Thursday, January 30, 2014

So You Think You'll Write a Book?

So you think you'll write a book. Okay. It's a good aspiration. I have but one modest suggestion at the outset: Be sure that's what you really want to do, as writing that book can be bad for your health--physically and emotionally--if you're not ready or willing to do what it takes.

What does it take? From my viewpoint, it takes the perseverance of a marathon runner, the patience of a saint and the perspective of an octogenarian at least.

First, let's get an idea. You know, that new slant, brilliant twist, blockbuster worthy, light bulb busting aha?
Now comes the research. Let's see if your topic's been done before. No? Great! Let's get on with the real research. Get those stats correct. Be sure the geography is right. Don't make a mistake with history, for heaven's sake.

 : Closeup portrait of a latin businesswoman thinking while sitting at desk isolated on white background Stock PhotoGot all that in place? Fantastic! Now it's time to wait for your muse to visit. Did I mention, wait? Oh, yes. This is a being that delights in calling the shots, usually later rather than sooner. But finally, she's come calling to accompany you through the morass of story building.

You settle in for a lovely literary liaison with her. And things go so well! That first draft of your manuscript is finished. You are so proud. So happy. So fulfilled.

Then it's time to visit your critique group. Didn't I mention your critique group? Silly me. You must have one. No, no, no to writing in a vacuum. But not to worry. You have produced a masterpiece, and everyone there will sing your praises and cast literary lilies at your feet.

Yeah. Right. They tear it to shreds. Nothing left but your title, and half of them hated that. They say things like, "What point of view? You don't have a point of view." Or perhaps, "These characters are so shallow, I can see right through them." You know. Helpful comments.

Home you slog in a huff, manuscript still too hot to handle from all the vitriol spewed upon it.
Next morning, you take up your quill, open the hateful pages with your fellow authors' marks covering them--and learn! What do you know? Huh. Their ideas aren't half bad. And you summon your muse back and begin again.

Now emerges the fun part. What is it, you ask? Two words, with an article between: Agent or publisher. Research revisited. Yep. You must see who matches whom, as in: "Why did this agent reject my book? Yes, she's known for Romance Novels, but surely she cannot resist my concept book." Have another think about that...

But, hey, miracles still happen (think George Bailey), and a publisher wants your book. That's terrific. You're going to make millions and fast, too. Why, it'll only take--how long? Two years! I could be dead by then. What's that? It'll be published posthumously? Swell.

And so it goes. But, then again there's something wondrous, delicious, stupendous about writing that manuscript, polishing that manuscript, shining that manuscript that I would not miss for the world.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Reading Habits of Children Two to Ten in the United States

After posting such a gloomy forecast regarding teens' reading habits, I decided to share with you a happier piece concerning younger children's proclivity for reading in the United States.

Children ages 2-10 are reading an average of 40 minutes per day, spending 29 minutes reading print, 8 minutes reading on computers, and 5 minutes reading on digital platforms, according to a new report from The Joan Ganz Cooney Center called Learning at Home.

For the study, the organization spoke to more than 1500 parents of 2-10 year old's across the country. 

According to the report, 62 percent of these kids have access to eReaders or tablets, but only 31 percent actually use these devices because their parents want them to read print books.

And where does television come into play? TV dominates. The research revealed that  children spend an average of 42 minutes a day watching educational TV.

U.S. Children's Reading Habits-Ages Two to Ten

After posting such a gloomy forecast recently regarding teens' reading habits, I decided to share with you a happier piece concerning younger children's proclivity for reading in the United States.

While the ages mentioned in this post span a huge difference in cognition, on an average, children ages 2-10 are reading an average of 40 minutes per day, spending 29 minutes reading print, 8 minutes reading on computers, and 5 minutes reading on digital platforms, according to a new report from The Joan Ganz Cooney Center called Learning at Home.

For the study, the organization spoke to more than 1500 parents of 2-10 year old children across the country. According to the report, 62 percent of these kids have access to e readers or tablets, but only 31 percent actually use these devices, because their parents want them to read print books.

Reading is definitely an important part of a child’s day, TV dominates. The research revealed that  children spend an average of 42 minutes a day watching educational TV.

On this blog, I've published quite a few helpful tips to help keep kids' reading interests high.  At the risk of redundancy, I'll list a few of them again:

1.  Model reading in your home.  If reading is seen as valuable to parents, most children will value books as well.

2.  Have reading material available everywhere in your home.  If books are placed in favorite areas such as the family room, kids' bedrooms, etc., research has found they will be read more frequently.

3.  Place word signs around so that young children can "read the room,"a technique that is highly successful.

4.  Allow kids to pick out their own books (with some guidance from you) in bookstores.  If they feel ownership in their purchases, books are usually read cover to cover.

