Wednesday, October 31, 2012

KidLit Cares: Superstorm Sandy Relief Effort

I'm swamped, as usual, but I wanted to pop by to let you know about an awesome auction taking place over at Kate Messner's blog. She's auctioning off a variety of writing-related goodies, and the proceeds will go to benefit people affected by Superstorm Sandy.

So go see what delightful things are available! Support your fellow country-people.

And have a spooktactular Halloween!

Photo by wwarby (source)

Monday, October 1, 2012

What are you reading?

I just took my kids to the library, and I was shocked by the sheer number of my family's favorite books that have been banned for one reason or another. Wow!

It got me thinking about what makes someone ban a book. Inappropriate language. Situations that are inappropriate for young adults (or tweens, or children--did you know that James and the Giant Peach is a banned book? Captain Underpants--some of my boys' favorite books--as well.) Even books for adults have been banned because someone out there doesn't like what the author had say.

But what they say matters.

Their stories open us up to subjects or language that might make us uncomfortable. They may confront us with ideas that make us question our thoughts and beliefs. But the operative word there is open.

Such stories open our eyes, hearts and minds. They show us a side of life that might be utterly different from our own. Just because it isn't our experience doesn't make it wrong. It's someone's experience, and it would behoove each and every one of us to learn more about experiences that are different from our own. How else can we show compassion to those who need it?

I had the good fortune to hear a talk by Chris Crutcher--one of the most banned YA authors around--at the Rocky Mountain SCBWI meeting. Chris has worked with kids whose lives have been anything but easy. And as he pointed out, those kids don't use nice language. So when he writes a novel about a kid in a similar type of situation, he uses true-to-life language, and he describes events that many of us might like to pretend don't exist.

But hiding our heads in the sand does nothing. Opening our hearts and minds to kids who live through those experiences does a lot.

What are you reading?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nurturing curiosity

Last weekend, I attended the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference in Denver. It was a terrific meeting (such an enthusiastic, involved group!), and I had the opportunity to talk with agent Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary, and editors Emily Clement of Arthur A. Levine Books and Sylvie Frank of Holiday House--gracious women, every one.

As a non-fiction writer, I paid close attention when the Common Core State Standards came up. Both Karen and Sylvie mentioned the importance of tying books to the Common Core. If a story has the potential to be used in the classroom, it will be much more likely to get published.

More and more, teachers are looking for books that allow them to "teach smarter, not harder," as a principal at a nearby school so eloquently put it. What does that mean? Teachers need books that teach literacy while providing curriculum-related content. Books that kill two birds with one stone, if you will.

(As an aside: If you teach science, Melissa Stewart has a terrific Pinterest board to help you find books to fit some of the Common Core standards.)

Teachers need to find ways to teach math and science simultaneously. Science and math are closely connected, and yet I get the sense that they're typically taught as completely distinct subjects. Do they have to be? Can't we interweave them, thereby increasing the amount of time available to dedicate to both?

For example, in a life cycles unit a class may order caterpillars. Watching them pupate and emerge as adult butterflies is a remarkable experience, but it can be so much more.


Order caterpillars that are smaller, those that have more time to grow. Then have the students measure them. Weigh them. Graph the change in size over time. Weigh plant material before it's given to the butterflies, then again a day later. How much weight was lost? Was the same amount gained by the caterpillars? Why or why not? If the plants lost more weight than the caterpillars gained, where could the rest have gone?

Think you don't have enough science time to extend the life cycles unit? That's the beauty of "teaching smarter"--you can squeeze science into the daily math routine. And numbers are so much more interesting when they mean something.

I think--or rather hope--that the Common Core will encourage just this kind of cross-over in the classroom. After meeting with the principal mentioned above, and one of the teachers at her school, I strongly believe that we can again foster a love of science--and math--by returning to a hands-on approach and blurring the lines between subjects.

Math is fun and cool when it has real-life application. And science is all about curiosity--after all, what is a scientist but a kid who never stopped asking "Why?" 

The possibilities for exploration and discovery, critical thinking and inquiry-based learning are endless if we can just start to see the curriculum in a new way. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Looking for a few good teachers!

Hey teachers! Want to get your students out of the classroom? Connect them with the critters in their own neighborhood? Give them the tools they need to work toward positive change? All while working toward meeting National Science Education Standards?

I'm looking for a few adventurous elementary/middle school teachers who would like to incorporate some hands-on, inquiry-based activities into their classroom curriculum.

The activities in question address the following National Science Education Standards:
  • characteristics of organisms 
  • organisms and environments 
  • regulation and behavior 
  • populations and ecosystems 
  • diversity and adaptations of organisms
Curious? Interested? Send me an email at alison [at] apstevens [dot] com to find out more! (If you're not a teacher, but you know someone who is, please pass this along!)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Look who made the centerfold!

Guess who made the centerfold of Highlights for Children? Yes, me! (Get your mind out of the gutter, it's not that kind of centerfold; I write for children, people.)

Highlights for Children (Sept. 2012) used with permission.
Image copyright Michael Cameron, NOAA.

I can't show you the whole thing, but see that by-line? Off to the right there are staples (well, you can't see them, and since my son absconded with the magazine, I can't retake the image, but trust me, there are staples). Definitely staples... as in the staples that hold everything together and signify the center of the magazine. The staples that cause a magazine to fall open more often to the center spread than any other page (once the little subscription card thingies are torn out).

I am so, so thrilled to have my first Highlights article "drop" (I'm trying to pick up the lingo; still not sure I'm using it right). Doesn't that sound as though stacks upon stacks of the magazine, balanced precariously upon a hinged platform, suddenly find themselves in free-fall as the platform falls away? I imagine they plummet down long, windy Willy Wonka's factory-like chutes that divide and subdivide until each magazine plops into a kid's mailbox.

The kids race out to collect the mail, jump up and down when they see that lovely red Highlights banner, and speed inside to read it from cover to cover. Or maybe that's just my kids. And me. Not now (well, yes, now, but not ONLY now). I did it back when I was a kid, too. Highlights was my favorite magazine, and I never dreamed I would be published in it (well I did, but not way back then).

So that's my big news for the week. I'm still all smiley about it, and absolutely in love with the photos they chose, all taken by a friend of mine, Michael Cameron of the NOAA National Marine Mammals Laboratory Polar Ecosystems Program. The man's got some talent, no?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Overcoming the sloth

This sign pretty much says it all:

That's me--second from the right (on the sign!)

It describes my current ability to function to a T. It's 105 degrees F (40.5 C) outside, with a heat index somewhere above that, the kids are bored, stuck inside and ready for school to start, and I have articles to write. I couldn't even get this post up by my usual time.

