

Jennifer of Jean Little Library gives us a quick overview of some new Bearport titles. Featured books include the Water Babies series, Meat-Eating Plants: Toothless Wonders from the Plant-Ology series, and, from the Dog Heroes series, the title Surf Dog Miracles.
Veterans Day | Lives of the Presidents
Janet features the title Veterans Day written by Marlene Targ Brill with illustrations by Qi Z. Wang over at All About the Books.

Keeping right up with current affairs, Mother Reader reviews Lives of the Presidents by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt.
The Magical Life of Long Tak Sam | Home Front Girl
Over at The Biblio File, Jennie has a review of the graphic novel memoir, The Magical Life of Long Tak Sam.

And don't forget to visit Charlotte at Charlotte's Library. She notes "I have a lovely YA book this week--Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America, the actual diary of Joan Wehlen."
I think that's all for Nonfiction Monday this week. Did you enjoy it as much as I did? It's been a pleasure to look at this terrific selection of books and blogs. I hope I haven't forgotten anyone (if so just email me to let me know and I'll add you). Have a great week!

Please check in next week for Nonfiction Monday 
on November 19 
when it will be hosted by 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Eden Mills Experience

Last weekend I was lucky enough to travel to Eden Mills for the Eden Mills Writers' Festival. Ever been? If not you should. It was a gorgeous warm sunny day, which was perfect for listening to readings and talks from writers of all different genres. And what a village! Charming and friendly.

My day started out with a rather long drive, but if you've hung around this blog for awhile (just check out my Transportation Tales thread) you know I'm used to driving. Anyway, the only thing of note other than the detour right before Eden Mills, which freaked me out because I'm never sure I'll get back on my planned route and I obsess about being late, was a roadside sign just as I crested a hill. Said homemade sign was impossible not to notice:
That got my brain spinning. There's a sad story there, isn't there?

Anyway again, I strolled the street and browsed the display tables of literary events, places, publishers, and artists. I ate excellent ginger ice cream! And look at the stream and one of the concrete road bridges that runs through the village.
Creek? Stream? Idyllic however you label it.
What a bridge. They don't make them like this anymore.
I listened to as many of the readings in the children's area as I could. My turn came following Ted Staunton. Um, if you've never heard him, all you need to know is that he performs a chicken song which had us all bok-bokking and head bobbing along to his guitar and stellar singing voice. How do you say: hard act to follow???

The audience was terrific. I love that the plane flew overhead just as I got to the bushplane page in Let's Go!. Couldn't have ordered that better. And sharing Counting on Fall under the branches of huge shade tree just seemed appropriate. Of course The Bookshelf had all the festival authors' books displayed for sale. It was an honor to sign several books for people.

"Counting on Fall" on display. Yay!
Special thanks to Deb Loughead, organizer of the children's area programming, for inviting me. Loved talking with you over dinner! Janet Wilson you are so warm and welcoming and make amazing pies and artwork. Jill Bryant, it was a pleasure to sit at the signing table beside you and to get to know you. Other amazing creative people I was lucky to connect with: Teresa Toten, Helaine Becker, Susan Hughes and Lisa Dalrymple. In short: What an event!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hitting the Road in September

I'm looking forward to sharing "Counting on Fall" at some upcoming events this month.

Eden Mills Literary Festival, Eden Mills, Ontario
September 16, 2012
I'll be at the children's tent on Sunday September 16th at 3:10pm.
And there lots of other amazing authors who will be in the children's area that day too.

Word on the Street, Toronto, Ontario
September 23, 2012
I'll be appearing with Ashley Barron, illustrator, as we both present our book in an interactive reading and craft activity at the Children's Activity Tent on Sunday September 23rd at 12:00pm. Then we'll be at the OwlKids booth at 1:15pm.

And both a Toronto and Muskoka book launch are in the works for dates in October. I'll have more details on those events when things are finalized.