I hope this helps and gives you some good news about U.S. children's reading habits as well!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why Aren't More Teens Reading for Fun?

Here is some disturbing data from Nielson Book.  The question  to deal with is this:  Will the trend continue and what, if anything, can be done to reverse it?

Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)More teens say they don’t read for fun today than any time in the past three years, according to new data from Nielsen Book, presented at Launch Kids at Digital Book World 2014 in New York recently.
According to the Nielsen data, 41% of teens now say they “don’t” read for fun. This number is up from 21% of teens who said that in the fall of 2011.
The survey was conducted among children aged 13 through 17.
The good news for book publishers, according to Nielsen’s Jonathan Nowell, who presented the data, is that the “children’s book market is resilient” and that it’s not that teens won’t resume their love of reading as digital books gain adoption — it’s just that they haven’t done it yet.

On a personal note, I have found in talking and working with young and older teens is this:  Outside of having to read literary assignments, they are reading blockbuster books, such as Hunger Games, 13 Reasons Why, and The Twilight Saga. 

Many teenagers tend to wait for the film to be released and would rather view the movie than read the book. A difficult trend to buck, it is what's occurring nationwide.

What can be done?  As parents, we can model and value reading for our teens.  While I realize we do not have as much influence as when they were younger (a totally natural state of affairs in the maturation process), we do have more than one might think.  

Take your teen to a bookstore on a regular basis.  There's nothing like the enticement of something new, and books can and should fit into that category.  

Listen to your teen when s/he talks about a book they're read or planning to read. Validation is a super tool in your box of parenting skills.

All you have to do is plan your strategy if your teen isn't reading for fun.  Good luck to you and your teen reader!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What? Super Famous Authors Get Rejection Letters, Too?

At the annual Florida SCBWI Mid-Winter Conference held in Miami this past weekend, much was discussed concerning rejection letters, collected by most every author known to humanity.  This author certainly has had her share!  It seems fitting, then, to do a post on famous authors who have fallen prey to the same malady.  Have fun! 


It seems Alfred Knopf didn’t always understand satire. Animal Farm, the famed dystopian allegory that later became an AP Reader standard and Retrospective Hugo Award winner, was turned down because it was “impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.” A British publishing firm initially accepted and later rejected the work as well, arguing that “…the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offense to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.”


A shockingly nasty letter, I can only imagine how Ms. Stein reacted to this missive from Arthur C. Fifield with her manuscript for Three Lives: “Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your MS three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.” Twenty years later, Stein’sThe Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas became her one and only best-seller.


Most fans know that King’s big break came with Carrie, the story of a friendless, abused girl with secret telekinetic powers. Though one publishing house told him they were “not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias.  They do not sell,” Doubleday picked up the paperback rights to the novel and sold more than a million copies in its first year.


Lord of the Flies was a favorite of so many high-school students, some publishers disagreed. One agent called the classic “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” To date, the book has been required reading in high schools for nearly fifty years, 14.5 million copies have been sold, and Golding’s work has been adapted for film twice.


Back in 1966, the young romance author was trying to sell a story she called “Journey Back to Love.” It didn’t go well, however; her submission to Redbook came back with a rejection from the editors, stating "We found the heroine as boring as her husband had." Ouch! The piece was eventually run as a two-part serial in an English magazine, and Mary Higgins Clark currently boasts forty-two bestselling novels.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

James Patterson on Creating Happy Readers

This blogger will have the pleasure of meeting James Patterson in March, 2014 when I present at the Illinois Reading Council Conference.  I am so delighted to have this opportunity.  Here is a post about him and all his accomplishments.

James Patterson didn’t plan to become a famous children’s author. He wasn’t even a big reader when he was a kid, despite having a teacher for a mom and a grandmother who was a librarian.
“I didn’t read as much as I should have,” he admits. “I read what I had to.”

It wasn’t until college, when he could read what he wanted, that he grew to love books.  “I just couldn’t get enough. And it got me scribbling,” he says. “I really liked scribbling. I like telling stories.”

Patterson’s interest in children’s books traces back to when his son, Jack, was 8. Like his dad, Jack was a good student but a so-so reader. That summer, Patterson and his wife made a deal with Jack: He could skip some chores if he agreed to read every day. “Aw, do I have to?” Patterson recalls Jack saying. Jack’s parents told him they would help find books he would really like. “By the end of the summer, Jack had read a dozen books, 10 of which he thought were terrific.” 

He stresses to kids why reading matters. If you don’t read well, he says, “you’re going to be lost in high school. And what are you going to do in life? Be a pro athlete? A rapper?”  While that might sound good to some kids, the chances of it happening are slim. So that makes reading – and doing well in school – a big deal. “Reading will give you a lot of choices,” Patterson says.

Who or what inspires James Patterson?

