BARNES & NOBLE BOOK FAIR: Thank you, Let’s Play in Italian Preschool and Kindergarten!

IMG_0658I spent a lovely Saturday morning sharing GOODNIGHT, ARK with the cute kids from Let’s Play in Italian, a preschool and kindergarten in Scotch Plains. The story time took place at the Barnes and Noble in Springfield and was part of their book fair.

When I first arrived the children were enjoying a wonderfully animated sing-a-long with Italian-American artist and singer  Michela Musolino.  Using various instruments and props including a shell and an expresso cup, she brought Italian folk lore and music to life.  I enjoyed listening to her sing in Italian with her deep, rich voice while the children echoed back phrases in Italian. IMG_2072

Then it was time for GOODNIGHT, ARK. First, I introduced the book and those stinky skunks!

Then I read the story. “Watch out or this bed will BREAK!”IMG_2106

 

Afterwards there was time to pet the skunks and sign a few books.

When story time was over, the children reconvened for some interactive folk dancing with Michela.

Thank you Barnes and Noble and Let’s Play in Italian for having me. I think we all had a great time!

THE POWER OF SMELL: An Olfactory Reminder for Writers

Pee ew stinkyRecently, prompted by a very whiffy truck ahead of us, my daughter and I passed a most enjoyable half-hour brainstorming all the smells we love and hate. Some we agreed upon. Others we did not.  Still, we both agreed that smells add richness to life.

The lists we compiled serve as fragrant and stinky  reminders that kids LOVE the idea of SMELLINESS and that, as a picture book author, I need to remember my readers noses. Take a whiff (rather than a peek) at our lists below. What would you add?

Our List of FAVORITE SMELLS… coffee percolating,  puppy ears, strawberries, asphalt after a summer rain, salty sea air, damp earth, pizza in the oven, a clean baby, skunk (faint), lilacs in bloom, a crackling fire, candle smoke, newly mown grass, bubble gum, spring, balsam needles,  hamburgers on the grill, freshly laundered sheets, pumpkin pie, impending snow, herbs snipped from the garden, freshly sharpened pencils, old books, freshly polished wood, crayons, bacon sizzling, rubber boots, spent matches, peppermints, perfume, vanilla, honeysuckle, clover, brownies baking, mountain air, waxed hallways, leather, curry, onions sautéing, cedar chests, roses, hay, apple pie in the oven, soup simmering, new sneakers.

Our List of STINKY SMELLS… hot tar, mucky marshes, skunk (strong), cigar smoke, bus fumes, sour wash clothes, new mulch, dirty diapers, rotten eggs, doggy doo, butt snorts (as we call them in our family), clammy feet, stinky socks, wet wool, moldy cheese, manure, chicken coops, summer garbage cans, nail polish, sweaty armpits, old melon rind, gym lockers, dank cellars

A hint of odor, skillfully incorporated, can be a powerful addition a story. Indeed, I repeatedly hear from parents everywhere that their kids favorite spread of all in GOODNIGHT, ARK is the one in which two creatures, who shall remain nameless, make a BIG stink! 

What whiffy addition will you add to your WIP this week?

Happy writing!

 

 

Examining LYRICAL PICTURE BOOKS with Diana Murray

lyrical picture books.jpg

Today I’m thrilled to have the delightful and talented picture book author and poet, Diana Murray, as my guest. Diana is the author of several forthcoming picture books including, CITY SHAPES illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown), GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH illustrated by Heather Ross (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins), and NED THE KNITTING PIRATE illustrated by Leslie Lammle (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan). She’s here today to ponder what makes a picture book lyrical. Take it away, Diana!

What does it mean when a picture book is described as being “lyrical”? There’s a lot of grey area, but here is what it means to me:

  • The book is probably more serious than humorous or wacky.

  • Possibly more literary than commercial.

  • Has a fluid, velvety, rhythmic pace.

  • Resembles a song.

  • Has an emotional quality.

  • Can be prose or poetry. But if it’s metrical poetry, then it tends to be anapestic as opposed to iambic or trochaic.

  • Features vivid descriptions, often of natural beauty.

  • Uses very deliberate line breaks.

  • Tends to have a warm, fuzzy feeling about it.

Most of my picture books are on the humorous/wacky side. But some, like CITY SHAPES, are a bit more on the lyrical side. For example, take this excerpt from NED THE KNITTING PIRATE: “The crew was all in stitches but the captain’s nerves were frayed./’Yarrrh!’ said Ned, ‘I likes to knit. This hat be custom-made.’” As opposed to these lines from CITY SHAPES: “But her heart starts to long for the shape she loves best./The shape that is home. Her warm, circle nest…”CityShapesCover2

Here are a few other picture books I would describe as lyrical:

OWL MOON by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr

“There was no wind./The trees stood still/as giant statues./And the moon was so bright/the sky seemed to shine.” (Note: I would classify this one as free verse.)

AND THEN IT’S SPRING by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin Steid

“First you have brown,/all around you have brown.”

DARIO AND THE WHALE by Cheryl Lawton Malone, illustrated by Bistra Masseva

“Every spring,/when the sun/warms up the sea,/a whale and her new calf/swim north to a cool bay.”

