Monday, February 27, 2012

Words From the Wise #2-- Julie Hedlund, Write Up My Life

For this week's edition of Words From the Wise, I have had the honor of interviewing Julie Hedlund.   I hope that you enjoy reading her thoughts as much as I have.  

Recently you have become quite active in the world of children's writing. How are you handling your new found fame?

Well, I certainly don’t consider it “fame,” but I do hope my activity is well received in the kidlit community.  Honestly after more than two years of blogging, attending conferences, participating in Twitter chats, etc., it’s nice to finally feel like I have a sense of the landscape – the “who’s who” of kidlit.  The best part is getting to know so many amazing authors and illustrators, many of whom I’ve met only recently through the 12 x 12 challenge.  And I will admit it’s a thrill when an author I’ve loved for ages “recognizes” my name.  Authors are, and always have been, celebrities to me!

Can you describe your personal writing process, and what is your favorite part?

Hmm.  This question makes me think I should have a better process!

For picture books, I typically write my first draft in one sitting.  I can do this because I mull stories around in my mind for ages before I ever write a word.  I usually think that first draft is SO GOOD. 

Then I let the draft sit for a while and come back to revise.  By then I think the draft is NOT SO GOOD.  It’s usually about 2-3 revisions later before I feel it’s ready to be shared with my critique partners.  After that, it’s anyone’s guess.  I have one PB that I’ve probably revised 100 times and my CPs have seen it at least half a dozen times.  One of my more recent ones only required a couple of critique group go-rounds.  Hopefully that means I’m getting better at drafting!

My favorite part of the process is writing the first draft and then the first couple of revisions.  I love it when the story is still all mine and nobody has seen it yet.  It’s like my little secret. J

You are excellent at marketing yourself. What are some of the key elements for a new writer in getting themselves noticed? How can a newly published author really get the word out about their work?

Well, for full disclosure, I don’t (yet) have a book I’ve marketed, but I have worked hard to build an online presence so that when I do have something to promote, the network will be there.  This strategy worked very well when it came time to promote the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge, for example.

So, establish a presence as soon as you know you want to be or will be published, because what you are doing is building relationships more than marketing.  If you want those relationships to be authentic, they need to grow organically and that takes some time.

There is so much information available on how to promote well.  Be a sponge and absorb as much as you can before making huge decisions about which promotion activities you are going to take on.  For children’s book authors, Katie Davis recently published an ebook called How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Creating a Bestseller.  This is the perfect place to start.

Who are some of your favorite picture book authors, and what draws you to their work?

My all-time favorite picture book author is Jane Yolen.  I love her because she can write anything, and everything she writes is amazing.  I dare you to look at her range of work and not be inspired.  Plus, she uses the most gorgeous language in her picture books and does not “write down” to kids.  Rather, she asks them to “rise up” to meet her stories.   

I won’t even try to list any others because once I start I won’t be able to stop!

What goals have you set for yourself with your writing? Do you have a plan on how to accomplish those goals?

It’s funny you ask that because this is the first year I’ve set concrete, measurable goals for my writing.  Writing at least 12 picture books in 2012 is one of them, but I have also established specific goals for querying and publishing in other venues.  For example, I want to publish magazine articles in both the children and adult market, and I plan to publish a storybook app.  I also have a nonfiction ebook for writers up my sleeve that I plan to publish before June. 

Julie Hedlund is a Picture Book author and Freelance Writer. She is the creator and host of the 12 x 12 in 2012 picture book writing challenge.  You can connect with Julie on her blog, Write Up My Life, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

World Read Aloud Day March 7, 2012

World Read Aloud Day 2012 is just around the corner on March 7.  This is a day that we come together to promote literacy around the world.  The goal is to show that children and adults around the world have the freedom and the right to read and write.   Please help to support global literacy.  

I am volunteering to read via Skype to a classroom somewhere in the world--I don't know where yet, but hope to find out soon.

What are you going to do to help promote global literacy?  Register here!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Words From The Wise #1--Erik, This Kid Reviews Books

Being that today is President's Day, why not have an inauguration?  

Today is the inaugural post for my new Monday feature. . .Words From the Wise.  Every Monday I will feature either an interview or a guest post from someone in the kidlit world.  It may be an author, editor, agent, pre-published author, illustrator, student, librarian, teacher, or someone who you suggest.  I am ALWAYS open to suggestions for people who you would like to learn about. 

Enough with the introduction. . . let's get to our first interview!

Erik the creator of the blog This Kid Reviews Books.

  1. What inspired you to start your blog?

It was actually the book by Tom Angleberger “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.” My grandmom told me that a kid in a book store told her to get me “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” when she was looking for a book for me. She took his advice and got the book. I thought that if my grandmom would take the advice of a kid maybe other kids and grown-ups looking for books would take advice from me. First I wanted to write for a newspaper but my Dad suggested that a blog would be a good place to start. My parents helped me learn how to set the blog up and I wrote my first post in January of 2011.

