Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"Write now--Write well"

In this week's Time, author Jennifer Egan addressed the importance of literature in a world where most people get their us-vs-them news from social media. "Literature, like democracy, is built of a plurality of ideas," she says. "By writing and reading, we remind ourselves of the value of empathy, subtlety and contradiction."

As writers for the youngest readers, we should be keenly aware of  how our books mold the social consciousness of the future. All writers have a bias, and I've always felt that children's writers lean toward hope, acceptance, tolerance, peace, and love. In light of that fact, I can't imagine how I would write a book with our current president as the protagonist. He offers no hope. He does not accept facts,.He is intolerant of differing views. He stirs up discord and hate, and seems to love only himself and money.

Egan ends with this call to arms: "We need to write now, write well--tell the truth in all its messy complexity. It's our best shot at helping to preserve a democracy in which facts still exist and all of us can speak freely."

Or as the sign on my office door says:


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

12 Days of Children's Books Gala Giveaway Results

To find out if you are a winner, go to: 12 Days of Children's Books Gala Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to everyone who won a book, and a heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to enter.

After I get over my sinus infection which is preventing my brain from working, I will share with you why we did this book giveaway and who my fellow authors are and why we became the NONFICTION NINJAS! Till then, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 

Friday, November 16, 2018


It is my turn to offer up a free book for the 12 days of Children's Books Gala Giveaway.  Check out Nancy's Blog and Rafflecopter for a chance to win Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation. A wacky way to look at our 3rd president.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

DAY 6 !

You won't want to miss your chance to win Pat Miller's The Hole Story of the Doughnut.

Also -- interesting insight from Clelia Gore on Twitter about PB biographies (right up my alley). I guess I'll have to step up my game to bring new life into traditionally told bios.  I wonder what she thinks about an agricultural slant!?!?!?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The 12 Days of Children's Books Gala Giveaway!

As a proud Nonfiction Ninja, I am pleased to be part of 
The 12 Days of Children's Books Gala Giveaway that Nancy I. Sanders is hosting on her BlogZone
Today Nancy features Linda Skeers and her wonderful biography collection Women Who Dared. Check it out!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A Book for Bird Lovers -- Finding a Dove for Gramps

Finding a Dove for Gramps by Lisa J. Amstutz is a sweet story about a boy and his mother carrying on a tradition that began more than 100 years ago -- the Christmas Bird Count. But this year is different. Jay is missing his Gramps and hopes to find his favorite bird, a dove. 

Lisa's crisp narrative leads the reader through crunchy snow to find chickadees, a red-bellied woodpecker and other birds. Like a real birding walk we hear the blue jay before we see it, and search the page for the red-bellied woodpecker. 

Maria Luisa Di Gravio's illustrations reflect the softness of a winter's morning-- muted greys, bright whites, and warmly bundled birders. Although the birds are stylized, they are easily identifiable and will help young readers add new species to their life lists. 

As Jay and his mother wander the woods, we learn about the Christmas Bird Count and why it is so important. The back matter elaborates on the history of the yearly event and shares a two-page bird count checklist. I especially appreciate the invitation to join the Bird Count and websites for kids to access.  

As a writer I admire the clean narrative. Lisa fills her story with sounds of crunching snow, hammering of the woodpecker and calls of flying geese. The language sings with words like skitter, raggedy, waggle and prickle, which will make it a fun read-aloud. Lisa is also a pro at weaving facts into a fictional story line without bogging down the pace or emotion of a story with heart. 

Finding a Dove for Gramps will look lovely under the Christmas tree, and is sure to turn any child into an avid birder. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Attending Writer's Workshops - Why I Bother.

Holed up in my room waiting for a critique with an editor at the Falling Leaves Writers Workshop at Silver Bay. Not too nervous. I already know this particular editor does not take nonfiction. So, why am I here?

Although most writer's workshops are not geared to nonfiction -- some may have one tract or class, but not much else (I guess we nonfiction peeps don't need it!) there is still literary gold to be mined at these events.

1. I will have the chance to submit to the other editors attending who might be looking for nonfiction. That is why you should choose your conferences wisely. Check out the editors and agents who will be present. What are they looking for? If they have nonfiction on their list, dig deeper to find out whether they like current issues, biographies, science, narrative, funny, etc. Conferences usually give you a window of opportunity - a few months to a year -- to submit to participating editors even though their companies may have an agented-manuscripts only policy.

2. I can learn from fiction writers too. In critiques this morning, 5 fiction writers told me where their attention wandered which might indicate that I need to trim some of the information I presented. I could slip some of it into a sidebar, or maybe the reader doesn't need to know it at all. I learned what words or phrases jangled their nerves or didn't ring true, and what information I hadn't explained well enough for them to understand. If a table of adults didn't get it, 4th graders probably wouldn't either. These things are good to know. 

Fiction and nonfiction writers also have similar problems to overcome -- choosing the right structure and voice for a piece. Writing a compelling lead that draws the reader into the story. Providing just enough information but not too much. etc.

3. I NEED TO GET OUT! Writing is a solitary endeavor, and although I have writer friends I email and keep in touch with on Facebook, every once in a while I need to  rub elbows with fellow writers. With others who think about scenes, ideas, and sentences as much as I do. At first I always think, oh why did I bother. It feels like the first day of school. Will anyone like me? But then I see a familiar face across the room -- someone I met years before. And I meet new writers who stun me with their clever ideas.  It reminds me that I am not alone in my angst over editorial comments, or a rejection, or those days when sentences refuse to flow. We're all in this together.

4. And I get to walk in the woods on a rainy day! 

PS: my critique went well!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

SCBWI Bookstop

Check out the new nonfiction now available from SCBWI members on the
SCBWI BookStop.