So, how does one attempt to write a story with a lyrical quality? There’s no formula, of course, but personally, I find it helps to set the mood. When I wrote CITY SHAPES, I listened to jazz music by Wynton Marsalis (one of my favorites!). And then I have another forthcoming picture book, SUMMER COLORS, that I wrote while listening to the rain on my patio (another one of my favorite sounds).

I’d love to hear which lyrical picture books you’ve enjoyed. And what do you think makes them “lyrical”?
MurrayBioSmDiana Murray grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle. Diana’s forthcoming picture books include, CITY SHAPES illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown), GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH illustrated by Heather Ross (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins), and NED THE KNITTING PIRATE illustrated by Leslie Lammle (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan). Diana’s award-winning children’s poems have appeared in many magazines, such as Highlights, High Five, Spider, and Ladybug. For more information, please visit: http://www.dianamurray.com

COMING THIS FALL: Goodnight, Manger BOARD BOOK Edition!

9780310755715.jpg_3Look what’s making its first appearance at various online bookstores including Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Christian Books and more! It’s the BOARD BOOK edition of GOODNIGHT, MANGER!  The release date for this new edition is October 11, 2016. It’s available for pre-order at some on-line stores already.

With sturdy pages and a padded cover, it’s terrific for littlest readers who want to turn the pages themselves. It’s a good size too – perfect for showing off all the wonderful details in Jane’s illustrations. And like GOODNIGHT, ARK, it still has the full text.  In fact, other than the fact that it’s a board book, there’s only one difference between this edition and the original. (Hint: It has to do with the cover.) Can you figure out what it is without peeking?

Happy reading!

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A BLOG BIRTHDAY! (And a Poem)

Happy blog birthdayIt’s hard to believe, but this month marks the start of my fifth year of blogging! Four years ago, I shyly and rather nervously took my first baby steps into the blogging world (and social media in general). What I have found is a wonderful community of people – writers, readers, parents, teachers – who share my love for picture books, poetry, and life!  Two picture books later (with more fun announcements on the horizon), I’m still loving connecting in this way. Thank you for reading my blog!

This year, I wanted to repost a favorite poem whose delightful illustration represents one of only two collaborative projects my mom and I ever got to do together. The first was working together to create the banner that graces this blog. I had the idea and she executed it with her charming sense of humor and design. The second is this illustrated poem. She passed away a mere seven months after this poem and illustration first appeared on my blog in April of 2013.

When I look at my mom’s illustration, I marvel at how we both drew on our shared memories in creating the final project. The boy in the poem was inspired by my son, pictured above at age three.  The little stool in the illustration was a gift given to him by his paternal grandparents (though the name has been changed in the illustration) and the little bear he holds was my bear. And the whole idea of him turning found objects into imaginative playthings still captures the essence of who he is!

Happy Monday, all!
Happy Birthday Illustration

Happy Birthday poem text

SPRING POEM: The Spelling Bee

Spelling bee picToday I am delighted to be sharing a favorite poem of mine as part of Rebecca Gomez’s POETRY WEEK BY WEEK: A National Poetry Month Celebration. Rebecca is author of Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, May 2016) co-written by Corey Rosen Schwarz and illustrated by Dan Santat as well as What About Moose? (Atheneum, June 2015) also co-written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi. She also writes poems for children which have appeared in Highlights for Children and elsewhere. Each week during April she is celebrating a different variety of poetry.  Last week she celebrated concrete poems. This week’s focus is animal rhymes. My poem, “The Spelling Bee” is a whimsical look at a new kind of bug.  Please buzz on over for a peek!  Happy  rhyming!

SCHOOL VISIT: Thank you, Frances C. Smith Center for Early Childhood Education

I LOVED reading GOODNIGHT, ARK to the adorable and attentive three and four year olds at The Frances C. Smith Center for Early Education in Elizabeth, NJ this morning. I was guest author as part of their Barnes and Noble Book Fair. As always, the skunks were a big hit. I was also impressed by what good listeners the children were. Thanks for having me!  

Happy reading, all!

SUBMITTING STORIES and POEMS to MAGAZINES: Six Tips for Young Writers

Sea White

My eleven-year-old decided to write her own retelling of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”.  First, she went to the library to find as many versions as she could of the famous tale. She read each one, noting what characteristics they shared and what details made each unique.

She titled her version “Sea White and the Seven Starfish”.  After several weeks of writing and revising, her story sparkled like sunshine on a salty sea. “Will you publish it on your blog?” she asked. “I could,” I answered, “but it might be more fun to see if you could get it published in a magazine.”  She loved the idea. But where to start?

With my daughter in mind, here now are SIX tips for young writers (and their parents) on how to submit original kid-written work to magazines.

Select a publication destination.  Only certain magazines accept work from children. For a comprehensive list, visit the NewPages Young Author’s Guide. Maintained by editor Denise Hill, a teacher who loves to encourage young writers, this great resource also includes a list of legitimate contests for kids. Each listing has a link to the publication’s website where you can find more information.