2.  Your blog is always up to date, and full of great book reviews.   It takes a great deal of time to do all of the reading and writing reviews.  Being that you are still in school, how do you balance your homework, friends, family, and keeping up with your blog?

I love to read and I am always reading (I actually get in trouble at school for reading when I am not supposed to). I think I am a pretty fast reader too, so reading the books isn’t a problem, but I am much slower at writing (although I started to be faster at typing!). School is pretty easy for me because I am quick to catch on. I get through my school work and homework pretty fast. I really don’t watch TV or play video games, maybe 1 or 2 hours a week (seriously). I don’t really mind it though because I want to do other things. I go to TaeKwon Do classes and I belong to a LEGO robotics club and a Boys Book Club and I am also on the Reading Olympics Team at school.
I get up pretty early in the morning so that’s when I like to read other people’s blogs and make comments. Some days after school when I am having my snack, I read other blogs or check email. I usually write my blog posts on the weekend or days off of school and I write a whole weeks worth then and save them to post during the week. I also have to write a book summary every week for school, so I also use that for one of my posts that week. I have a formula I follow when I write reviews that makes writing them a lot faster. It’s called a “hamburger paragraph”. I learned about them this year in school. They are a way of writing good paragraphs. For my reviews I have 2 hamburgers, one for the story summary and one for my opinion. My parents help me with finding kid appropriate things on the internet (like if I need a picture or a video or if I want to research something).
I spend a lot of time with my family. My parents also read a lot so sometimes we all read together (my little sister too). We like to play games (Apples to Apples is our favorite and we had a game of Risk going for a month once!) and have “family movie night” sometimes. We also like to do outdoors stuff. I usually have friends over on the weekends or a day when I don’t have school.

3.  What is your favorite type of book to review, and why?  What is your least favorite type of book to review, and why?

I really like to review picture books because a lot of times they are very funny and they are all about learning.  My very favorite is fantasy fiction. I like how authors make up new worlds or different realities or even an alternate history or superheroes. It is amazing how authors can think of these neat people and places, like The Jack Blank Adventures by Matt Myklusch. The “Imagine Nation” world that Mr. Myklusch created is awesome! I think it is easy to review books like this because I really get into the story (if it’s a good one).
Some non-fiction books are difficult for me to review because it’s too many facts and I think it gets kind of boring. I like learning from books but I like a story told with it like the 39 Clues series from Scholastic. There is a lot of history and geography in that series and the story makes if fun to learn about it.

4.  If you had the ability to travel any where in the world, where would you go, how would you get there, and what would you do when you arrived?

This was a hard question that I had to really think about. My first thought was Florida - LEGOLAND, Disney World, The Kennedy Space Center. Then I thought about ANYWHERE in the whole wide world. So I also thought about South Korea because I take TaeKwon Do (TKD came from Korea) I learned some Korean words and a little bit about the culture there through my training, and I am interested in learning more. But the place I decided I would want to go to the most is Australia. I’ve read a couple books (The 39 Clues “In Too Deep” by Jude Watson, “Toad Heaven” by  Morris Gleitzman and “The Magnificent 12” by Michael Grant) that take place (at least part of it) in Australia and it seems like a really cool place!  I would get there by cruise ship (I’ve never been on a cruise ship). I would really like to see and learn about the animals there. They have the coolest animals – kangaroos, koalas, kookaburra (I know it’s a bird but it is a cool name), platypus, wombat, TASMANIAN DEVIL!!! I want to visit Coober Pedy and see all the underground houses and also explore the Outback. I am pretty good at snorkeling and I think it would be AWESOME to snorkel around the Great Barrier Reef. I just went to a talk about conservation of sea turtles and I read that you can volunteer as a turtle conservationist in Australia as a vacation! I would definitely want to do that. Then I’d also like to go over to New Zealand and see a kiwi, count the sheep and see the awesome environment there (kidding about the sheep). Mostly I want to say “G’Day Mate.” Here in Pennsylvania that’s not used too often. J

5.  What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

In ten years I guess I will still be in college but I hope that I am already working as an inventor. I am really interested in holographic technology and I have an idea about using nanobots and nano-technology to clean up garbage. I would like to make it so the nanobots can speed up decomposition of garbage in landfills in a clean way. I have some other ideas using nano-technology to help the environment. I’d like to go  to college for science, history and engineering (but I’m not sure exactly). I also hope that I have a book or two published. I like to write stories as much as I like to read.

Thank you very much for asking me to do this interview Ms. Hershenson ! I had fun answering your questions!

Erik is 10 years old and is in the fourth grade.  He writes a monthly book review column for Upper Bucks Free Press.  Erik also writes a regular blog, This Kid Reviews Books.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

A huge thank you goes out to Pam from MyLMNOP reads to kids for awarding me the Liebster Blog Award.  I never win anything (except once I won a round of bingo on a cruise)!

