by Kelly Carey
Authors revere bookstores.
We peer giddily into bookstore windows, open the doors with happy wonder, and can often be found running our hands down the bounty of spines offered on the shelves. It is a mystical space where our stories find their readers, where many of us launch our books, where we first share our stories aloud to book-lovers, and where we get to meet fans face-to-face.
Independent Bookstore Day is the perfect time to show our appreciation for the indie bookstores that we love.
Founded five years ago, Independent Bookstore Day is a national one-day party hosted this year on Saturday, April 27 and celebrated in 580 independent bookstores across the nation. Each store has a unique party and special events planned with its own twist on the day. Many stores will offer readings, special signed copies of books, live music, kid’s events, barbecues, contests, and exclusive books and literary swag offered only on Independent Bookstore Day. Boston, along with other cities, has a special trolley that will ferry revelers to multiple bookstores. Chicago and the Twin Cities have passports encouraging booklovers to visit several bookstores on the special day. And San Diego’s party has morphed into a bookstore crawl and features a live llama!
Samantha Schoech, Program Director of Independent Bookstore day welcomes authors to the event and says, “Author support is a huge part of Bookstore Day. Authors can offer to do something fun for their local indie on that day — write in the window? Create reading lists? Do a story hour for kids?” She encourages authors to “contact your local indie and offer to be part of the day. This is, after all, a celebration of the entire literary ecosystem."
We are thrilled to be a part of this literary ecosystem and to celebrate the magical place where the story dreamed in our author’s mind is physically placed in a reader’s hand. Thank you indie bookstores! We are happy to RSVP ‘Yes’ to your celebration.
Please use this link to find out what your independent bookstore has planned for the day.
Celebrating National Poetry Month
by Francine Puckly
National Poetry Month is in full swing! Poetry month reminds me that way back in the day, oh, somewhere between grade school and junior high school, I loved poetry. I had this funky journal with blue skies and clouds with Feelings in rainbow lettering across the front. The very nature of the journal invited soppy writing and poetry. And I delivered—sing-songy rhyme and free verse that attempted to romanticize my awkward experiences and emotions. I loved it! It didn’t matter that what I wrote wasn’t “good.” I embraced the process of writing and how completely liberated I felt after putting those feelings down on paper. But somewhere between puberty, the over-dissecting of literary poetry in high school, and the real (or imagined) fear that someone would find and read my words, I lost my love for poetry. So this April I have gone searching for ways to bring poetry back into my life.
Three books on poetry made their way across my desk recently.
The first book is H is for Haiku (Penny Candy Books, 2018) by Sydell Rosenberg, illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi. This whimsical book, with its less formal typography, has great appeal for young poets and writers and would be a great teacher's resource for grades 5-8. The author Sydell Rosenberg and her daughter Amy Losak do a good job defining what Haiku are traditionally, as well as explaining the focus for this book. While Haiku are traditionally nature inspired, H is for Haiku is inspired by nature in New York City! Finding the beauty in everyday life in the city is a new and different angle. I was even inspired to write my very first ever Haiku.
The second book is Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets (Candlewick, 2017) by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by the fabulous Ekua Holmes (who--attention New Englanders!--will be keynoting at the 2019 New England SCBWI Conference this May). This book is a fun romp through some of the world's most well-known poets, their styles, and new poems written in "the style of" these influential poets. This book would also be a great teacher's resource for grades 5-8.
The third book, An Assortment of Animals: A Children’s Poetry Anthology (The Writers’ Loft Press, 2018) is an inspirational collection of writing in a myriad of styles and poetry forms—all in one book! Seeing how my friends and writing colleagues at The Writers’ Loft flexed their poetry writing muscles—especially Dog Gone by Pam Vaughan—had me doodling around with other whimsical ideas. This collection could be used as a wonderful mentor text to help writers rediscover the joy of poetry.
As I’ve gone back to what I loved about poetry, I realized that poetry doesn’t have to be heavy and deep. It is joyful to read (and write!) silly, playful poems. So this month, remember that while poetry can be deep and thought-provoking, it can also be a lot of fun. Take your inner poet out to play this week.
Happy National Poetry Month!
Musings of a Library-Lifer
~by Amanda Smith
When I was a little girl, my father would take my brother and me to the Pretoria Public Library every other week, where we could each check out two books. I would tightly hug my books against my chest as we crossed the busy street, skipped up the wide steps, and entered the grand red granite building through enormous oiled teak doors.
