I am going to be learning Youtube. This is my first little venture, thanks to www.youtube.com/searchstories. Try it. It's fun.
On March 5th, I had great fun visiting Sunset Ridge Elementary. I asked the 4th and 5th graders to check my blog March 8th. That's today!
I'm sharing short descriptions and a few sentences from several of my story ideas here. I've started each of these stories, but only just.
All of my blog readers are invited to choose the one that sounds like the story you'd most like to read. Thanks to all for your thoughts!
Drum Roll here................
Your choices are:
1) Wu Lan and the Dancing Horses
A story based on the dancing horses of the Tang Dynasty in China. It will be from the point of view of a stable boy or girl whose father is in charge of caring for the horses.
"Wu Lan's heart pounded like a thousand drums. On his right pranced Water Spirit, draped in rubies and emeralds. To his left was Sky Climber, black mane tied in gold and silver ropes. And before him, in red silk dragon robes, sat the Emperor of all China."
Jazz Sullivan likes life well-measured and safe, just like her cooking. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, life turns experimental. Her mom has no hair, her little brother believes he's a superhero, her new neighbor's a punk rocker, and the new puppy Radical is chewing at her heart as well as her shoes.
"My dad says there are some things in life that can fix anything. For Dad, it's the Acme ten-in-one wrench. For my little brother Stryker, it's his superhero cape. For me, it's Magnum Opus Chocolate cookies. I guess for Mom it was a dog, because one week after the doctor told her she had breast cancer, she decided we needed a dog."
3) Noah and the Secret of the Yellow Dragon
Hundreds of years ago, an evil sorcerer, jealous of the yellow dragons' powers, conjured an evil spell to trap the dragons. There is just one way to break the spell. Only a person with a True Heart will be able to discover that secret. Can timid Noah set the dragons free?
"Sarban was smiling. 'The dragons keep me company,' he explained. ' Sometimes in this house it is lonely'.
'If it's company you want, why do you stay behind the iron gate?' asked Noah.
'If I could go beyond the gate, I would,' replied Sarban. 'It is not within my power.'
4) Mugwart and Abigail
Abigail Eliza Bingle thinks her dreams of going on a dinosaur dig are crushed when her Dad, professor of paleontology in New York City, goes on sabbatical, moving the family to a small town in Connecticut. But her new friend, Mugwart, rescued from the Mosstown Humane Society, leads her to not only new friends and adventures, but a dinosaur dig in her own backyard.
" 'Dinosaur, Dad, you've done it again!'
Abigail Eliza Bingle had on her favorite baseball hat, backwards, her favorite polka-dog dress, frontwards, and her favorite Halloween socks, one up and one down. But even her favorite clothes couldn't cheer her up."
NYC is the most. Just the most. I loved visiting in late January/early February. I loved seeing snow flurries, my son who lives just a few blocks from Grand Central Station, my two gracious editors, squirrels and doggies in Madison Square Park, and all the wonderful writers and illustrators at the SCBWI Winter Conference.
October 24th, I had the pleasure of being one of the keynote speakers at the Ca Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. I really knew almost nothing about this organization prior to the invitation, but what a great group this is. Really wonderful people. If you'd like to hear a bit from some of my stories, here's my reading from THE PUMPKIN RUNNER, PRANCING,DANCING LILY, and ROAR OF A SNORE.
September 21st I was honored to give a presentation for the new North Bay series of SCBWI workshops (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). What a great group of writers, artists, and creatives gathered at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. It was great fun. A number of people in other areas far from the North Bay were interested, but couldn't attend, so I'll share here. I won't be able to give my entire hour talk, but I'll share the best part - the 7 magical ways. :-)
First, I started with a quote from one of my favorite movies, AUSTRALIA. At the beginning of the film, the narrator, an aboriginal child of mixed-race, begins in this way: "My grandfather, King George, he takea me on walk-abouts, teach me black fellow way. Grandfather teacha me most important lesson of all - tellum story."
There are massive changes happening in the literary world, but no matter how things change, the world will always, in some form, have stories and storytellers. So, let's spin some magic...and some stories.
MAGICAL WAY 1
Hush-sh-sh. Be still
Let silence surround you.
Then shout out, loud and clear!
Can you feel it? Can you hear?
I talked about the importance of truly listening to the wonder around us and also the importance of reading our work out loud.
MAGICAL WAY 2
A labyrinthian path
To find the way,
Move out, Move in,
And once again Move out.
This magical way is all about giving your story an outer adventure and an inner adventure.
MAGICAL WAY 3
'Trouble, oh we need trouble.
Right here in our stories!