Liebster also has a special meaning to me as my grandparents were from Germany, and would say to me:  "Ich Liebe dich--I love you."  As you know from my previous post, I remember them fondly, and this makes me smile.

The origins of the Liebster Blog award are somewhat unclear but the general consensus is that it originated in Germany, Liebster meaning favorite or dearest, to showcase bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. Upon accepting the award the recipient must then pass it on to five more blogs of note.

Here are the rules:

1- Choose FIVE up and coming blogs to award the Liebster to. Blogs must have less than 200 followers.

2- Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.

3- Post the award on your blog. List the bloggers you gave the award to with links to their sites.

I am awarding the Liebster Award to the following blogs:

1. Claudia Fehr-Levin Illustrator

2. Writers and Authors

3.My Happy Hero by Nicky Johnston

4. No Water River by Renee LaTulippe

5. Castles in the Sky by Jennifer Young

We have also been asked to list 5 interesting facts about ourselves.  So, here it goes. . . you get to decide if they are interesting or not.

I played the clarinet in school.
My first pet was a hamster named Peanut.
When I was little I wanted to be a school bus driver.
I am left handed, but all of my grandparents, parents, siblings, and children are right handed.
I have a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thank you again Pam, and I look forward to watching all of your blogs continue to grow!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Traveling in New Jersey--This Book is a Must!

Hidden New Jersey, written by Linda J. Barth and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell is a fabulous travel guide designed for children.  This search and find book follows a group of children paddling their canoes throughout both historical and contemporary New Jersey.

Each brightly illustrated 2 page spread focuses on a different geographical area of the 3rd state in the Union.  A map clearly designates the area that the reader is learning about on those particular pages.  The illustrations are packed full of so much information, that the reader will certainly need to return again and again in order to take it all in. 

While searching for the 5-6 hidden items in each spread, children can read the interesting facts that frame the collage like illustrations.  Did you know that the very first baseball game with modern day rules was played in New Jersey?  Camden hosted the very first drive-in movie theater in 1933 for just $0.25 a car; and the very first black voter to cast a ballot in the United States was in New Jersey too!

Barth does an excellent job of wording her text to allow the children to be their parents’ travel guides.  By suggesting tourist spots that might be of interest to families, she encourages children to bring their families to a variety of different events during the year. 

Mitchell's smiling children work together with her portraits of historical figures creating a beautiful account of New Jersey’s rich history, as well as 21st century living. 

Hidden New Jersey is a book that families can enjoy together as they prepare for a New Jersey vacation, or if they simply want to learn more about a state that has had such a tremendous impact on making the United States what it is today.


Hazel Mitchell has graciously offered to give away a paperback copy of Hidden New Jersey!  All you have to do is comment on this blog post AND link this blog post back to your own website or blog if you have one, AND promote this blog post through your Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or other social media accounts.  A random drawing will be held on March 1 and the winner will be notified (so be sure to include your email address in your post).  THANK YOU HAZEL FOR YOUR GENEROSITY!

Hidden New Jersey can be purchased on Amazon for $8.95 in paperback and $12.92 in hardcover.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Coming Up on The Write Stuff

In the next several weeks I will be having some guest posts and interviews here on The Write Stuff.  As we all know, one of the best ways to learn is by talking with others.

Beginning on this coming Monday, February 13, I will be reviewing Hazel Mitchell's new book, Hidden New Jersey.  Later on this month you will be able to read interviews with both Erik, This Kid Reviews Books, as well as Julie Foster Hedlund.

Keep watching here, and come back soon!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Am Officially a PUBLISHED Children's Author!

I am thrilled to share the news with all of you that I am now officially a PUBLISHED children's author!

Today I received an email from uTales that my book had been approved. . .  and published.

As an author, it is one thing to think that your story is worth sharing, but to have a panel of editors agree with you is an unbelievable rush.  I have not stopped smiling since that email came in, and I am already excited to work on the next one.

I was very fortunate with work with illustrator, Barb Dragony.  Her beautiful pictures bring the story to life.  Barb did a fantastic job of adding animation and sounds to the story.  Barb, I cannot thank you enough for all of the time and hard work that you put into Annie and Me.

Each day I am more and more amazed about how digital publishing is changing the world of children's literature.  Our children are developing a different style of reading than we did as children.  I am eager to see how this trend continues over the next several years.

I invite you to read Annie and Me .  It is the story of young Olivia, whose best friend, Annie, has moved away.  Olivia and her mother travel to visit Annie in her new home reminiscing about the girls' past adventures.

I hope that the story makes you smile as much as it has made me smile today.

I want to especially thank the 4 girls who inspired this story--  Emma, Allison, Julia, and Ellie.  Without the four of you and your special friendships, this story never would have been written.

Thank you to Rob, my husband, for putting up with my years of agonizing over this story, and for believing in me to get it accomplished.