The author says he has “a very active imagination” and keeps a folder full of ideas. At any time, he has 45 to 55 projects going, including movie scripts.
“I study, study, study” before writing, he says. “Then I write seven days a week . . . for five, six or eight hours a day.”

To hold readers’ interest, “I pretend ther’s a person sitting across from me, and I don’t want him to leave until I’m finished with the story,” Patterson says.  Because he’s not superhuman, many of his books have co-authors. “I’ll have an idea and will write an outline” of 60 to 80 pages, including ideas for drawings. The co-author writes the first draft, which Patterson checks often “to keep it on track.” Then he buffs up the final version.

His children’s books aren’t sugar-coated. There are kids with disabilities, kids without parents, kids being bullied.  “Yes, there is a dose of reality” in them, he says. “I think that’s good. These books are not softballs. Readers love them because they show kids taking responsibility for their own actions, for their own lives, at a young age.”

Patterson, who is 66, shows no signs of slowing down. “I am a crazy person, totally crazy,” he says. “ I can’t stop writing, and I can’t stop reading.”

Saturday, January 11, 2014

In Beatrix Potter's Real Life Garden

 The vegetables in Beatrix Potter's children's have always come alive, appear fresh and ready to be harvested.  And did you know Ms. Potter was a gardener of gardeners, passionate about her land and what resided there--animals, vegetables, humans?  But what about those cuddly, adorable bunnies?         
Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell: Book Cover
Potter's love of gardening  began in childhood, with marvelous nature drawings and the chance to watch professional gardeners during her wealthy family's holidays in the British countryside. While Peter Rabbit's nemesis, Mr. McGregor, was not a real person, McDowell writes that he resembled the gardeners Potter would have encountered.
Potter's active gardening began when, at age 39, she bought a 34-acre working farm with a cottage in England's Lake District. Her gardening style, on full display in the book's period black-and-white photos and modern color images, was romantic and unpretentious.
"She wasn't a formal person, and she abandoned a lot of formality in all parts of her adult life," McDowell says. Potter married local lawyer William Heelis in 1913, when she was 47, despite her parents' objection that Heelis was beneath her. The couple had servants, but Potter also helped cut hay in her fields.
A nature lover who eventually accumulated more than 4,000 acres and willed them to the National Trust conservation group, Potter grew cowslips, dahlias, gooseberries, crab apples, phlox, yellow loosestrife, snowdrops and bellflowers on her increasing land holdings.

"She had a cottage garden, which is a style that nowadays we're all very comfortable with: loose groups of flowers and maybe some fruits and even some lettuce mixed in," McDowell says.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Down Under Calling by Margot Finke

Andy Frazer has it made.  Even with his dad's job having been downsized, Andy has a loving family, a great girl-friend, Kelly, who seems to be morphing into a girlfriend, and a wacky life-loving grandmother who lives in Brisbane, Australia.

And who better to have written Down Under Calling than author, Margot Finke, a transplanted Aussie who has called Oregon home for many years.

When Andy and his Grandma begin exchanging letters, all kinds of magic begins.  From an interest in x-boxes and such, Andy and Kelly begin branching out--to all things Australia.  

Grandma Rose's letters are chock-full of wonderment and adventure and even mystery.  It doesn't take long for Andy to realize how lucky he is to have a family like his!

This book is a must-read for those kids who love learning about new and exciting places.  And what kid does not want to learn about Australia and its exotic animals and places to visit.

Down Under Calling is a gem of a read.  The prose is young and fun.  The book is filled--cover to cover--with the wild and wacky tales of that place known as Australia!

This blogger recommends the book to young readers wholeheartedly.  Snag your copy today!

Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes mid-grade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband, children, and grandchildren.  Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between her writing. Her husband is retired, and very supportive. 

Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs. You are my heroes! "

She has 13 published books + Survival by Walkabout, the follow-up to Taconi and Claude, is due out soon.  All her books, +  Video readings, trailers, reviews and sample pages can be seen on her website. Margot also does Skype Author Visits to many schools in the US, and she runs a Manuscript Critique Service. Nothing gives Margot a bigger thrill than to hear that a book she helped polish has been published.  “This is always a huge YEA moment.”

Amazon ( Kindle and soft cover) :

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Michelangelo's Artistic Grocery List Gives Shopping a Whole New Meaning

Michelangelo, the greatest painters and architects of the Italian Renaissance and possibly of all times, seems to have taken his skills into his kitchen as well as his studio. His works include the David and Pieta statues.

Not only did he paint frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, his grocery lists are masterpieces as well.

Bibliokelpt has posted an imagine of one of the artist's grocery lists which included detailed text, as well as drawings to help illustrate to his assistants what to pick at the market.

It may have been fun to go to the local outdoor market with Michelangelo's masterpiece grocery list. What one wouldn't want to do, though, is cross out each item as it was purchased!