My daughter turned 10 a couple of weeks ago! We had her birthday party on the weekend. I'd been stressed with the hustle and bustle of my 9-5 lately so I threw myself into creating a craft project for the party girls. There were 8 of them. We made bead and star filled necklaces out of nylon stockings.
I love crafting so I was super excited to give them the materials and see what designs they came up with. They made unique chockers, crowns, and bracelets. I was so impressed! But after the craft activity was over, they formed a tight huddle around our laptop and they started watching tween music videos. I thought to myself that I should have planned at least 2 more craft activities. I had to literally pry them away from the computer and convince them to play a game of tag or hide-and-go-seek. Times have really changed.
I noticed that my daughter’s friend Izabell was not in the huddle. She was staring at our glittered popcorn ceiling. “It looks like a starry sky,” she said to me. “It’s good that you didn’t change it". A few moments later she pointed to one of the switch plate covers on the wall and said, “You know that you can get these and paint them.” I grinned and whispered, “Yes! We have some. Come with me, I’ll show you”. There was a crafty kitten in the bunch!
Izabell inspired me to make more time to unwind and create. If you have a crafty kid, check out this collection of books.
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first story at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at carolhl.weebly.com
Halloween is always a good excuse for creativity at my house. Each costume is conceived and created by the kids themselves.
Now that my kids are older, they make their costumes with very little help from me. My 12 year old daughter, Naomi, made a diction-fairy costume with the help of a $1 dictionary, poster board and a glue gun.
I've never been thrilled about the candy part of Halloween, so when I saw author Julie Falatko's post on Facebook about her Halloween tradition to hand out books, I immediately started planning my own reading and treating!
Our local library had a book sale a couple of weeks ago and I scored 175 board books, picture books, chapter books, MG novels and YA novels. My little diction fairy is going to let kids choose whatever book they want and I'm going to watch and
wait. Julie said the kids in her neighborhood were thrilled! I can't wait to see what happens here in Andover, MA. Will the kids be disappointed? Will the kids be excited to choose a book even when it's unexpected? Will my kids feel embarrassed about being different?
For me, reading is so much more of a treat than candy, that I can't wait to give a reading treat to anyone who stops by my house!
What would happen in your neighborhood if you gave out books?
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out December 2013 with Character Publishing. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you’ll likely find her watching her backyard chickens or writing, of course. You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
Can you feel the excitement in the air? The furious writing of pitches? The late-night research and notes on agents and editors. That growing bit of nervousness in the pit of your stomach?
It must be that time of year again-- time for the Rutgers Council on Children's Literature One-on-One Conference!
The 46th Annual RUCCL One-on-One conference will be held this Saturday, October 17th on the campus of Rutgers University.
Those of you that are going are well aware of the conference and all it offers. But for those of you that are not, here's a brief introduction:
(taken directly from the RUCCL website)
For over forty years the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature has helped aspiring writers and illustrators of children's and young adult books, both fiction and nonfiction, to grow in craft and professionalism.
Each fall RUCCL sponsors the One-on-One Plus Conference. One-on-One brings together the largest number of professionals of any conference of its kind. The unique one-on-one format gives writers and illustrators a rare opportunity to share their work with an assigned mentor. The conference also offers a chance to meet and exchange information and ideas with experienced editors, agents, art directors, authors, and illustrators, who have generously volunteered their time.
Why is this so exciting?
As an attendee you get to interact with over 60 + agents and editors from trade houses throughout the day. You will have 5-on-5 groups, listen to fabulous speakers and also 1-on-1 time with a fabulous mentor -- to talk about your own piece. You will also have time to pitch to agents and editors throughout the day. Basically, it's a fantastic way to get your work in front of the very people who could snap it right up!
Are you nervous just reading about all this? I have to admit, I am. This is a pretty big thing for all authors, whether you are agented or not and the number of success stories coming out of the conference proves it.
Okay, so HOW do you prepare for this?
I have been to this conference once before and have spoken to many friends who've attended over the years. These are some of the tips that I have put together.
BEFORE you go:
1. Bring a copy of the piece that you submitted. This makes it easier for you to follow along as your mentor is going over your piece.
2. Have questions to ask about your piece ready.
Suggested ones to consider: How your manuscript will fit in the market?
Is the voice/tone appropriate for the age level?