What I really want to do today is this:

Isn't he adorable? This is the two-toed sloth
we found near our hotel.

But what I AM going to do today is hammer away at my growing list of WIPs, pitch an idea I've been working on to a lovely editor, and put a dent in my to-do list. Then I'm going to escape to the basement with the kids to hide out until the sun goes down.

What do you do in the dog-days of summer? (And why are they called that, anyway?)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Adventures in the Rich Coast

As promised, more about Costa Rica! You know how a perfectly delightful vacation gives you nothing to talk about? "Yeah, the weather was great, everything went as planned... uh, I got sand in my swimsuit." Not much there.

Well, most of our trip was perfectly delightful--we saw dozens of species of birds (including white-ruffed manakins displaying on their arena, a pair of mot-mots, and a toucan).

Either a Passerini's tanager or a Cherrie's
tanager (that's his bright red back;
he's looking away from the camera).

We had a two-toed sloth and a troop of capuchin monkeys hanging out right by our hotel.

Capuchin, right overhead. The whole troop
went within a few meters of us.

And we received some warning head-bobs from the resident ctenosaurs and basilisks. There were tons of animals, which was what we wanted to see. It was great!

Ctenosaur (not an iguana!).
These guys are big--up to a meter in length

We spent a day at the base of the Arenal Volcano, swam in the hot springs, and enjoyed our first tropical downpour. Then it was off to Monteverde via the van-boat-van.

Arenal as seen from our hotel. We were told
we'd feel rumbles from this active volcano,
but it was quiet while we were there.

The van-boat-van is touted as the quickest way from Arenal to Monteverde. By taking us across the lake, we could avoid the windy mountain roads and shave hours off our trip. Sounds great, doesn't it? The first van ride was a quick jaunt around the volcano to the lake shore. We lucked out with a rain-free trip across the lake.

The calm before the storm (-y drive).
Lovely, isn't it?

So far so good.

When we got to the other side, the driver told us he couldn't take us the normal route--the roads were too slippery. Too dangerous. So he'd have to take us the long way around.

Now, in my mind (and in my experience driving in the Rocky Mountains), the normal route involved a rutted, rocky, single-lane unpaved road. The rains made it wet and muddy, so we couldn't go that way. Surely that meant we would be taking paved, less-steep roads instead, right?

Not so much.

We spent nearly three hours jostling around the inside of the bus, racing down bumpy hills at breakneck speed only to skid to a halt as we careened around a bend into
a herd of cattle...
or an ox-cart...
or someone on a motorbike...
or a stray dog...
or a big patch of mud. 
At one point the wheels began spinning in the mud, and I had visions of us pushing the bus to get it unstuck. (Uphill, of course, and did I mention it was raining the entire time?) At the last second, the wheels found traction and we lurched ahead.

I grew up in the mountains, so I felt surprisingly at home during the whole excursion. Beloved Husband, on the other hands, had to periodically pry his hand from the seat in front of him, just to get some feeling back in his fingertips. But he was a champ.

We made it to Monteverde as the sun set and the rain cleared. I haven't seen that many stars in the night sky in a very, very long time.

It was worth every minute of the drive. (Beloved Husband might disagree.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pura Vida

First an update: the bats fully recovered and are once again free to hang from tree branches, pretend to be leaves, and generally try to avoid the resident blue jays.

Exciting news! My latest article is currently one of the features on Science News for Kids. Wonder what it might be like to walk down the street of a future city? Come take a peek.

I was also interviewed by Diane Kress Hower as part of her Passion for Picture Books series. Thanks, Diane!

Lots going on, though I haven't been here to post about it. I've spent the past two weeks travelling in Costa Rica with Beloved Husband. What an amazing country!

We even saw a tree bat swinging wildly from the branch of a tree (made me think of our bats). It's the perfect camouflage: just another fluttery leaf up among branches full of fluttery leaves. Except for the whole lack of breeze issue, which, uh, pretty much draws your attention to the fact that something is swinging wildly from the branch of the tree, and it's definitely not a leaf. As far as we know, it was not picked off by a roaming scissor-tailed kite, although we saw quite a few as we zip-lined through the cloud forest canopy.

I'll have stories and photos, but I'm still in recovery mode, so... not today. Instead, I just have a few quick pictures. Can you find the flycatcher, hummingbird, and woodpecker?

Wishing everyone a wonderful Fourth of July, and hoping everyone affected by the storms along the east coast is staying cool.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Holy bat-fight, Batman

When the 7YO was little, he constantly asked us things like "Who would win, a tiger or a great white shark?" "Who would win, an elephant or a grizzly bear?" He inevitably chose two animals that would never meet up in the wild, which left us pondering the fighting ability of the critters in question.

I never dreamed I would witness one of those crazy match-ups in real life (albeit on a smaller scale than the ones posed by my son).

A few days ago, the boys and I were sitting at the kitchen table, when flurry of commotion caught my eye. We always have birds in our yard--at least four species at any one time, with well over a dozen rotating through. Throw in a couple of squirrels and there's usually something going on outside our big kitchen window.

This time, it wasn't a grackle bullying a mourning dove, or a fledgling shivering its wings for food. A blue jay was rolling around on the ground, tussling with-- I had to look closely --a bat.

That's right, at 4:00 in the afternoon, the blue jay had found a bat, and was doing its best to pound it into submission. If you haven't witnessed a blue jay killing a small animal--usually a nestling--it's not a pretty sight. Lots of hard blows to the head, which a baby bird can't take.

The bat, on the other hand, was fighting back, whapping the jay with its wings (I was sure it would break one of its tiny bones), probably biting, and clearly wearing the jay out. It lay there, holding the bat close, one bat-wing wrapped around it in what closely resembled an embrace, panting. It would give the bat a hard peck, they'd tussle some more, and the jay would take a break. The bat wasn't going down easily.

The 7YO was completely distraught. He's always loved blue jays, but now he hates them. He wanted more than anything to go out and rescue the bat, but I wouldn't let him. When bats are out during the day, it's usually a sign that they're sick, and I wasn't letting my boys anywhere near it. That, and the bat fought less and less; I figured it was a goner.

The jay must have spotted us in the window, because it flew up into the tree. The bat just lay there, so I went out to check on it. This is what I found:

An eastern red bat. Her eyes are closed against the sun that's in her face, but her mouth is wide open and she's clicking at me. She kept her wings open (I thought they must have been injured and unable to close) and folded her tail membrane over ... two pups.