With a capital "T"
That rhymes with "C",
And that stands for Conflict.
We surely need trouble!"
With great apologies to "The Music Man" and Meredith Wilson. :-) This magical way is about having conflict in your stories. The trouble can be with yourself, with others, with society, or with nature. It doesn't matter with what as long as it's there.
MAGICAL WAY 4
Be patient. Push forward.
After hours of spinning ideas in the air.
You've got to put bootie onto your chair.
Being a writer is all about patience. At the same time we must persevere. E.B. White, the author of CHARLOTTE'S WEB spent a year studying spiders before he started writing about one.
MAGICAL WAY 5
Study the craft.
Be open to the art.
The muse is a tease.
She plays hide and seek.
So study your craft
Or your future is bleak.
If the muse, the art, ever does show up, it will probably be when we're practicing our craft. So study your genre, know it inside and out.
MAGICAL WAY 6
Stories need resolution.
You must resolve as well.
If you don't make it to the end
There'll be no story to tell.
Resolution of the story is how the problem gets solved. You get to your story resolution by knowing where your story is headed. By having a goal. You get a story resolution by knowing your character.
MAGICAL WAY 7
There is no magical way.
There's only your way...and the story's. ;-)
This doesn't mean you shouldn't practice the previous ways. Nor does it give you permission to let your ego guide the way. Ego just gets in the way of your story.
Think of your story as an entity and let it lead the way.
So, Storymagicians, now that you know some magic, go "tellum story".
Hillary Homzie, Patti Newman, Katherine Tillotson, and I had a delightful time together at Copperfield's in Napa, California on Saturday. All in celebration of Kids Otter Read Day. Independent bookstores around the Bay Area joined in.Jorgen Gulliksen of the Napa Valley Register took the great photo with little Leah. Check it out at www.napavalleyregister.com
Katherine Tillotson (When the Library Lights Go Out) designed this delightful flyer to announce our group's appearance at Copperfield's in Napa, California, as part of the Kids Otter Read Day around the Bay, May 16th from 1-3 p.m.. Hillary Homzie (Things Are Gonna Get Ugly), and Patricia Newman (Jingle the Brass) will join Katherine and myself with readings, activities, and treats! Spread the word and if you're near Napa, please stop by and join the fun! I'll be reading from my latest book, "Roar of a Snore".
Author visits are such fun in so many ways. I did presentations as well as lots of writing funshops during my April sojourn. I was interviewed on a St. Joseph television station. I reconnected with wonderful acquaintances, a high school friend, and my niece. I attended the SCBWI Wisconsin spring luncheon, which was lovely. Viking editor Kendra Levin spoke and was smart, warm, and gracious. Here's a link to one teacher's blog, where she shares photos of my visit:
Just returned from a wonderful two weeks of school visits in Wisconsin and Missouri. I usually do presentations and just a few writing workshops, but this trip, I did lots of writing workshops with groups from K to 8. I had a wonderful time!
I always talk about ideas for stories and also how an idea isn't a story, but needs well-defined characters and a strong plot to become a story. In my thank you notes from some of the younger students, they shared some of their ideas for stories:
The pencil that talks. (I might steal this one. :-) )
What you need to know about dinosaurs.
Learn the Spanish alphabet.
Babies attack me and my family. (Intriguing...and scary!)
Healthy foods. (Love this girl.)
A silent world. (Could this child be craving silence in this noisy world?)
A cupcake land. (Yum.)
Aliens versus robots.
The attack of the giant tarantulas. (HELP!)
Robot monkeys in space. (Brilliant.)
*****READ A STORY.*****
***TELL A STORY.***
**WRITE A STORY.**
*BE A STORY!*
We seem to enjoy making things complicated in our world. Often things are very simple. Reading with your child should not be something you are afraid of because you are overwhelmed with advice, information, or lists of "must-read" books. It should be fun.
Read to foster a love for language in your child and a wonder about our world. Read together to have fun and to enjoy each other's company.
Below are some thoughts and ideas you might enjoy trying:
*** Read aloud with your child –
Twenty minutes a day is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but if you don't have twenty minutes, read anyway! Read a few poems together in five minutes. (My children loved Shel Silverstein.) What's important is to expose our children to print and to allow them to hear the beauty and rhythm of strong narrative.
We're not sounding out words here, we're sharing wonderful stories!
Make read-aloud time special. Flop on pillows. Make hot chocolate...or...
Read with expression and be versatile. Take turns reading. Have each family member bring one book to share.
*** Be a Reading Mentor
Does your child see you reading? How many books are in your home? If you can't afford a lot of new books, you can still have a shelf full of library books. My library allows me to check out 30 at a time!