The Children’s Library was on the second story, accessed by an enchanted staircase that magically transported itself from the greatest castle of a fantasy novel. My dad would let us ascend to the Realms of Upstairs by ourselves as he continued on the adult shelves. Inside the children’s library, I was greeted by the kind librarian who always remembered my name. She received my books like the great treasure they were, and paid me with the keys to the universe, my two sunshine-yellow library pockets. My tickets to Narnia.
There, between the dark wood shelves, lined with rows upon rows of books, hugged by silence, breathing in the wholesome, dusty smell of historical building, knowledge, and art, I lost myself. And found myself.
And a place to belong.
Many, many years later, when my husband and I immigrated to the US, one of the first things we did, was to join our local library. It was there that we learned to navigate this new culture, were educated about US holidays and celebrations by exhibits librarians thoughtfully pulled together, and ran into acquaintances who became friends.
We found a place to belong.
When my children were toddlers, we were regulars at library story times and craft mornings. When they became independent readers, we signed up for summer reading programs and activities such as visiting magicians, hand-drum sessions and worm races. Parents huddled in the back in quiet conversation, watching kids play, and maybe made arrangements to meet at a playground later in the week, finding community.
And a place to belong.
Last summer, as part of a road trip, our family visited friends in Pittsburgh. Proud to show off their city, they took us to the Carnegie Museum and amazing Carnegie library (true kindred spirits). Their kids dragged our kids to the youth room as we explored the fabulous architecture of the library. When we returned to the youth room, we found our children playing board games with other kids who happened to be there. Some kids were knitting, others had fabric scraps laid out over the table, making elaborate fabric art plans, others were playing computer games. As I looked at these city kids (and my country bumpkins dragged into the mix) contently engaged and interacting, I saw kids who found a safe place.
The place they belong.
Recently I have watched our small-town library undergo a transformation. When we pop in after school, we have walked in on Taco parties and art classes. A youth director has been hired to provide after-school activities to students who stay at the library every afternoon. She offers homework help and recommends books. I have heard her give pep talks and friendship advice. Today’s library is a far cry from the quiet place that provided sanctuary to me. When I watch my youngest lug a stack of graphic novels taller than himself to the check-out counter, I marvel at all the ways libraries have changed.
Upon entering our library, we walk past the expected: books, DVDs, music. We greet the patrons: the elderly, the scholars, the unemployed doing a job-search on the computers provided. We scan the flyers advertising activities hosted by the library: Yoga classes, book clubs, sewing and art classes, local authors’ support groups. We browse the ever-growing audiobook section. We lose a child in the expansive graphic novel section. And then we pause at something new: A Library of Things: board games, toys, puzzles, Lego!
What other international institution has adapted to a continuously changing world as successfully as libraries have? Libraries have their finger on the pulse of their communities, and constantly adapt and grow to meet their communities' needs. Yet libraries continue to do what they have always done.
Provide a place to belong.
April 7- 13 is National Library week. If you haven’t visited your library since your childhood, I would like to urge you to look in and discover all it has to offer. If you are a lifer, like me, this is the perfect week to thank your librarians.
Interview by Annie Cronin Romano
Welcome Ann! We are happy to have you join us to be interviewed by 24 Carrot Writing! How did you come to be a children’s book author?
I have always loved to read and write. My father took me to the library every week as a child. He let each of his eight children check out three books a week. Imagine keeping track of that? I was late to learn to read--maybe the end of first grade. He read Madeline to me and I knew how important that book was. After all, my siblings and I walked in lines, just like Madeline.
When you write, do you plot out your stories or are you more of a pantser?
I suppose I’d describe myself as more of a pantser. I write one sentence telling what my book will be about. Then I dive into the research and build a word/phrase bank. I have had early drafts for picture book that run over 20,000 words. I peel away bit after bit until my story reveals itself to me. Not the most efficient practice, but it works for me.
You have two recent releases: PENCIL: A STORY WITH A POINT (Pajama Press, 2/15/19) and WHY SHOULD I WALK? I CAN FLY! (Dawn Publications, 3/1/19). What was your inspiration for these stories?
I was cleaning my kitchen junk drawer. I have several more throughout the house. Maybe more than “several”. As I came across each item, I began to wonder if it might have a personality. Like rubber teeth, for instance. What might they say? To whom?
For Why Should I Walk? I Can Fly, I had been sitting on my back porch with my husband. Each of us sipping cold coffee. We noticed a baby robin in a tree, on a limb, contemplating that first leap from the nest. Mother and father bird were nearby.
Two of your nonfiction picture books involve jazz music: THE LITTLE PIANO GIRL: THE STORY OF MARY LOU WILLIAMS, JAZZ LEGEND and J IS FOR JAZZ (such a fun read)! Can you share what sparked these stories? Are you a musician yourself?