Any questions you may have about your plot or characters.
If nonfiction, perhaps ask about if the form is appropriate -- narrative vs. informational
How can I improve it?
3. Bring a list of pitches (3-4 lines ) of other manuscripts that you may want to discuss.
I recommend pitches because it can take too much time to have them read something else and comment on it. But pitches can show them your style, the types of books you write (your overall body of work) , and give you an idea of marketability of your pieces.
4. Be prepared with other questions
Do you want to ask about how to handle your career. (Agent or no agent?)
How much marketing should you do for your piece?
Do you need to have a website, etc?
While this may not seem like the time, if you run out of things to ask, pick their brains for any question you have about the business. These people are in it and are knowledgeable. They will know or tell you how to find out!
5. Do your Research!
Prepare a list of agents and/or editors who are interested in what you write. These are the ones that you want to approach. Be reasonable, keep the list below 10. Let's face it you probably won't get to all, but I always *star* the ones that are really important to me.
Good websites to check for research include:
Query Tracker/Agent Query
Other SCBWI conferences (where they will list bios)
Casey McCormick's Literary Rambles blog (for agents)
The Publisher's pages ( sometimes the publisher will list all of their editors and their interests. For example, Simon & Schuster's info here
Okay, so this seems easy, but LOOK UP the directions! The first year, I had the hardest time finding the actualy building on the Rutgers campus. I drove around for almost an hour and just made it five minutes before. Be aware -- GPS is not great on the campus (at least it wasn't a few years ago), so go to the website and download the paper directions just in case. This is not a place to be late!
Listen and participate with everyone. Keep your answers on point and short to allow everyone to talk. Don't hog the conversation. Be a natural part of it
Listen to what your mentor is saying.-- Stay focused. It's easy to be so nervous about what you want to ask next that you don't even listen to the comments they are saying.
Take notes-- Write down everything they say. Although many will have notes on your piece, it's always good to have back up.
Ask questions -- Be sure you get your questions about your piece asked. But try not to interrupt them too often.
If they indicate interest -- Ask if they would be interested in seeing more of your manuscript. OR if they say that it needs work, ask if you revise, if they'd be interested in seeing it again.
If they don't indicate interest-- Ask if they would be willing to take a look at your pitches for other projects. If they indicate interest in any of these, ask if they'd be interested in seeing more.
The most important thing: ASK FOR THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION!!!
While Rutgers may provide a list of contact information, don't plan on that. I have been to many conferences where writers were so excited that an agent or editor asked to see more that they forgot to ask for contact information and had no way of sending the manuscript. Nothing is more frustrating.
This is the scariest part of this conference. At the RUCCL conference they allow and even encourage attendees to pitch to actively pitch to agents and editors. There is no set time to do it, you just walk right up to them and pitch. Talk about cold calling! Yikes!
Here are a few tips that may help.
1. Identify the agents and editors you want to meet. When you check in you will find out your mentor and also typically get a list of where editors and agents will be eating lunch. (at least you did in the past). Quickly go through and figure out where the *starred* people on your list can be found.
2. Have a SHORT 3-4 line pitch prepared for your book. Make it energetic and exciting. Capture their attention with it.
3. If possible, figure out a way to approach them, ie. did you find a particular book they produced that is similar to yours in genre, characters, plot. You may say something like "I see from your list that you really like action-adventure MG, well I have one that you might find interesting..." or some such. You need a tiny opening instead of just coming up and blurting out your pitch.
4. Consider partnering up. Sometimes if there are two of you, it's easier to approach the agent or editor. That way you can take turns with the dreaded opening line. It's less scary because it's not just you and them.
5. Take a deep breath and focus. While your pulse will be racing, you need to be sure that what you are saying makes sense and doesn't come out in a rush. You want to sound professional, not like a person who is so nervous they can barely put two words together and stand upright. (even if that's what you are). :)
6. If they show interest, again, ASK FOR THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION! Ask if they have a card or if they will write down their email address for you. You have worked very hard to get this, so don't forget to walk away with your "prize" -- how to send your ms to them.
7. If they say they aren't interested, thank them for their time and move on. Do not get discouraged. You have others on your list.
Finally, at the end of the day, Reward Yourself! You did it! You made it through. This is a very exciting conference that requires a lot of focus, attention, and probably ALL of your energy. Whew! Be proud of yourself and remember the fact that you are even there means that the RUCCL team thought your writing is awesome!