The eastern red bat has a whitish underbelly, so all that brown you see below her head is her two pups, cradled close beneath her wings. Two big pups. And if their mother died, so would they. I stationed the 7YO outside to keep the jay away, and called the local wildlife rehabilitator.

While we waited for further instruction, we learned a bit about eastern red bats. They're tree bats, which means that they roost in the branches of trees during the day, pretending to be a dead leaf. That's a good thing, because it means this bat and her babies were just roosting in our cottonwood, and had the misfortune of being discovered by the jay--the mother bat probably wasn't diseased, after all.

We got the call from the rehab lady (who is awesome), scooped the bat family into a towel-lined box (she told us exactly how to do it without touching them), and took them to her. We'll find out this week how they're doing, but after a quick initial inspection, she thought they looked pretty good.

So there you have it, a knock-down, drag-out jay vs. bat-fight. Don't mess with a mama bat.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mischief makers

First, I am super-excited because my first ever children's article is out! If you happen to pick up a copy of the June/July 2012 Boys' Quest magazine, check pages 30-31 for a fun puzzle about animal teeth. I am officially a published children's author! The next one is slated to come out in Highlights in September. Squeee! 

I'm overflowing with ideas for more pieces, but school's out for the summer, which makes it hard to do anything with those lovely, shiny thoughts. It doesn't help that Loki, god of mischief, settled into our home around the time that last school bell rang. The result? A week full of conversations like this:
*boys arguing*
Me: That's enough.
*each child gets in one last zinger, and then they start up again*
Me: I said stop arguing.
not-quite-7YO: We're not arguing.
Me: Yes, you are.
not-quite-7YO: No, really, we're not.
Me: Now you're arguing with me.
4YO: No he's not.
Me: *raises eyebrow*
4YO: He's just trying to say ...
Me: *raises the other eyebrow*
not-quite-7YO: Uh ... let's go play outside.
I am blessed with two children who believe they know everything and are convinced they have a god- (think Loki) -given right to the last word in every conversation. After a week of conversations like that one, I didn't have much energy left to put into the not-quite-7YO's birthday party.

I usually do a theme, and I really wanted to do something like this:

(click on the photos for image credit)

or this:
Yeah, I know. Who am I kidding?

Then it occurred to me that a cake like that would be like the not-quite-7YO giving me a light saber. Or the 4YO giving Beloved Husband a Lego set. Or just about any toy the boys have ever stopped to drool over going to either of us. (These are actual examples. Recent ones.)

And since we've been trying to kick them of that habit, I had to find something the not-quite-7YO would actually want. But it had to be easy.

And then it hit me:

Thank you, Captain America!

Add to that, the not-quite-7YO wanted to have a treasure hunt, so the kids spent a good chunk of the party scouring the neighborhood for clues left by Loki after he stole the cake. 

They got the cake back, but Loki got away, taking both of the now-7YO's front teeth with him. Not sure it qualifies as a victory, but we'll take what we can get.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Not quite according to plan

Ah, family camping trips. Fun and adventure. Or something like that.

This past weekend, we planned to take our boys camping for the first time. They were beyond excited. In fact, they were so excited that two weeks ago, Beloved Husband and the boys set up the tent in the back yard to let it air out (I was out of town at the time). Apparently, they forgot it was outside, and a thunderstorm hit around 5:30 in the morning. A few hours later, BH dumped several gallons of water out of the tent. I guess Mother Nature thought it needed a good wash. 


For two weeks after that storm, we had no rain. Not a drop. Even the clouds - when they bothered to appear - were half-hearted and wispy. Weather forecast for our camping weekend: sun, sun, sun.

Last Thursday: we get the last of the supplies. Weather forecast for the weekend: wind. Okay. We can handle that. It's always windy here (although to qualify as "windy" with the meteorologists here, it has to exceed about 30 mph). We'll just be sure we've got extra tent stakes. Besides, the tent can't blow away with all four of us in it, right?

Friday: we collect everything we need: tent, sleeping bags, thermarests, yadda yadda. The boys have never been quicker to help than when we asked them to get everything together in one place. Weather forecast: 30% chance of thunderstorms. Hmm. We can take our chances with that, since 30% chance of storms means 70% chance of no storms.

Saturday morning. We pack up the car. The boys are racing to put stuff in the trunk as fast as they can, and they're both itching to buckle up 30 minutes before it's time to go. Just to be on the safe side, we check the weather forecast: 70% chance of storms. Severe thunderstorms. BH and I dance around the issue of whether or not we're really going to pitch the tent and pretend we're going to camp, or whether we're going to crush two weeks of anticipation while the sun is still shining. We give the boys a heads-up that weather might end our trip early.

Saturday afternoon: Keep checking the clouds rolling in. No towering thunderheads, no sign of rain, just a lovely afternoon for fishing, grilling, and other fun stuff. Might be a good night for camping, after all.

Saturday evening: Burgers for dinner, and the first sign of some seriously dark clouds on the way. News from someone with a decent data connection that a severe storm's about an hour away. Twenty minutes later, huge drops begin to fall, each one wetting a quarter-sized spot on the ground (I'm only exaggerating a tiny bit). We scramble to collect our stuff and hike to the car.

The drops are so cold and so big they feel like hail (the 6YO is convinced they are, until we tell him they're far too wet and don't hurt nearly enough to be hail). By the time we reach the car, we're completely drenched. BH starts the car and we head home.

The world turns gray. Wind buffets the car, driving rain in a constant onslaught against the driver's side. Then the clatter-thunk of hail joins the thrum of rain. Hail stones slide down the windows until they're bounced off by splashes of rain. Ahead of us, the painted line on the road disappears. We see an oncoming car's headlights only when it's about 20 feet away. The slightly rutted road starts flooding.

I spot a stand of trees on the left side of the road and tell BH to pull over next to it. He does, and we wait out the worst part of the storm in the shelter of the trees. Once we can see the road again, we continue on. On the other side of the lake, the roads are dry -  the storm hadn't gone that far south.

So much for our sun, sun, sun.

I blame the tent.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Changing, growing

If you've spent any time reading this blog, you'll know I like to garden. I waited ten years to have a garden of my own (container gardening, while nice, only gets you so far). So one of the first things I did when we moved into our house last fall was to tear out the grass along our fence line and put in native grasses and perennials.

Okay, it wasn't just me. Beloved Husband and both kids helped. It was a ton of work, but well worth it, because we now have this:

The neighbors, who thought we were crazy when we started, have all commented on how much they love it. And I love that it will change as the season progresses. By mid-summer, it will have lots of yellow and orange flowers blooming, and by fall, the grasses will be tall and all shades of yellow, gold, and red, some with feathery pink seed heads.