Exciting days!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Ceremonious Opening of THE BOX

It was a regular summer morning when, rather inconveniently, the doorbell rang. I looked down at the night shirt I was still wearing even though I’d been up for hours. No way was I answering the door in that. I looked at my daughter. She was also sporting jammies, but she could answer the door in her jammies, right? I mean she’s only 9. Apparently she disagreed.

So I ran to my room to find a sweater and sweat pants to throw on over top. I guess in the meantime my daughter took pity on me because I reached the door in time to hear retreating footsteps on the gravel and see my daughter staggering to lower a big box to the floor--a big brown box, a big brown box with the Owlkids logo on it. OMG it could only be the advance copies of Counting on Fall!!!

I didn’t bother to close the door. I started shouting incoherently and jumping up and down like I was deranged. Was it my imagination or did I also hear a van peel out of the driveway? No doubt the driver was freaked out by the realization that a crazy woman resided inside.
Big brown box in hallway complete with shoe clutter.

Anyway, I admired the box and then...I went upstairs. What!? you’re thinking, right? I just left it there? Yes, that’s exactly what I did. Am I crazy? Maybe. But I’m also the type of kid who ate the best thing on her plate last. I’d draw out a good dessert with tiny little bites. As for the box, I needed to be in the right frame of mind, the right clothing, to savour the moment of opening it.

So it was an hour later when I was dressed, when I’d gathered my family, when we had the Ceremonious Opening of the Box.

It went like this:

  1. Be oh so careful with the blade of the scissors as you slice through the tape on top of the box. 
  2. Gently peel back the box flaps and the white packing paper underneath. 
  3. Gasp, ooh and ahh at the spectacular site of your books packed in the box, nested and cosy.
  4. Open the letter from the publisher’s assistant and smile. 
  5. Then finally pick up a copy of the book you have worked on for months but have never physically touched until this moment.
  6. Ahh, brings a tear to the eye, no?
  7. Pass around the single copy to family members so we don’t put our grimy fingerprints on more than one copy at a time.
  8. Realize once again that this is the best gig in the world.

Ashley Barron, illustrator, you are a genius. Thank you OwlKids for the stellar match making and for assembling such a fantastic team to bring this book to bookstores everywhere. It’ll be officially on sale and available at/through bookstores everywhere on September 15, 2012.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Survived Muskoka Novel Marathon 2012

Yes, I survived. More than that actually: I loved it! (MNM2012)

Imagine 72 hours to do nothing but write as much as you like. Heaven!! You could take time out to eat and sleep if you wanted/needed to. Meals were provided and prepared by and the lovely den mother Mieke, who even did our dishes afterwards (and didn't kick me out on the first day when I spilled my coffee).

On top of it all is knowing that while you’re there writing you're raising money for the YMCA Literacy Services. This will allow you to feel fine about ignoring your family for the whole time (because you get up before they do and you come home after they’re all in bed--heh heh. Thank you, family, for being so amazing and understanding.). And thank you so much to my sponsors. I'll be sending you individual thank you letters. All together the writers this year raised an astounding $14,572.50 last I heard.!!

I admit that I was a bit worried going in. I mean, me, write a novel? I wasn’t sure there was a story of novel length proportions in me. Okay, so I’m still not sure the story is worth anything but my amusement in writing it, but who cares at this point? I went in with an initial idea, and I came out with 60 pages written and a workable outline to keep going with. Here's my 60 page milestone ribbon (and note how there are others much bigger than mine).

For someone who writes at home in the (mostly) quiet it was scary to think about writing in a crowded room. But with the help of my iPod and some playlists it worked out just fine. I was focussed when I wanted to be and distracted when I wanted to be.

Susan Blakeney
The wonderful writer to the right of me was Susan Blakeney, who taught me that physically acting out things can really help you. And she is an amazingly prolific writer in that she STARTED AND COMPLETED her novel at the marathon. Wow.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster
The wonderful writer to the left of me was Cathy Olliffe-Webster, who is an amazingly brave and funny writer who demonstrated the power of perseverance because during the marathon she was able to write the ending of her novel--a goal which had alluded her in the past. Way to go, Cathy!