Good LUCK this weekend! Can't wait to see you all there. YOU CAN DO IT!!!
Jennifer is the award- winning author of over twenty nonfiction and fiction books. Her books include BRAIN GAMES by National Geographic Kids (2015) , Forces and Motion by Nomad Press (2016) , and SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up by Charlesbridge Publishing (2016). She is an instructor at the Children's Book Academy and a two-time workshop presenter at the Highlights Foundation. She is now proudly represented by agent Clelia Gore of Martin Literary Management .
You can find Jennifer at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com
The first decision: Do you draw with it? Or do you write?
The second decision: What do you draw or write?
What subject moves you?
Suppose someone gave you a pen, and like in a fairy tale, you had to keep it moving until it ran dry.
Everything depends upon it.
Would you write about yourself?
Or draw someone born in your imagination?
Suppose someone gave you a magic pen.
Everything you wrote or drew would come true.
Would you think and plan before you ever wrote a word? Drew a face?
Or would you plunge right in, just let the words, the moving line, take you where they take you? Finding out what happens as you go along, pretending, or believing, or even pretending to believe, that the pen will
go on forever so any sad story can be rewritten or redrawn to have a happy ending?
Would you write or draw to please just yourself? Or other people?
What kind of writer or artist would you be?
I was maybe ten years old when I started writing. It was an oasis in a two or three-year period when my stepfather had an Alice-in-Wonderland experience of the schizophrenic kind, getting arrested for making a scene in the neighborhood, which necessitated a move to another house.
This was all embarrassing to my mother, and so, interesting to me. I began sitting around writing down what people in my family were saying and doing and my mom would walk past me and ask, in her sweet voice, what are you doing, Audrey? And I’d say, nothing, just writing stuff down.
And she wouldn’t even wonder about that.
Because I had a little brother who was always falling out of trees and breaking an arm, or chipping a tooth opening a pop bottle. He once fell into a hole deep enough the fire dept had to try to get him out, and the hole turned out to be an abandoned mine shaft and the Army Corp had to be called in and before the day was over he was on national TV. By the end of the day I knew my mother’s hair could stand on end.
And on a quiet afternoon, when she thought she had things pretty much under control, and she sat down on the porch to read a book, a neighbor might come by and say to my mother, that kid of yours has been going through my garbage. I caught him eating whipped cream I threw out three days ago. And my brother would yell, I did not! There were maggots on that whipped cream can! I don’t eat maggots!
And when my mother put us to bed, usually before dark, and she just about thought she’d caught a break, my little sister would get up in the middle of the night or at least some time after dark, they call this sleepwalking. She’d think she was going to the bathroom but she’d go sit down in the living room and pee on the couch. This wet spot was something of a mystery until the night my mother had fallen asleep on the couch, reading.
So it goes without saying she didn’t have much interest in what I was doing.
I was the easiest child she had.
Until the day my teacher asked us to write a story.
Mrs. Underdown said, Write about anything you want to.
I wrote about the day my mother and my stepfather had a big argument and he got so mad he put a hole in the wall with his fist. To tell you the truth, he’d given the wall a good thump before. This wasn’t so much a violent episode as a form of punctuation.
But we’d never had sheetrock walls before. Sheetrock was as new as the house we'd moved to, and it wasn’t thick and hard like a plaster wall. I can still remember the surprised look on his face. That was what I wrote about really, even more than the argument.
The whole episode seemed funny and I laughed and he made me spend the whole afternoon in my room. Which is when I did my homework: writing anything I wanted to.
And I got an A.
I brought it home and showed my mother.
She said, you are never ever to write something like this again.
Forever after, when she said, Audrey, what are you doing?
And now she was talking to me in the same suspicious tone she used with my little brother,
I would hide the story I was writing, and tell her I was reading.
Suppose someone gave you a pen.
And said you should write anything you want to.
Draw anything you want to.
Right off the top of your head. Don’t give it any thought at all. Just get that pen moving.
Audrey Couloumbis is the Newbery Honor-winning author of Getting Near to Baby. She sometimes writes sad stories with a happy ending, and she's published by St.Martin's Press, G.P. Putnam, and Random House. Look for her books at your favorite bookstore.
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