Yesterday, I was pulling weeds (yes, I pull them by hand, more on that in a moment) to the susurrus of baby cardinals begging for food in our lilac. As long as I kept my head down, the parents were content to come and go. I also discovered a bumblebee nest behind that pinkish plant in the foreground (Penstemon, for anyone who's curious).

Weed-pulling: a back-breaking, mindless waste of time, right? Lots of people think so, but I enjoy it. (Now you know why our neighbors think we're nuts.) I like it for many reasons.
  • It's hard work, but at the end of the day, I can look at the planting bed and see the results. There's very little instant gratification in writing.
  • It's back-breaking, but in a different way from writing. it stretches muscles that sit for too long when I write, so in a way it's soothing. Besides, there's something satisfying about going to bed a bit sore from a hard day's work. And I sleep better.
  • It's mindless, which gives my brain a break from constant focus and thought. The inability to sustain focus on something for a prolonged period of time (or the increasing difficulty in doing so as time progresses) is called directional attention fatigue, and studies show that exposure to nature is the best way to allow the brain to recoup and revitalize (source).
  • It's inspirational. A good many of my magazine article and picture book ideas (the non-fiction ones) are based on things I have seen while gardening or spending time outside. Gardening is also the perfect opportunity to figure out what, exactly, that random thing that just happened in my novel really means, and how it will play out later in the story (or if I should get rid of it).
And then there are encounters like these. How can you not love seeing something like this?

eastern swallowtail butterfly
Do you garden? What do you like about it? And if not, why not?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Save a book (and your sanity)

Happy May Day, and congrats to everyone who completed the A to Z Challenge!

Have you seen this lovely image? I love it. Simply brilliant.

*Okay, I can't provide the source for that, because someone emailed it to me. I think it's going around Facebook, and if you happen to know who created it, please let me know, so I can give them credit for it.
On a separate (yet very much related) note, did you know this week is Screen-Free Week? Yesterday marked the first day of an entire week in which kids (in particular, but everyone, really) unplug. No TV, no video games, no DVDs/NetFlix/[insert entertainment media of choice here]. It's intended primarily for children, many of whom watch over 30 hours of TV a week (an average of 32 hours per week for preschool children, and it goes up from there--that's more than four hours a day for 3 and 4-year-olds!) source.

That's a whole lot of screen time, which has been shown to increase obesity and other health problems, not to mention stifle creativity (source). So this week is all about unplugging.

What to do instead?

Get outside! It's spring, go enjoy it. Not only will it allow your brain to process something ... you know ... real, it will also reduce stress, improve your attention span (really!), and help you find a solution to that problem you've been wrestling. Check out more on the benefits of nature in this post.

Go read a book! Recent studies have shown that fiction can have extensive benefits, in particular by stimulating empathy and thereby reducing social friction. If you haven't seen this article in the Boston Globe, go check it out--it's fascinating.

Do both at the same time! You can't lose, it's like earning bonus points for your life: improved social functioning, less stress, and improved cognitive functioning all wrapped into one delicious, engaging novel read in the out-of-doors.

So, in honor of all those fallen books, let's go screenless (not completely--I know we all have work to do). Maybe our collective outpouring of empathy can ease the social friction cause by *ahem* certain television shows.

What will you read this week?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Full MS critique auction--today only!

I completely forgot about blogging today. I have a shiny new idea, you see, and, well, it kind of swept me away.

BUT here I am because there's a terrific opportunity to bid on a FULL MS critique by none other than the fabulous Suzie Townsend of Nancy Coffey Lit as part of Crits for Water. The proceeds go to provide safe, clean water to people who just don't have it.

Clean water. It's one of those things we really take for granted. So many people aren't nearly as lucky.

So go! Bid! and good luck winning that critique!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Marketing Monday: Loree Griffin Burns

Welcome back, Loree Griffin Burns!

Last week, Loree shared what made her transition from science to writing for kids. Her non-fiction middle grade books: Tracking Trash, The Hive Detectives, and Citizen Scientists can be found in many (many!) schools and libraries. Today she's here to share more about how she made that happen (aside from the obvious: she wrote terrific, information-packed books that are filled with wonderful illustrations).

Your books are packed with timely information, making them perfect for the classroom. How have you reached out to teachers and librarians to get your books into schools?

I’m very lucky to work with publishers that are experts at this. Both Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Henry Holt Books for Young Readers have worked hard to get my books into the hands of reviewers who, in turn, let the world’s teachers and librarians and parents and book lovers know about my work.

Most of my own outreach is focused on personal interactions—school and library visits, conference and festival presentations, and the like. I have also tried to establish an online presence through which folks can connect with me. I have a website, a blog, a Facebook page; I catalog my personal library publicly on LibraryThing, and I share track the books that delight me on Goodreads; I’ve recently learned to tweet!

On a very practical level, I maintain a database of email contacts—friends, neighbors, colleagues, teachers, parents—anyone with whom I’ve connected personally over books or nature. I’ve found this a useful tool for letting people know about new books and bookish events.

What have Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Henry Holt BYR done to promote your books? Do you have a sense of how the process might differ from promoting fiction?

As I mentioned, one of the wonderful ways my publishers support me is by providing review copies of my books to a long list of kidlit reviewers at professional journals and online. They also submit my books to prize committees and support/advocate for my participation in conferences that are relevant to my work.

As a great example, I’m typing this from Indianapolis, where I’ve been attending the National Science Teachers Association annual conference. I spent the past three days talking with teachers who use my books in a classroom setting, hearing directly from them why trade books on science topics are vital to their teaching, and sharing ideas for how we (writers and teachers and publishers) can continue to inspire a new generation of science-savvy citizens.

How important are school visits to spreading the word about your books?

School visits are a great way for me to interact with my readers. Classroom visits are hugely gratifying for me, because this is one of the only times I am able to connect in person with the people I write for. I love to see student reactions to the stories I tell, and to get their (always honest!) feedback on what works for them … and what doesn’t. And if I do my job well, the word-of-mouth that follows is a great way for other teachers and librarians to hear about me and my work. All of my school visits (I do about 25 events a year) comes about by word of mouth.

In my experience, however, school visits don’t lead to more book sales. This is likely a reflection of the way I do visits: for the most part, I limit myself to local venues in my home state, and I don’t require schools to sell books as part of my event. Authors that do great visits, advertise widely, travel afar, and tie book sales/signings to their events are much more likely to impact their sales figures.

I would imagine school visits are content-based, rather than focusing on the writing process. How do you make them fun, rather than another science lecture?