View beyond my keyboard
It was energizing to be with such a diverse group of writers, some of whom I knew going in and some I didn’t. I've definitely added to my "to be read" pile.
(LtoR) Kimberley Ann Sparks, Cheryl Cooper, Sharon Ledwith, Lena Coakley, Lori Twining

I didn’t submit my manuscript to the judges for the contest portion. Walking away with a huge chunk of a draft completed and a workable outline was reward enough for me. Thanks to Karen Wehrstein and Paula Boon and Dawn Huddlestone for all their work organizing the marathon. Check out the storify of the mnm Dawn put together:

Most memorable moments:

  • Anne Millyard dropped in!
  • Creme brulee from Spencer's Tall Trees--I went back for seconds
  • Watching Sandra act out being very pregnant (thanks to a well placed pillow) and getting down to and up from the floor so Susan could see how that action would play out.
  • The guy who stuck his head into a quiet room of writers writing and announced "It was a dark and stormy night--There, start with that." Groan. He was chased down for a donation.
  • The three cats I narrowly avoided hitting on three separate drives to/from the marathon.
  • Realizing it's truly astounding how many times some people stir their coffee before drinking it.
  • The slurping, gushing noises of Karen's green tea thermos which she could not hear thanks to her noise cancelling headphones.

And some other random shots:

They provided all the essentials--earplugs, ibuprofen, antacids, bookmarks, and popcorn!

We all donated to the marathon to thank Mieke (in red) for looking after us all weekend

What a goody bag! Loved the pipe cleaners and playdough.

Susan decorated my water bottle and christened it "Swamp Water" 

Look at all those 10 page milestones people had!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Marathon Madness?

What have I gotten myself into? I must be mad. This weekend I’m participating in the Muskoka Novel Marathon. A whole 72 hours to do nothing but write. A novel. And I’ve never written one before. (I don’t think that fantasy adventure I started writing in high school should count, do you? Besides, I quit after about 2,000 words.)

I’ve always had some excuse to myself for not writing a novel even though I have plenty of half baked ideas. So the fact that I’ve committed myself to devoting three days to writing a crappy novel first draft scares me. Okay, I will have to sleep in there and I have to minus the time to attend my niece’s wedding. But that still leaves me a decent two and a half days. And I’ll be in a room full of other writers all doing the same thing! Will it be intimidating or motivating to see everyone around me writing away? I guess I'll find out.

But here’s the other great component to this event: we’re all raising money for the Simcoe-Muskoka YMCA’s literacy programs. All participants are asked to collect donations for the YMCA. Here is my Canada Helps donation page where online donations are accepted (if you take that as a hint or invitation I won't object) and you get an instant tax receipt.

Between my paper pledges and my online donation form it looks like I’ve reached my minimum fundraising goal. That makes me happy. Now here’s hoping at a minimum I can get some ideas flowing this weekend, and keep them flowing for the whole event and beyond. That would make me very happy. And maybe, at a minimum, I would prove to myself that I'm not mad.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Me, the Museum and Medieval Times

Before school was out, one late June afternoon I wrote this as my Facebook status:
Am in a school bus with 39 grade 4/5s in Toronto rush hour traffic and it's 30 some degrees and two plus hours home. Oh did I mention most of the boys bought swords at Medieval Times? My writing friends will understand I'm just callin it research. :)
I wasn’t kidding. Getting home from the trip was no picnic. It took just over three hours--an hour longer than it should have. Here’s a shot of the traffic through the front of the bus:

 But it was all worth it because

  • I got to spend time with my youngest daughter and her friends 
  • I love museums, so seeing a couple exhibits at the ROM was fascinating and made me realize I need to bring my kids back for a more in-depth visit
  • I was quite serious about putting the trip down as research. I listened and observed and just absorbed the experience of being in grade four 
  • and Medieval Times was just a lot of fun and made the kids feel like they really were at a king’s tournament. Plus it was air conditioned.

