Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Put these Events on your School Calendar


Reading through the September issue of Reading Today, I found two events that teachers, writers, and media specialists want to take note of this fall.

On October 8, 2009 more than one million children and adults are expected to team up with Eric Carle's famous "Hungry Caterpillar" to help break a world record for the world's largest shared-reading experience. Read this fun classic to a child and go to Read for the Record and see how you can help raise money for Jumpstart and at-risk children.


Twelve days later you and your students can celebrate the National Day on Writing on October 20th. This event celebrates writing as a part of everyday daily life. "All writers--including students, business owners, legislators, and others--are encouraged to submit a piece of writing to the National Gallery of Writing, a digital archive of writing samples that exhibit how and why Americans are writing every day. The archive will collect writing samples through 2009 and display them on the National Day on Writing via a free, searchable website."

I think this is a great opportunity for students, teachers, writers--everybody! to be part of a national celebration of the written language. Educators are particularly encouraged to submit a "resource piece" that will help non-educators better understand writing.

I can't wait to get the group of young students who I have helped tutor through Covenant Day School involved in this project. And of course, I'll have to submit something myself...the possibilities abound!

How about you? What piece of writing will you submit?
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Thinking BIG in Greenville, SC


Last week I had the privilege of being a part of the inaugural writers’ conference for AnAuthor World, a place and program in Greenville, SC. The co-founders Tim Davis and Pam Zollman opened the morning with welcoming comments. Tim, reflecting on his week at the Highlights Writers Workshop, said that he had learned to “Think BIG as a writer.” He introduced each one of the presenters with that adjective. As a result, I was the person with a “big vision” since my goal is to educate the next generation of writers. I think that may now be my favorite introduction!

Pam, a former Highlights editor, reminded the group that if we use an experience, it has to fit the story. She also recommended the book, Techniques of the Selling Writer, which anyone who is serious about the writing profession should check out.

Our keynote speaker was Vonda Skelton who reassured us all that we were a weird group of people. As we basked in those affirming sentiments, she relayed several personal events- some humorous, some tragic—and how in the middle of chaos she would stop and think, “This is a really good scene." As the author of both adult and children’s books, she apparently had learned how to mine her own life, as I instruct teachers in Teaching the Story. “Life is happening all around you. Everything in your book has happened or will happen,” Vonda stated. “Don’t waste anything.”

According to Vonda, there are four reasons why writers don’t write. I resonated with each:
1. Fear of failure. (oh yeah!)
2. Fear of success. Sounds crazy, but it’s the, “If I get a contract then I’ll have to write the book” fear or, “What if I write it and no one buys it?” fear. (or for me, “what if I write it and can’t find a publisher” fear. Very common ailment among writers.)
3. Fear of being transparent. Although good writing comes from hurts and disappointments, writers are afraid of letting these emotions show. (Ask me about the time I sat in the Chautauqua library trying to dig out my character’s motivation. I ran out of Kleenex.)
4. Fear of cost, commitment, and time. Writers shouldn’t expect brilliance at the first shot and wanting to be a writer isn’t enough. (In other words, the red pencil must be a writer’s best friend.)

I guess you can figure out why I resonated with Vonda. Our thinking about writing ran along similar tracks and I’m delighted to have made her acquaintance. Check out AnAuthor World’s events calendar--BIG things are happening in Greenville, SC. If you live within a 50 mile radius, are interested in writing or illustrating for children, and need more instruction or encouragement, this is the place to go.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Target Your Book


If you've never published a book, you might not realize the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into getting your book into the hands of potential readers. Beyond the traditional methods such as catalog sales or book reviews in respected journals, my e-mail box is always full of other suggestions from fellow writers: You Tube trailers, networking on Facebook or Twitter, how to create virtual library visits through online chat rooms.

An article in this morning's paper provided a new venue for aspiring authors: try selling your book at Target. The column, "Target Can Make Sleepy Titles Into Best Sellers" first ran in the NY Times on July 21. The author, columnist Motoko Rich, sites the runaway success story of "Sarah's Key." This story of an American journalist who investigates the 1942 roundup of Jews in Paris, was written by first-time novelist Taitiana De Rosnay. Sales were less than noteworthy until a committee of Target employees recommended it as a Bookmarked Club Pick.

The result? The publisher, St. Martin's Press, has sold 145,000 paperbacks which were produced exclusively for Target. The ordinary paperback edition has sold an additional 200,000 and it has spent months on the New York Times trade paperback fiction best-seller list.
Unlike a chain bookstore such as Barnes & Noble which carries about 200,000 titles in each location, Target only offers 2,500. Rich says, "By assembling a collection of books by unheralded authors, Target behaves more like an independent bookstore than like a mere retailer of mainstream must-haves..."

I find this thought intriguing. Here are employees of the nation's #2 discount store reading and selecting books which may have been neglected by major reviewers. Books which, if the numbers are correct, are hugely popular among mainstream readers.

It makes me wonder. Can I get my book about a fragile friendship between a 13-year-old white girl and a 14-year-old light skinned African American girl in the South in 1950 into this committee's hands? It's something to target.
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