My presentations are, indeed, content-based, and I think I’m pretty lucky to be always sharing stories that are naturally interesting to students. I use props and personal anecdotes, and students really respond to them. In post-visit surveys, teachers insist that the part of my presentations that are ‘most effective’ are the bits where I share my own personal story. Kids like to hear that I was once a kid, too, I guess. They love photos. When I was just starting out with school visits, I felt compelled to keep these bits of the program to a minimum, thinking that my “job” for the day was to excite kids about science through the content I’d been invited in to discuss. I’ve come to realize that exciting kids about science includes helping them to see that everyone—even a kid like me … even a kid like them—can grow up and become a scientist. Or a writer. Or both.

* * *

Nothing better than providing inspiration just by sharing your own story!

Thank you so much, Loree, for sharing your experience with us!

* * *

Loree writes books about science for children ... and she loves her job. From an oceanographer who tracks plastic ducks through the world ocean to an entomologist who studied mason bees in his backyard to an astronomer who spent her life puzzling over ground drawings in the desert of Peru, the scientists she meets every day — in person or through her research — are fascinating and passionate people. She loves to share their stories through her  books.

Monday, April 9, 2012

MMGM: Loree Griffin Burns

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brain child of middle grade (and young adult) author Shannon Messenger, who wanted to highlight the fabulous books out there for middle grade readers. 

I know most people who blog about MG books focus on novels, but there's some outstanding (fun, informative) non-fiction, too.

Please welcome Loree Griffin Burns, author of Tracking Trash, The Hive Detectives, and, most recently, Citizen Scientists. I first learned of Loree's books from Kathy Erskine at the Highlights Foundation's Children's Writers Workshop last summer, and I am SO glad Kathy pointed them out.

Goodreads blurb for Citizen Scientists:  
Anyone can get involved in gathering data for ongoing, actual scientific studies such as the Audubon Bird Count and FrogWatch USA. Just get out into a field, urban park, or your own backyard. You can put your nose to a monarch pupa or listen for raucous frog calls. You can tally woodpeckers or sweep the grass for ladybugs. This book, full of engaging photos and useful tips, will show you how.

As a former scientist and general lover of all things nature, this is my kind of book. Loree provides a seasonal progression of science-based activities for kids, each of which not only broadens a child's understanding of the natural world, but also contributes to scientific understanding of the world around us.

Loree has a remarkable ability to make science accessible. Her writing is engaging and her topics salient. And she even agreed to an interview! Please welcome Loree Griffin Burns.

Most Ph.D.s write for adults; what got you started writing for kids (and how difficult was it for you to make the switch, after writing for other academics)?

I’ve been a reader and a writer my whole life. For some reason, though, it never occurred to me to write about science. Instead, I wrote poems and short stories and even attempted longer works of fiction—from middle school right through to my graduate school days—always believing this hobby of mine was simply a nice outlet, a break from the intensity of a life focused on subjects like math and biochemistry. When my husband and I started our family, I decided to put my research career on hold while our three children were young. It was while I was home with them, reading lots of children’s literature and thinking hard about the things I most wanted to share with my own kids, that it finally hit me: perhaps I should write about the topics I was most passionate about. And so I began to write true stories of science and nature.

I should add that I honestly don’t think of my work as being just for children. I write for curious people of any age who are interested in the same things I am interested in: our world, the creatures that live in it, the people who explore it, and the ways they explore it. Of course, most of my readers ARE children, and I do consider that when I am choosing topics, structuring stories, and thinking about things like context and voice and word choice. My first drafts are always riddled with technical language that I slowly, through several rounds of revision and with the help of patient editors, smooth out. I do blame this tendency toward techno-speak on my science training!

What gave you the idea for your first book, Tracking Trash?

In the spring of 2003, I read a newspaper article about a decade-old cargo spill that had dumped nearly 30K plastic tub toys into the Pacific Ocean. The article predicted some of those toys would wash ashore in New England, where I live, over the following summer. This story captivated me. Who knew plastic ducks would float in the ocean that long? I wondered what route they followed from the Pacific to the Atlantic—across Arctic Ocean? around South America and through the Southern Ocean? short-cut through the Panama Canal? It was also clear from the predictions that someone, somewhere, was following these ducks. Who was that person? How was s/he following them? And, for the love of Pete, why was s/he following them? I began to look for more information on the story, and as I uncovered it, became convinced it would make a great hook for a book about the ocean, how it moves, and what it moves. Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (Houghton, 2007) was published four years later.

After writing about the plight of the honey bees, what state do you think our apiaries are in? Are we headed for bee-mageddon (and the resulting loss of human food), or can science help turn things around? (Or can native species pick up the slack)?

I’m truly not qualified to answer this question; it would be better posed to one of the hive detectives. But from what I’ve read and heard from my beekeeping friends, our apiaries are in terrible shape, at least compared to the apiaries of the 1980s, a time before Varroa mites and the bee diseases they help to spread, before systemic pesticides and the enormous expansion of our agricultural system. It’s clear that each of these changes is impacting the overall state of apiculture. Just this week, the results of two new studies were published that seem to indicate, once again, that systemic pesticides are harmful to bees. We’ve got a lot to figure out.

As for a bee-mageddon, though, I don’t think that is where we are headed. I am an eternal optimist. Part of the message I hoped to share in The Hive Detectives is that we humans are very good at detecting problems, analyzing them, and figuring out ways to circumvent and overcome them. Some truly fine scientists are working to understand Colony Collapse Disorder, and they are learning things that will help us figure out how to help the honey bee survive.

Your newest book, Citizen Scientists, is an account of the many opportunities for kids to get involved with citizen science projects. Why do you think this is important?

Firstly, I think citizen science is an incredible tool for empowering people of all ages in these days of environmental uncertainty. Bad environmental news can be overwhelming sometimes—trash in our oceans, decline in honey bee populations, changing climate, disappearing species, oil spills, natural disasters. It’s a lot to take in, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed. I find that having something to do—something concrete that I can do with my own two hands and that will make a difference—is comforting. Citizen science can be that something.

Even more than that, though, I like the way practicing citizen science—carefully observing the world around me, recording what I see, and sharing that record with professional scientists who are interested in the information—slows me down, reconnects me to the natural world I live in, better acquaints me with my one small patch of the Earth, reminds me of just how incredibly beautiful our world is.