As if that wouldn’t make the day rewarding enough, I had an unexpected bonus.

At the ROM we took part in a special program. We donned cotton gloves so we could carefully handle actual objects from medieval times. ROM staff had grouped objects by theme at each table. My daughter’s table was full so I couldn’t sit with her, but there was a space at a table with a few boys. Turns out this table had a piece of chain mail, a knight’s spur, a rounded ceramic vessel that would have held Greek fire, and an odd tiny square piece of metal with intricate characters on it. Very cool.

I picked up the tiny square and looked at it closely-- it looked like it had Arabic lettering on it. The facilitator confirmed that yes, that's exactly what it was. I was holding an early Arabic coin. Wow! Here is a photo of the square coin. It was wrapped in a protective case.

The coin in its protective case.
This was my unexpected bonus because I’d just received the finished copy of an educational title I worked on for Crabtree Publishing called Arts and Culture in the Early Islamic World. I'd done lots of research but never actually handled something from that era or that part of the world. This makes book number twelve for me.

I was a bit flippant describing the journey on Facebook, but the whole day’s experience is one I count as excellent. More importantly, I think my daughter would count it that way too.

Bonus photos:
The hall at Medieval Times

The stadium at Medieval Times 
Two of the knights--boo! (We were to cheer for the Green Knight)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Scene Stealing Seagulls and SCBWI

Wow, what an experience at the SCBWI Canada East Niagara Falls retreat! Tons of talent, talk, and inspiration. Here's a bit of what it was like:

Keynote Quotes

"Story matters most." Emma D. Dryden, drydenbks, talking about all the many technological devices and platforms there are.

"Bring your props out before you need them." Kathleen Duey, talking about introducing physical elements or setting details to your reader when they're just insignificant details so you can bring them up again later when they become pivotal plot points.

"Think of voice as personality; the thing that stays with you." Nancy Conescu, executive editor, Dial Books for Young Readers, telling us she needs to see this in manuscript submissions she would consider acquiring or working on further.

"No more missing sock stories!" Tracey Adams, agent, Adams Literary, when asked what she does not want to see...but she did go on to say that anything can work if it works.

Most Memorable Moments

* Walking to dinner and coming across a bride and groom's photo shoot backdropped by the falls. But the wind was whipping the bride's hair and dress all up and around. Immediately, Kathleen Duey stepped up and suggested the bridal party, a group of mostly men standing idly by, form a windbreak by positioning themselves in front of the bridge and groom but out of the photo. They did and it effectively blocked the worst of the wind. Situation saved!

* Waiting to deliver Lesley Livingston to the group tour and snapping this photo as a seagull soared right towards me. Check it out:

* And downloading my photos to find some seagull snuck into my snapshot of Janis and Lesley. Scene stealer! Look at it there between their heads, bold as all get out!

Seagulls aside, in summary Jackie Garlick-Pynaert did an outstanding job of gathering the talent (which also included Patti Ann Harris, art director of Little Brown; author Kristin Clark Venuti; editor and author Lorin Oberweger; director and writer Roman White) and coordinating the conference.

I look forward to enjoying the new connections made at this conference for a long time.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sky Circle

I was driving home yesterday when I noticed a peculiar contrail in the sky. Check this out:

It seemed weird to me that it was circular because they're usually straight. At least around here they are.

Then I came across this article thanks to Twitter about an air show happening further north and that planes performing in it would be flying over:

Ah-hah, mystery likely solved.

What did we ever do before the internet??

Friday, June 1, 2012

Save a Circ Clerk's Sanity

One common question I'm asked at the library is which of an author's books comes first...or next. You know, like if an author has a series or some related books that don't already come with "Book 1" or "2" or "Stupendously Super Series #3" stamped on the cover or spine, people want to know which one to read first...or next.