*** Connect Children to the real people behind the books
It's important for children to know there are real people and real artists behind the wonderful stories you're sharing. Children should know that telling stories is something any of us can do.
Bring an author to visit your school on a special "Author's Day".
Take your child to the bookstore when an author visits.
Visit the website of a favorite author and learn about him/her.
*** Visit your local library
As soon as your child can write his own name, take him to get his own library card. Then have a celebration!
Find a librarian who knows children's literature. They can help tailor reading to a child's interests.
Allow your child to browse the children's area.
Purchase books as gifts together.
***Connect books to real life situations This helps answer questions children may have about the world around them.
Books to explore:
How to Get your Child to Love Reading - Esme Raji Codell
Read-Aloud Handbook – Jim Trelease
Websites to explore:
Kids like to explore "the story behind the story" to discover where the ideas for my books came from. There are also activities under "Parents and Teachers" and "Fun
***Tell your own stories
Share stories of your childhood with your child or begin your own "book" full of childhood memories to share with your children.
Assist your child in writing a story. Write down the words as your child tells it. Then let your child read her own story.
Have fun with Magic Word Bags. Use a fun/fancy purse or bag as a Magic Word Bag. Fill it with pieces of paper with a word on each piece. When you child pulls out one, have him make up a sentence with the word in it. Depending on age, time, etc., he can make up a whole story around this word. With older children, you can use three separate bags and fill them with ideas for characters, settings, and problems. Your child can pull one idea from each bag and create a story around these. Watch out for some WILD, WILD stories!
Think of your imagination as a muscle. If you don't exercise it, it will wither away. Actually, it will just lie beneath the surface, buried, so no one can see it. Imagination is always there for you to call upon when you're ready.
Playfulness is a pre-requisite for creativity, I think. Adults should add "PLAY" to their "To Do" lists. Play makes us joyful and also releases our creative juices. So, take a play break and make a break through...to you!
I have been so uncomfortable with the idea of blogging and putting my ideas out into the universe quickly, off-the-cuff. Today, though, while preparing for student workshops in Wisconsin, I found an old file full of ideas and scribblings. I threw quite a few away before I realized these could be recycled onto my blog. So I shall share them now with the universe...and you. I should be blogging a little more consistently than once a year now, at least for awhile. :-) I may share some of the ideas on Facebook, so if you know me from there, you may get a double dose.
March 15, 2005, I wrote "Writing a story is like looking down a long, curvy, dangerous road and not having any idea where it will lead you." Maybe it's really not so dangerous, but it is curvy!
Children latch onto stories of hope and cling to them for dear life. Each story becomes a foothold to their dreams. I think children relate so strongly to HEART OF A TIGER, not only because they like tigers and cats, but because it's a story of hope. You might be small, like Little Four, but you can still have a big dream that can be accomplished in your own way.
I grew up in the 1950's in a house in the country with basically no running water. As I recall, we had a bit of cold water from some type of rain system on the roof. My brother and I took baths in the "wash house", and we went to the bathroom in the "outhouse". I'm glad those days are over, but they were easy compared to navigating the tech world we live in today! :-) At least, it feels that way sometimes.
I just spent about 3 hours trying to figure out how to connect my Storymagician blog to my Amazon pages. I finally thought I had it figured out, but I still see no RSS feed on Amazon. Perhaps it all begins with my next blog...this blog. So this is really a test...and a bit of a rant.
I'll be spending a week in Wisconsin and a week in Kansas at the end of April visiting schools. I'm very excited about my visits and hope to include some "Artists in the Backyard" moments in my workshops. I'll also be seeing some wonderful Wisconsin ladies I met at a writing conference in Chautauqua Institute in New York several years ago and a high school friend. It's wonderful when my school visits allow me to meet not only wonderful new friends at schools, but reconnect with old friends too.
In August of 2008, I was honored to be one of seven artists invited by Sequoia Parks Foundation to be in their "Artists in the Back Country" program. I'm the only children's author ever invited. We spent a week in the Golden Trout Wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas, California. What an adventure! My wonderful, sure-footed horse Dennis saw me through some scary times on the high trails.
On our trip was a National Geographic photographer, a fine photographer, a painter, a Hugo award winning science-fiction writer, naturalists and more. It was a wonderful group to get to know.
I now offer my "Artists in the Back Country" workshop to schools. I use my experience in the wilderness and other exotic locations to inspire students, using images and activities to encourage their appreciation and understanding of the natural world afar and near. We work on writing non-fiction, fiction, and poetry about nature in their own backyard.