I hear criticism sometimes that the data collected by citizen scientists—children or youth or adults who are not trained as scientists—is not as dependable as data collected by professionals. These critics worry about protocols being followed properly, data being misunderstood or misreported. They also point out that data collection is not, in itself, science. While these are valid concerns for those who use the data collected by citizen scientists, for me—and for parents and educators and naturalists everywhere—citizen science is about tuning people in to the living, breathing natural world. It’s a learning tool. It connects people with their environment. It invites them to participate in human discovery. For me, these are the deeper value of citizen science; the data is a bonus.

What project are you working on right now?

I'm working on two books at the moment: my first picture book and a new Scientists in the Field book. Both will be illustrated by Ellen Harasimowicz ( The picture book is a butterfly life cycle book with a twist: did you know that most of the butterflies flitting about the live butterfly exhibit at your favorite museum or butterfly house very likely spent their caterpillar days in Central America? Our new SITF book is called Beetle Busters, and its about a tree-munching invasive beetle that has invaded North America and, of course, the men and women who are studying it.

* * *

Thank you Loree! I can't wait to see what your next books bring.

Join us next week for Marketing Monday to learn how Loree and her publishers get her books into the hands of middle graders, teacher, librarians, and parents.

And check here for more terrific MMGM reviews.

* * *

Loree writes books about science for children ... and she loves her job. From an oceanographer who tracks plastic ducks through the world ocean to an entomologist who studied mason bees in his backyard to an astronomer who spent her life puzzling over ground drawings in the desert of Peru, the scientists she meets every day — in person or through her research — are fascinating and passionate people. She loves to share their stories through her  books.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

No comprende

I started a Spanish class this week. My 4-year-old son is learning Spanish, and I thought it might be useful to have some idea what he's saying. And it will come in handy when we go to Costa Rica this summer.

There's also the fact that French and German (my other foreign languages) just aren't commonly encountered here in the U.S., but Spanish is everywhere. I think it's important to have at least a grasp of basic words and phrases, and some understanding of other cultures. Yes, the official language here is English, but Spanish--and Spanish-speaking immigrants--are here to stay. It will make life easier for everyone if we all make at least a small effort to understand each other.

It's also humbling to put yourself in the shoes of a person who doesn't speak the local language well. It reminds you that just because they don't speak well doesn't mean they're stupid (which I think a lot of people tend to believe). Far from it. It simply means they don't speak it well, or aren't comfortable doing so.

How do I know? I spent five years as the person who didn't speak the native language. I am an articulate person (when I've had my morning coffee), a well-educated person (I didn't spend six years in graduate school for nothin'). But for the first several years we lived in Germany, I dreaded having to talk to anyone in--gasp--German.

Why? Because every time I had to talk to someone about something, one of several things would happen. Early on, my brain would go into its default foreign language mode (French), and I would say some bizarre combination of French and German (once with a little Italian thrown in--don't ask me where that came from). The person to whom I was speaking would look at me like I was an idiot, then automatically switch to English.

As I learned more German, I would carefully figure out how to properly say something, so I knew the other person would understand. I knew I'd come a long way when he/she would respond in German. But then I was stuck, either unable to understand what they had said or unable to figure out how to respond. After a few moments of struggling, the other person would switch to English.

After several years, my level of comprehension improved greatly, but there still wasn't that natural response just forming in my mind. I still wasn't thinking in German, which meant that I had to translate what they had said into English, then translate my English response into German. This process takes time--a few minutes if you want to get all your verbs and modifiers in the right places--and by then I was usually getting one of those looks that made it clear the person thought I was an idiot. And then they would switch to English. Or, if the person didn't speak English, they would wave me off.

It is incredibly humbling to be treated like an idiot when, in fact, you know you are not (usually).

We take communication for granted, particularly here in the United States, where we expect everyone to speak English. Very few people here make the effort to learn another language, unless it is required for school. And I am the first to admit, it is extremely difficult to learn another language when you have no chance to practice using it. The U.S. is a huge country. When you drive from one state to the next, the language stays the same. It's not like Europe, where you go from one country another and change languages. To be like that here, almost every state would need to speak a different language. We just don't have that incentive to learn.

Unfortunately, our lack of willingness to learn another language is viewed negatively by other nations. They resent that we come to their countries and expect them to speak our language. Rightfully so. We expect people coming here to speak English, so we should do them the same courtesy of making an attempt to speak their language. And really, the effort goes a long way.

So now I'm speaking some bizarre combination of German, French, and Spanish (Gernchish? Fremanish? Spamanch?). People will look at me like I'm an idiot when we go to Costa Rica, I'm sure. But I'll get a few words and phrases right, I'll make the effort. And that goes a very long way.

Adiós mes amies. Ich wünchen Ihnen un buenos dias.

What experiences have you had with foreign languages (whether you speak or others were speaking to you)?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Dream vs. reality

Last week, I painted the library in our house. The realtor who showed us the house called it a formal dining room, but what can I say? We like books better than dining sets that get used about twice a year.

Okay, this isn't our library, but I wish it were!

It was supposed to be easy--good quality paint, a single coat, and voila: the library of our dreams. Er, well, not exactly. You see, over the past several days, I've discovered that painting is a lot like writing.
  • The hardest part is to get that first draft coat.
  • Sometimes, when you take a step back, you'll realize that what you thought would be an incredible, amazing story color turns out to be god-awful, and you'll start from scratch with something new.
  • When you think you're done and take a step back to admire your work, you'll find it's full of holes. Some places just need a little touch-up, while others are big enough to drive a truck through. Time to revise apply a second coat.
  • The hardest part is getting the details just right.
  • Sometimes, that brilliant idea that will finish it all off turns out to make the whole thing wrong. So you revert to a previous version of the document paint over it. Unless you run out of paint. (What? It could happen. I'm just saying ...)
  • When the above happens, you can't just throw an alligator through the transom* stick a plant in front of the spot to fix it.
  • All the advice in the world doesn't teach you the craft as well as just doing it. (And redoing it.) 
* chapter 23 of Jack M. Bickman's The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

What has life taught you about writing? And what would your personal dream library look like, if you could build it?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy, thank you

The other day I had this wonderful, overwhelming sense that all was right with the world. It isn't, of course (I've actually got some rather frustrating things happening in my life right now), so it was particularly delightful to feel so very content with my life.

It made me think of the movie HappyThankYouMorePlease. I love the concept: acknowledge when you are happy, say thanks, and respectfully ask for more of the same. (Exactly who or what you thank depends on your belief system).

I think it's important to pause and be grateful for the good things in life when you've got them. When things go well, it's far too easy to take them for granted. And when they go wrong, it can be hard not to dwell on them. But in my experience, when I stop to acknowledge the good things--to be grateful for them--I tend to get more of the same.