And I want to help them find out.

But I usually don't have a lot of time to do this because the person who wants to know is standing there at the checkout desk waiting. And there might be a lineup behind them. Yes, I can look at the book's copyright date. But sometimes an author will write a prequel, and I'd like to be able to pass that info along. The bigger problem with checking the copyright is I'd need to have all of the author's books there in front of me--which means leaving the front desk to go to the shelves or assumes the patron has brought a stackload up to the desk with them and none of the ones they want are already out on loan. Wading through holding or bib records is also a serious pain--you should see how many fields there are to scroll through for each book.

Or what if a particular author has several series' out, each with quite a few books in it (eg. Wilbur Smith)? You have to both sort which series each of the books goes into and then put the book in its order within the series. Searching, which often states book order for physical books, gives me too many results to wade through (movie adaptation, kindle edition, audio book edition, paperback edition, original edition, hard cover edition, etc.), especially for prolific authors, even if I refine the search. How long do you want to stand in line while I figure that out?

So I go for the author's website. Because they should be able to tell me pretty quickly, right? Sadly, I'm often disappointed.

Please, please, please, authors. Please, under the heading of "Books," clearly identify the chronological order in which your books should be read, and please identify which books are part of the same series.

Do this and circ clerks everywhere will be highly appreciative and, with sanity intact, be able to continue serving book lovers in our communities for a long time.

(Oh, and while I'm at it, you get bonus points for identifying a book title that's different in another country!!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Brian Henry Bestseller Workshop

My lovely purple workshop notes
On Saturday I went to Brian Henry's How to Write a Bestseller workshop in Gravenhurst. I really enjoyed it. It was good to think at an objective or macro level about what makes a compelling story, a sympathetic hero, a realistic villain, and so on.

Of course, part of the workshop involved an exercise in writing. I must be the only writer I know who dislikes doing writing exercises at workshops. I'm not sure what's with me on that. Anyway, I have to say, once I got going I really did start to enjoy it. Maybe I'm just a little bit rusty because it's been awhile since I wrote longer narrative fiction (been writing short poetic prose lately).

It was truly fascinating to hear what some of the other writers had written for that exercise. As for my exercise, it sort of dovetailed with an idea I've been mulling over for a middle grade novel. My piece hinged on the content of a text message the hero was trying to conceal. I quite like that idea, but here's my problem: I have actually no clue what the content of that text message is. And I think it's kind of important.

So hopefully my brain mulls that one over for awhile. The workshop was a good kicker for me to begin thinking in a longer format than I've written up to this point. It's getting me to think about what I'm going to write for, oh, July's (whisper) Muskoka Novel Marathon in which I have to work on writing a novel for a whole entire weekend--eep! Nothing like a writer setting herself up for a huge and intimidating challenge...but it's also all in the name of raising money for literacy, and that's always a good cause.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting on Goodreads

Are you on Goodreads? I am. Almost a year ago now I decided to join. I wasn't really looking for yet another online presence to look after, but I decided to join because I wanted to track the books I'd read and, maybe more importantly, to remember the ones I wanted to read.

And for those reasons it's been great. I can look back and see all the books I've read since I joined and feel a sense of accomplishment. I also love being able to come across a book mention and add it to my virtual to-read pile. Then, when I get to the bottom of the book stack I have on hand, I just look at my list and pick from that.

But of course sooner or later there's the whole rating and reviewing thing. So far I only use the stars to rate books because I don't really like reviewing books. I see myself as a book recommender rather than a reviewer. Plus, I feel uncomfortable about reviewing another writer's book because I have some inkling of the work that went into it.

Sometimes I don't give a book a rating. Why? Sometimes it's as simple as I just don't know what to say. I may have enjoyed it for the most part but something about it bugs me. Or maybe the book I read previously was so awesome the next one in line was bound to be less in comparison and so I'm not sure I'd be giving an unbiased rating. Or sometimes I just don't know how many stars to select--I just can't decide. And for wafflers like me there doesn't seem to be a half a star option. Or did I miss it?