I can play the sticks if pressed into it. I do love music and still love to dance even though I’m a bit arthritic these days. I got the idea for both books on a day I subbed for my music teacher friend who had an ongoing unit on jazz. I wondered if a jazz alphabet book had ever been written. As I pondered who or what to use for the letter W, my jazz historian friend reminded me of Mary Lou Williams, the First Lady of Jazz. As I began to read about her, I was totally hooked. My sister, Maryann Macdonald, paired with me in the writing of that book. It sold first and about 3 years later, J is for Jazz sold.
FAIRY FLOSS: THE SWEET STORY OF COTTON CANDY is another of your nonfiction picture books. What lead you to write this delicious story?
Sonal Fry at Little Bee asked me to write this book. She gave me lots of freedom in deciding what to write. When I learned that the Electric Candy Making Machine was first introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, I was hooked. I did quite a bit of the research at the UMKC Dental School Library since one of the inventors was a dentist. He also wrote books for children. How cool is that?
You have written several early reader books, including the forthcoming TIP AND TUCKER: ROAD TRIP (Sleeping Bear Press, 3/15/19), co-written with Sue Lowell Gallion. What was the process of co-writing like?
Co-authoring with Sue is a dream come true! We really think alike and arrive at an ending in the same way. We are willing to defer to one another as we trust where the story will go. I’ve had equally good experience with my sister, Maryann, and with Barbara Stuber. She and I co-authored a book that is still slowly making the rounds.
What do you love most about being an author?
When I see a child smile, laugh, wonder, and learn from one of my books, I think I have done my job. That really is what keeps me writing. I plan to do this until my last breath.
What is the most challenging part of being an author?
For me that would be keeping all my files in order. I have many, many versions of each manuscript before it becomes a book. I study and compare them and see if there is any bit of magic in one before I discard it.
What is your editing process like? Do you belong to a critique group?
I do belong to a critique group. Jody Jensen Shaffer and Sue Lowell Gallion and I try to meet up every couple of weeks or so. We read exemplars (recently published) and then share our own work. We may read each piece 2 or 3 times slowly and carefully. Then we play with possibilities and word choices, story arc, tension, etc. It is the most satisfying experience. We also talk about the publishing world, share our disappointments and successes. All very, very good.
You have published over 25 books. Are there any particular favorites which hold a special place in your heart?
I'm really proud of J IS FOR JAZZ. It was vetted by three important jazz historians and is accurate. I really loved studying jazz history and making it come alive with a bit of jazz slang. I hope my readers feel the same way.
As you have many book launches under your belt, do you have any words of wisdom for debut authors regarding marketing/publicizing their new book babies?
I’m not especially good at promotion. Thank heavens my publishers are. I do lots of school and library visits and sell books there. I have been to several conferences for librarians. These are very good. SCBWI conferences and literary festivals other good way to connect with parents, teachers, and students. I’d love to do another conference or festival this year. Maybe someone reading this will ask me to present. Here’s hoping. :)
What advice would you give to writers out there in the query/submission trenches?
Study the marketplace. Before I did this seriously, I had very few sales. Since that time, I’ve had nearly 40 more sales. I take about 15 minutes a day and search for editors’ wish lists, publishers’ lists, and names of new publishers. This really helps me direct my submissions. Be prepared for rejections. Take the bad with the good.
What were some of you favorite books as a child?
I loved the Cherry Ames, Student Nurse books and read them over and over hoping one day to actually be a nurse. As an early childhood and special education teacher, I did bandage plenty of knees and elbows from playground mishaps. My grandmother read A. A. Milne to me. I completely love his work, most especially the poem that goes, "When I was one, I had just begun…"
What are a few of your favorite books as an adult?
Louise Penny and Gary D. Schmidt are my all time favorite authors. They are in categories of their own making. I will admit to reading each of their books at least twice. Three time for OKAY FOR NOW.
We’d love to know what you’re working on now. Any projects coming up?
I am working with Jane True on a bio about Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Hoping to wrap that up this weekend and send it out. We have an editor with interest. Please cross your pinkies! I am also going to be writing two more Tip and Tucker books with Sue Lowell Gallion for Sleeping Bear and I have another silly book in the works that may go to Pajama Press. And a book idea, not yet fleshed out for Dawn Publications.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with 24 Carrot Writing, Ann!
Ann Ingalls writes for both children and adults and is the author of over twenty-five books. She loves chocolate, swimming, playing Bridge, and traveling. To learn more about Ann and her work, visit her website, www.anningalls.com. She is also on Twitter @AnnIngallsBooks.
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