So here are the things for which I am incredibly grateful, in no particular order:
  • Spring is here and the sun is out.
  • The plants I put in last fall survived the very dry winter. Some are already blooming.
  • Trees are flowering everywhere, and the air is perfumed with their scent. It reminds me of springtime in Berlin, which I sorely miss.
  • I am currently working on an article for a science magazine for kids (can't tell you which one, just yet)--it's a fantastic opportunity and lots of fun.
  • An editor asked me to revise and resubmit one of my non-fiction PB manuscripts and gave me an estimated time frame to hear back from him on the revision.
  • I have an amazing group of critique partners and beta readers who have helped me make my work shine; without them the previous item would not have happened. 
  • My mom came to visit and helped me paint the library (a realtor would probably call it the formal dining room, but we keep books there instead of a table).
  • Koda has figured out he's not alpha (he tried for a while, but he's finally realized he's on the bottom rung). Now that he knows his place, he's the sweetest dog we could have hoped for.
  • And of course, my wonderful family, who put up with more than their fair share of craziness with me.

These are growing in my yard--love 'em! (source)

What are you grateful for?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Not a drop to drink

Thanks for the great comments on Monday's post! I think sometimes people see those of us who advocate for nature as thinking we need to do away with all things tech. Although there may be people like that out there, I'm not one of them. Technology has lots of great things to offer, and it's not going away (nor should it).

I'm simply advocating for incorporating some "nature time" into daily life--half an hour or so to recuperate from a crazy day and find some sense of balance.

And in other news ...

Did you know today is World Water Day?


Water day? Why do we need a water day? Personally, I think it's so I can share some mind-blowing facts with you (all but the last are from
  • it takes 109 liters of water to make one glass of wine
  • 15,400 liters of water are needed to produce one kg (just under half a pound) of beef
  • chicken is better at 4300 liters for one kg of meat
  • the average water footprint for one kg of bread is 1608 liters
  • it takes 5060 liters of water to make one kg of cheese
  • a 100-gram chocolate bar requires 1700 liters of water to make
  • 560 liters of water go into growing 1 kg of oranges
  • 1 kg dry pasta takes nearly 1850 liters of water to make
  • one pair of Levi's jeans uses over 3,000 liters of water over its lifetime (from growing the cotton to laundering) (source)
And that doesn't take into account the cooking process, washing up after preparing food, or any other direct use of water involved in food prep. Hmm, makes drought look downright scary, doesn't it? (That's why I write novels about it, mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!)

I'm actually writing (on the non-fiction side) a profile about the founder of the Water Footprint Network, so World Water Day was timely. There are some amazing graphics (and more mind-blowing facts) on the WFN website--go check them out!

If you had to guess, what part of your day uses the most water?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where the wild things aren't

Where are the wild things? Not in children's books (or, to be accurate, less so with every decade that passes). So says a team of researchers who studied Caldecott winners and honor books from the past 70 years. The recent study determined that scenes depicting nature have declined steadily over time.

That's not really all that surprising, is it? It mirrors what's happening in our lives. Most children spend the vast majority of their time indoors or in built environments (e.g., cities), so why would we expect characters in books to do otherwise?

And does it really matter, anyway? As one discussant in a recent LinkedIn discussion asked, should we be disturbed by this trend?


I'll let you come to your own conclusions on this, but first, a few items of interest.
  • Children who live near natural settings experience less stress. (source)
  • Kids who move to greener locations demonstrate improved cognitive abilities. (source)
  • Kids with ADHD have milder symptoms when they have regular "green time"--time spent in nature. (source)
  • Symptoms of ADHD decrease immediately following a 20-minute walk through a park. (source)
  • Inner-city girls with a view of nature (e.g., trees outside their windows) have greater self-discipline and are better able to concentrate. (source)
  • Areas with trees provide better opportunities for play, and play is an important part of childhood development. (source)
  • Young children who spend time in "outdoor classrooms" have longer attention spans and better motor coordination than children who spend only short periods of time outdoors. (source

What if you're all grown up, or don't suffer from ADHD? Not to worry, nature affects adults, too.
  • People living in green areas are less likely to procrastinate, find their problems less overwhelming, and are better able to overcome them. (source)
  • People living in housing near green areas (trees and grass) are less likely to be involved in domestic violence. (source)
  • People living in areas with more natural settings are healthier. (source)
  • Patients with a view of natural scenery recover faster from surgery and request less pain medication. (source)
  • College students with natural views outside their dorm windows are better able to concentrate. (source)
So what do you think? Do you think there's reason for concern?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Library Fun

I love when I get to experience something unexpected. Most days go by, relatively the same, but every now and then something comes along to shake things up. Like this.

Look who came to our local library:

There's a great horned owl in the children's fiction section. How awesome is that?

The raptor rehabilitators brought others, too, including this screech owl, a European barn owl, and a peregrine falcon. Gorgeous birds that have all been injured in some way (most were hit by a car while hunting). They were rescued but unable to be re-released into the wild.

It was an incredible afternoon with rarely-seen hunters. I'd do it again in a heart-beat.

When was the last time you got close to an animal that wasn't a pet?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Marketing Monday: Angela Cerrito and Holiday House marketing

As promised, today I have young adult author Angela Cerrito and Terry Borzumato-Greenberg, VP of Marketing at Holiday House for an extra-special edition of Marketing Monday.

Critics have had wonderful things to say about Angela's debut novel, THE END OF THE LINE:

"A thought-provoking look at culpability and grief," Kirkus Reviews

"Robbie's story has the potential to make young people think, care, and possibly change." VOYA

So let's find out how Angela and the Holiday House marketing team made it such a success! (Note: the first response is from Terry, the rest from Angela.)

Terry, THE END OF THE LINE is for ages 12+, which means that some of the target audience is young adults, and the rest is gatekeepers: parents, teachers, librarians. How do you market a book like this to effectively reach all of those potential readers/buyers? Do you put an emphasis on trying to reach a particular group?

Holiday House has always marketed to the gatekeepers, especially librarians and teachers. There are the tried and true ways which really are essential to establishing a book, such as sending advance copies to the key reviewers, to library systems and educators nationwide, and to the appropriate awards committees. Now with the internet, and social networking, there are so many additional opportunities!

We were so excited when Angela Cerrito’s debut novel was signed up for the Holiday House list. And one of the nice things that worked in the book’s favor was that seven of the eight novels published on the same list were all first novels! So with that, we created a fabulous marketing campaign: “7 Novels, 7 New Voices, 7 Incredible Stories.” We created reader’s guides and bookmarks, and we began promoting the list months in advance of publication at conventions as well as online. Librarians, educators, and booksellers all love to be in at the ground level to introduce new authors to young readers, so we gave them the tools to do that. Two professors were so impressed with Holiday House’s commitment, and to the books, that they put together a program at a national teacher convention to showcase the talent. It was a rousing success!