I do enjoy seeing what my friends are reading. I've added several to-reads from their selections. And being able to have an author profile there is pretty cool, too. It's another place to appear with your author hat on while never leaving home. All in all I'm glad I'm there.

If you're there too, please let me know. I'd love to connect over books with you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Taking (a photo of) Trilliums

Last week I was driving to a writer's critique group meeting when I nearly drove off the road from gawking at the sight of hundreds of trilliums carpeting the forest floor.

I've seen trilliums for many a spring over the years (hey, I even blogged a poem about one a few years ago) but I've never myself seen that many together.

So I pulled over and snapped a few photos. It was dusk and I just had my phone so they're not the best photos, but it was a nice moment made even better because no one in the neighbourhood came out to call me bonkers.

I got back into my car and carried on. I was pleased that I'd taken the time to...well, take a photo of the trilliums (no roses out to smell yet) even though I was a bit late for my meeting.

And at the meeting, Caroline helped me to sort out what I might tackle writing next. If I'm brave enough to take it up, I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spying on my Illustrator

I have to confess that I've been peeking at some of Ashley Barron's illustration works-in-progress for our new nonfiction picture book series which begins this fall with OwlKids. I can do this because Ashley keeps a blog, and sometimes she blogs about her work ... and sometimes the work looks a bit familiar.

But I respect the industry norm that I'm not to comment on the art to the illustrator. I wait until my editor sends me the actual roughs if they want my comments. And, seeing as it's non-fiction, they do let me see the roughs. If I have comments I use the proper channel.

Still, I can't resist popping by her blog once in awhile. If she's sharing something I think it's okay to leave a positive comment, too, occasionally. And it's not like she's trying to avoid me since she did like my Facebook Page. These days it's so easy to look up someone your publisher partners you with for a book project. We all do it, don't we? Um, well, don't we?

What do you think? Should I avoid looking? Look but don't comment? Wait until the whole project is done and then interact? Am I making too much of this (non)issue? It's okay, you can tell me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lichen Art

After a rain the lichen patterns really stand out. They're quite beautiful, don't you think?

I'm lichen it, at any rate. (Yes, groan, lame joke, I know.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interview Wednesday May 2012

Welcome to May's Kidlitosphere Interview Wednesday. I'm pleased to be your host. Are you looking for links to terrific interviews about children's literature? Or maybe you'd like to add your own link to an interview? You've come to the right place.

The links to the interviews are just below, and you can add your own link by leaving the information in the comments on this post (click on the "other perspectives link" in this blog post's footer) so that I can add to this list throughout the day. So let's get to it.
  • First stop, it's over to Maeve at Yellow Brick Reads. She's interviewed Celine Kiernan about her Moorehawke trilogy. This author has just been shortlisted for Children's Books Ireland's Book of the Year award for her novel Into the Grey.
  • And here at The Flatt Perspective you might like my own interview with Lena Coakley about how she carves out time for her writing in a busy life. Lena is the author of Witchlanders, just named the 2012 winner of the Americas division SCBWI Crystal Kite Award.
  • Carmela Martino over at Teaching Authors recently posted an interview with author and writing teacher Karen Schreck. In addition to talking about her just-released YA novel, While He Was Away, Karen shares two great exercises—one in how to silence the inner critique and one in generating story ideas. And readers have till May 14 to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of the book.
  • Over at Inkygirl Debbi Ohi interviews Holly Thompson to find out how she came to be the editor of TOMO: Friendship Through Fiction as well as the author of the YA verse novel Orchids. You can see the book trailers and also enter a giveaway.
  • How about learning more about Erik, the young book review blogger at This Kid Reviews Books, and his new blog feature Creative Kids to showcase the creative works of kids from all over? That's what you'll find at By Word of Beth as Beth Stilborn interviews Erik and Josie
  • Finally, Jocelyn Shipley interviews Anita Daher over at her website about Anita's YA and MG novel writing and about Great Plains Publications, where Anita is associate teen editor. 