Read several issues before submitting anything. Once you have a short list of potential publications, be sure to take time to read several back issues. Not only is this a great chance for your kids to experience reading magazines, it will also give you and them a sense of the style and content of each.  Does one magazine favor poetry while another favors prose?  Are the illustrations also done by kids?  How many pieces by kids are included in each issue? These are just a few of the questions you and your child will want to think about.

Follow the publisher’s guidelines carefully.  Once you and your child have decided which magazine to submit to, revisit the publisher’s website and print out their submission guidelines.  Make sure your child follows their protocol exactly so that she/he makes a good impression and so that the piece is eligible for review. Pay special attention to word length and format. For example, does the piece need to be typed, or is neat handwriting okay?

Send ONLY your BEST work.  This should be obvious, but it warrants special mention because, as I’ve learned from visiting young writers in schools,  kids often mistakenly think that once they’ve written something, it’s finished.  But good writing requires revision, preferably multiple times, with a nice final round of polishing.  And it’s always a good idea to proofread every sentence with care one extra time before sending.

Be patient. This is hard for kids, but waiting is the name of the game in the publishing world. Most magazines give a time frame for when to expect a reply.  A nice way to help kids wait is to colorfully mark the possible response date on the family calendar. While they wait, encourage them to work new stories and projects!

Stay positive and remember rejection is part of the process. This is also hard for kids, but the reality is only a few of the multitude of manuscripts submitted will make it into print. Still, kids can remain positive because just taking the time to hone and craft a story and send it off – no matter the ultimate response – makes them a winner in my book!  And if nothing pans out, there’s always the possibility of publishing it as an email to family members, or as a special blog post on a family member’s blog. Sounds like a win/win to me!

Happy subbing, young writers!

 

10 Ways to Celebrate POETRY with your kids!

10 ways to celebrate poetry with your kids

Did you know April is National Poetry Month? Here are 10 ways to celebrate with your kids.

#1 Write/ illustrate a poem with your child.  Picture book author and poet, Penny Klostermann, runs a series on her blog in which a poet and child collaborate on a poem. My daughter and I even contributed a collaboration – an experience we will be both cherish for a lifetime. First, have fun together exploring the series.  Then, using the series as a model, either write a poem and have your child illustrate it, or let your child illustrate something and then write a poem based on the illustration. Don’t worry about perfection – just have fun celebrating poetry together!

#2 Participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day. Even littlest ones can enjoy the fun on April 21st as people all over the nation carry favorite poems in their pockets to read and share throughout the day.  Teachers should ask parents ahead of time to help their little one select a short, simple poem to tuck into their pocket and bring to class. Throughout the morning, pause to read and celebrate each child’s poem.   For more information check out the Academy of American Poets website

#3 Memorize a poem together.  I still remember the A.A. Milne poem “Disobedience” which my mother and I memorized when I was three. Actually, I’m not sure we even memorized it on purpose. I just wanted her to read it to me every night and pretty soon we were reciting it – just because we loved it so much. To hear it recited by Tom O’Bedlam, press here. Is there a poem you and your child love? Then consider memorizing it together.  (If you’ve been reading it to them a lot lately, they may surprise you by already knowing it by heart.) Have fun!

#4 Have a Chalk-A-Bration. On the last day of this and every month, copy or create a poem in chalk with your child on a sidewalk, driveway, or playground surface for others to enjoy. For more details, visit kindergarten teacher and chalk poem lover, Besty Hubbard,at her blog Teaching Young Writers.  

#5 Listen to poetry on the Highlights for Children’s Poetry Player. Follow up with an activity.  For samples of possible follow-up activities see my previous post on this wonderful resource.

#6 Hear your favorite children’s poets read their own work at No Water River.  Poet Renee LaTulippe has a lovely and growing video collection of authors reading samples of their poetry for kids. Each video segment is accompanied by an interview and extension activities. You can even find me reading my poem“Sir Ned”.  Enjoy!

#7 Sip tea and listen to poems at a “Poetry Teatime”. Visit Brave Writer for tips on hosting a successful teatime with little ones. Though geared to a homeschool setting, her tips for teatime can easily be adapted to any family setting. 

#8 Take a field trip… to the library!  Poetry collections are shelved separately from fiction and picturebooks. Ask the librarian (or better yet let your child ask the librarian) to direct you to the poetry section. Then spend some delightful time exploring the wonderful breadth and diversity in children’s poetry books. Check out your favorites to bring home.

#9 Play with words.  This is what poets do!  We play with sound and imagery.  Little ones love to do this too!  So, instill a love for poetry by playing rhyming games. Foster rhythm by stomping or clapping to to the beat of the words.  Play with onomotopeia by creating your own sound words and acting them out.  Have fun with alliteration by taking turns making fun and crazy lists of words that begin with the same sound.

#10 Bring poetry alive with free, ready-to-print poetry activities from Scholastic.   Activities include soccer poems, creepy crawly poems, weather poems and more.

Happy Celebrating!

 

 

BROKEN SEASHELLS: Thoughts on Creating Compelling Characters

broken shellsPlease join me today over at Pens and Brushes, my critique group’s blog, for some thoughts on creating compelling characters.