Getting the book into the hands of the right people goes a long way. And then the book needs to do the rest of the work, which of course THE END OF THE LINE did. We’re lucky to have Angela and her novel on the Holiday House list. They both have made an impact with readers. And we thank those all-important gatekeepers. . . .

Angela, how did you and Holiday House go about creating a marketing plan for TEOTL? To what extent was it a joint venture (hammering out what you could do versus what would best be handled by the Holiday House team)?

Holiday House did wonders with marketing THE END OF THE LINE from the start. The novel tackles serious subjects but the main character is fairly young. My editor, Julie Amper, guided the revision process with the end reader in mind. Holiday House’s marketing department created the marketing plan as Terry Borzumato-Greenberg mentioned above. When I learned of opportunities to promote the novel (a book launch in my home town, Skype visits with classrooms, speaking at a teachers’ workshop and displaying the novel at the SCBWI LA conference) I simply sent an email to the Holiday House to work out the details.

Basically, Holiday House is there for me when I have a question. Okay, Alison I’ll admit this embarrassing tidbit. I was concerned about the use of the word “gatekeepers” in question 1. I work in healthcare and in this industry a “gatekeeper” is someone who denies access to health care or specialized care. I was a bit concerned about the term being applied to parents, teachers and librarians who I really see as “gate openers” for literature. Haylee Gonnason, publicist at Holiday House, responded to assure me that the term was common in publishing and not negative. I think that publicists have at least two jobs in one. They have to work with professionals in the industry and the media to promote books and they must also educate authors who may be very new to publishing.

(I had no idea the term had such a drastically different meaning in healthcare. In fact, I love your term: gate openers. How can we change it?!)

As far as things I did on my own:

Teachers Guide: Natalie Lorenz created a teacher’s guide for TEOTL. I think this was the best thing I did to promote the novel. It leads itself well to classroom and teachers can use all or select parts of the guide. I love how Natalie created lessons for students with a variety of different learning styles. In January, the guide was downloaded from my website about once per day. This month so far it has been downloaded about 15 times per week.

Website: I created an interactive website for the book. The main character in THE END OF THE LINE is required to make lists. The first list is about who he is. Readers can send me lists about who they are and I will post them on the website.

Book Trailer: My daughter and her friends made book trailers (in a few different languages) for the book.

Blog Interviews: It has been so much fun to be interviewed by bloggers. I keep a list with links to all of the interviews on my website. I was honored to be interviewed by Cynthia Leitich Smith on Cynsations, Cynthia had read an excerpt of an earlier version of the novel many years before it was published.

Angela, how did you use social networking to spread the word about your novel? Do you have a sense of how well it helped you reach your target audience?

I’m not alone in thinking social networking is difficult to measure. I first and foremost use social networking to connect with my family and friends. Most of my FB status updates and comments have to do with real events in my life (the things my children say or what our family is up to next). I don’t shy away from new social networking opportunities (like tumblr / pinterest) but I don’t spend a great deal of time on them either.

I’m not sure if any of my social networking efforts (or even my website) helped “spread the word” about THE END OF THE LINE. But they are all landing places for people to find me after they have read the novel. After a school visit or presentation, I often receive website lists and friend requests from people who were at the event. That is the best indication I have that social networking is working for me.

Note: I love getting handwritten letters too! My habit is to respond to emails with an email and to snail mail with a handwritten letter or card.

I love that you send handwritten notes in return! Such a great way to establish a connection with your readers. TEOTL is listed as one of YALSA's 2012 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers and was selected for VOYA’s Top of the Top Shelf and Top Picks for Middle Grade Readers lists. Did marketing efforts lead to either of those honors, and if so, how?

I am thrilled and so grateful that TEOTL was selected to each of those lists. I have to credit the Holiday House marketing department for getting the book noticed.

TEOTL is a recent addition to the Great Scavenger Hunt Contest. Did marketing efforts lead to this?

I heard about the Great Scavenger Hunt from a reader a couple of years ago. But I wouldn’t have known how to participate as a novelist if it weren’t for The Elevensies, a group of debut authors whose first novels were published in 2011. I’m fortunate that my first novel came out at the right time for me to be part of this wonderful group of talented and generous writers.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed on your site!!

* * *

Thank you, Terry and Angela, for taking the time to share your experience with us. It's a wonderful book and you've marketed it well!

Angela grew up in Dearborn Michigan. She liked school but she loved summer visits to her grandparents’ cabin on Pontiac Lake where they lived “like the olden days.” She spent her summers trying to protect her strawberry patch from muskrats (and trying to protect the muskrats from her grandfather), swimming with her sister, reading and eating mulberries right off the tree. After high school she moved to Forest Grove, Oregon where she tried to balance many part-time jobs with full-time school, found the love of her life and got married over a weekend in graduate school. She went on to become a physical therapist and has worked in Oregon, Wisconsin, Georgia, Italy and Germany. She started writing when she had the good fortune to be unemployed while living in Italy.  After writing a few novels, joining several critique groups, attending many SCBWI conferences and what seemed like thousands of revisions, her first novel was acquired by Holiday House and released in 2011. She is represented by William Reiss of John Hawkins and Associates. 

If you are a published author and you would like to share your experiences with marketing and promoting your book(s), I'd love to share your story! Please contact me at anpstevens [at] gmail [dot] com.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Technical difficulties

I've been out of the loop, I know. For far too long. *ducks head in shame* I have a slew of posts in my head, but haven't had any time to get them here. But I will!

I will even figure out how to get the fabulous photos off my phone and post them (I really want to post these pics; I think that may be what's holding me back more than anything else). I keep emailing them to myself, but they never appear in my inbox. But I will conquer the Android. Oh yes, I will.

So what have I been doing? In the past week, I've become a new writer for a kids' science magazine (commissioned!), as well as a fact-checker and copy-editor for a small publisher. I'm actually earning a bit of money at this writing thing, now. I've also been working on revisions for a picture book (at the request of an editor!), and querying my MG. It's been busy, to say the least. But I'm feeling hopeful, and it's not just because spring is right around the corner.

I will be back on Monday with another fabulous Marketing Monday post, this time a joint interview with Angela Cerrito (author of The End Of The Line) and Terry Borzumato-Greenberg, VP of Marketing at Holiday House--how great is that?

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend! See you on Monday.