Leave a Link?
Have you seen an interview about children's literature within the last month? If it's a written, audio, or video interview that follows these guidelines:
  • The interview is with someone in the field of children’s/young adult literature, including authors, illustrators, editors, agents, and librarians.
  • Interviews featuring writing tips, illustration tips, cyber tips, etc., as long as the information pertains to children's/young adult literature.
...then I'd love to add it to the list. Please leave the link to it in the comments. I'll be checking back here throughout the day and updating the list.

Do you have a blog related to reading, writing, or publishing books for children? Maybe you'd like to host Interview Wednesday. Just visit the official Kidlit Interview Wednesday sign-up page and you can do just that. Next month's Interview Wednesday will be hosted June 13 by Anastasia Suen at Booktalking.

Thanks to everyone for participating, and thank you for stopping by.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lena Coakley: Carve Out Space for Your Creative Work

Creating Through the Clamour: Instalment 8

Feel like there's not enough time in your busy life to be creative? How do authors or illustrators continue to create while tackling everything else in their lives? About once a month as I'll ask a writer or illustrator how they do it. Because I want to know. (I need all the help I can get in this department.)

The Creator
name: Lena Coakley
resides: Near the distillery district in Toronto
creates: Right now I’m writing young adult fantasy novels, but I’ve also published two children’s picture books and short stories for both teens and adults.

The Creations
Witchlanders (YA novel), Atheneum/Simon & Schuster
Mrs. Goodhearth and the Gargoyle (picture book), Orca Book Publishers
On the Night of the Comet (picture book), Orca Book Publishers

The Clamour
Doubt: I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time right now, but sometimes I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to procrastination and self doubt.

Volunteer Work: Although I’m no longer the administrative director at CANSCAIP (the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers), I still keep my hand in by designing the newsletter and organizing the Pitch Perfect critique sessions at their Packaging Your Imagination Conference.

Research: I’m writing my first historical novel right now. I love the research, but I’m not sure I’ve learned when to stop!

Crazy Interruptions: I’ve had a strange start to 2012 with everything from bedbugs to minor surgery to family crises to unexpected houseguests all taking me away from my writing. It’s been a great lesson, though: Life intervenes as it always will, but we still have to carve out that space for our creative work.

Wow, those are some crazy interruptions! How did you get started in this field?
I think I got started in this field the day my mother read me my first picture book. I have loved books ever since I can remember, and I think I started making up stories of my own at a very early age. When I first came to Toronto, the best thing I did was to enroll in Peter Carver’s course in writing for children, a class he taught for over 20 years at Mabel’s Fables bookstore in Toronto. I had always liked the idea of being a writer, but Peter started me on that long (never-ending!) path of honing my skills. It took me over 10 years from the time I enrolled in that course to the time I published my first picture book, but those workshops were where I first began to develop my own distinctive voice.

What are you working on these days?
I’m working on a historical fantasy novel that takes place in 1834 and features the four Brontë siblings, Anne, Charlotte, Branwell and Emily as characters. It’s quite a daunting task! Last weekend I went to tea with the Toronto members of the Brontë Society and I can tell you, there are some huge Brontë fans out there! I feel an enormous sense of pressure to do justice to these extraordinary siblings and to get the details right.

How do you minimize your distractions while you're working? Any tips for others? 
Decide in advance how you are going to deal with social media and stick to your plan. Some people can have a quick look at Twitter and Facebook before they start to write, but I find that I can get sucked into social media and that it can drain my creative energy. I try not to look at either until lunchtime and then just for a set amount of time. Because I need to do so much research for this book, I’ve also decided to only watch television on the weekends for the next little while.

The important thing is not to let one distraction ruin your whole day. The writing flow sometimes gets interrupted—it happens—but it’s important to learn how to get back into it.

How do you cope with times when you just can't focus on your writing?
Being a procrastinator of Olympic caliber, I have developed a few tricks:
  • Try an egg timer. Sometimes if I’m really feeling squirmy at my desk, I set an egg timer and tell myself I only have to write for that amount of time before taking a break. Usually I set the timer for an hour, but if I’m really unfocused, I can set it for as little as 15 minutes.
  • Make a date with a writing partner. I’m convinced I never would have finished my first novel, Witchlanders, if I hadn’t been meeting regularly to write with my friend, Aino Anto. Somehow writing regularly helps get over that bottleneck of dread that keeps us away from our desk. At this point in my career, I don’t think I need a writing partner as much as I once did, but I will still make a date to bring my mini to a friend’s house to write if I’m feeling stuck.
  • Write every day, even if it’s for 15 minutes. You’ve probably heard this one before, but I’m a big believer in it. It keeps your work in the forefront of your mind, even when you don’t have much time for it.
  • Try a change of scene. I love to pretend I’m JK Rowling and write in my local café.
What book, song, painting, or maybe movie has touched you or has had great meaning for you recently?
I’m reading David Copperfield right now, a book my grandmother read to me when I was growing up. I hear the intonation of her voice very clearly when I read it, and that’s something that makes it doubly wonderful to read, now that she’s gone. It’s such a funny, sweet, clever, charming, sentimental book—probably one of my all-time favourites. I recommend it to absolutely everyone. 

As a creative person, do you have any other outlets for your talents? a hobby or interest?
I love to swim and I think my swimming and my writing go hand in hand. If I have a swim in the morning I find I come to my desk with half my plot problems already worked out.

Why do you keep creating in the face of all this trouble/effort?
That’s a good question, Lizann! Sometimes I do think my life would have been much easier if I’d become a computer programmer or a paleontologist, but I seem to be committed now!

Thanks, Lena. Having read Witchlanders, I'm very glad you're committed. No escaping now, is there? Thanks so much for spending some of your time here. I'm going to try that timer trick.

Which tip will you try?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Susan Hughes' Ideas

It's nice to be asked how I do things. Although I'll be honest and admit I don't usually analyze how I do things, I just do them. But it was a lovely idea for Susan Hughes to ask me to think about how I generate my ideas.

Susan Hughes is May's writer-in-residence blogging for Open Book Toronto. She gives great insights into how she comes up with ideas for nonfiction in Looking for the Lightbulb--Part 1. It's a good read for anyone interested in writing non-fiction. Thank you to her for including me as part of her article.

And there's a whole month more of her articles to look forward to. That's definitely a great idea.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Page 41, Painting, and Politics

World leaders' paintbrushes
It's not often that one of the books I've written as a work for hire project ends up having something that's close to my daily life in it. That's because a work for hire book has been thought of and planned out by someone else and I just fulfill the project parameters.

But this small life/project overlap happened with a photo on page 41 of a few world leaders talking at the G8 Summit in Huntsville, Ontario in my book The Legacy of the War of 1812. And the overlap? This world leaders' meeting happened in my corner of the world and I see a commemorative display to this particular G8 quite regularly.

Painting containing world leaders' brush strokes
It's  a wall display of a painting and the paintbrushes used by the world leaders when they added their brush strokes to the artwork. The artwork itself is a large wall mural replica of a famous Group of Seven painting. I made myself stop and look at it carefully not too long ago. Usually I walk right by it as I hurry to and from the community centre for my kids' sporting activities. But I was glad I decided to stop and really look at this display for once.

There's a nice YouTube video of part of the process of the leaders actually adding their colors here. And there's lots of information behind the whole Group of Seven Outdoor Gallery mural project, which puts mural sized replicas of Group of Seven paintings all over parts of Muskoka, available online.

So what's my point? Don't know. It's nice to see painting and politicians mix. Most likely the photo on page 41 just happened because it was a recent current event...or maybe the universe is telling me to stop and admire paintings more often.