Archive for October 2011

What’s Haunting You?

October 28, 2011

Happy Halloween!


Pumpkin People on the Prowl

October 25, 2011

The Pumpkin People are back! On our visit to Jackson, New Hampshire a few weeks ago, we were greeted not only by beautiful fall foliage and perfect weather, but also by Pumpkin People. They make their appearance each October. Area businesses choose a theme and use pumpkins to create a tableau to scare and entertain visitors.

It was great fun to see the artistic talents of the business owners as we wandered around the village. Here are a few for you to enjoy.

My Favorite:  Can you name the book?

Pumpkin People need Pumpkin Books. Check these out.

Pumpkin Jack written and illustrated by Will Hubbell (Albert Whitman & Co., 2000), Pumpkin People written by Sandra Lightburn and illustrated by Ron Lightburn (Nimbus Publishing, 2009), Pumpkin Town! written by Katie McKy and illustrated by Pablo Bernasconi (Sandpiper, 2008), The Very Best Pumpkin written by Mark Kimball Moulton and illustrated by Karen Hillard Good (Paula Wiseman Books, 2010), Pumpkin Day, Pumpkin Night written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Megan Halsey (Walker Childrens, 2001)

Pumpkins, Seeds, Estimation, and a Book

October 21, 2011

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?, written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, is a perfect book to share with students. It combines science, math, a seasonal activity, and a boost of self-esteem for the smallest boy in the class.

Mr. Tiffin, a very clever teacher, brings three pumpkins to class – small, medium, and large. “How many seeds in a pumpkin?” he asks. It’s a brilliant way to motivate students and introduce estimation. The students take a guess, and then Mr. Tiffin has them cut open the pumpkins to see how many seeds are in each. He uses another math tie-in when he asks how they should count the seeds. Mr. Tiffin elicits answers from the students, who decide to count by twos, fives, and tens. Each group calculates how many seeds are in their pumpkin. The smallest boy in the class finds the smallest pumpkin has the most. This leads into a mini science lesson in which the students compare the three pumpkins. They discover the smallest pumpkin is darker orange and has more lines on the outside than the other two. Mr. Tiffin explains that for each line on the outside of a pumpkin there is a row of seeds on the inside. The longer the pumpkin grows, the darker it gets and the more lines it gets. Proud that his pumpkin has the most seeds, the smallest boy in the class tells Mr. Tiffin that “small things have a lot going on inside them.”

This book fits right into the fall season and lends itself to a variety of ways to engage students in new learning experiences that that are fun and easy to do.

How many seeds does your pumpkin have?

Tasty Tidbits from a Conference

October 18, 2011

There is no better way to continue learning your writing craft than by surrounding yourself with dedicated writers, top-notch speakers, and tasty chocolate. These three ingredients are a writer’s recipe for success. (Well, maybe not the chocolate, but it sure helps.)

 Here are some tidbits from the SCBWI-WI Fall Retreat.

Andrea Welch, Tracey Adams, LeUyen Pham

Laura Ruby, Cheryl Klein, Marsha Wilson Chall

LeUyen Pham, an upbeat and talented illustrator, spoke on visual storytelling. In order to make a stand out picture book, an illustrator carefully studies the author’s story. Objects, size, and color choices work together to determine how the illustrations on each page are precisely placed to make the reader’s eye travel around the entire page.

Cheryl Klein, executive editor of Arthur A. Levine Books, presented a detailed talk on the principles of plot. It’s something all writers should study and know. Do yourself a favor and buy Cheryl’s book, Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults. It’s well worth your time and effort.

Marsha Wilson Chall, an award-winning picture book author and instructor in the MFA program at Hamline University, talked about taking a second look at picture books. Look at the structure of a picture book. Look at the pacing and page turns. When you’re writing, keep these in mind and don’t forget to cut and trim any unnecessary words.

Laura Ruby is a multi-talented author who writes for adults, teens, and children. She talked about world-building – how she creates a unique world for her characters. She said when she can see that world and when she starts to hear the sound of the story, she knows it’s time to begin writing.  

Andrea Welch, senior editor at Beach Lane Books, spoke on how to make your picture book a perfect ten. Three things she looks for in a picture book manuscript are heart, humor, and irresistible characters. She likes a manuscript that captures her on the first read. She also noted that spare picture books are selling now – books between 300-500 words.

Tracey Adams, agent and co-founder of Adams Literary, shared tips from twenty years in the business. She mentioned that Margaret K. McElderry mentored her and was inspired by her. At times when she is questioning something, she thinks, “What would Margaret do?” Here are some things Tracey offered up to writers. Always be professional. Work with people you like and admire. Write what you know and love best. Laugh.

K.T. Horning, Director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was our final speaker. She gave an excellent talk on “What We’ve Learning from Harry Potter” and how the Harry Potter books have influenced, not only our world of reading, but also the world.

There were also break-out sessions presented by fellow Wisconsin SCBWI members that were well-planned and filled with excellent information.

Writers and illustrators know how to have fun!

This conference left a good taste in my mouth and a yearning for more. What more can I say? Except… Take your chocolate to a writing conference today!

Chocolate and Writing Conferences

October 14, 2011

Attending a writing conference is like sinking your teeth into a piece of chocolate. You’ll find some are better than others, but they all offer something tasty.

As a writer, I highly recommend taking advantage of writing conferences. It’s a time to meet and greet fellow writers. It’s a time to keep up with what’s going on in the publishing industry and to connect with editors and agents. It’s a time to share experiences, to pitch ideas, and get feedback from those attending the conference.

Later today I’ll be on my way to the WI-SCBWI Fall Writing Retreat. The Wisconsin group is filled with extremely talented writers and illustrators. I consider myself very lucky to be able to connect with these delightfully fun and gifted people. On the chocolate scale, this group is “To Die For!”

The weekend lineup includes a variety of authors, illustrators, editors, and agents. I’m expecting to devour some tasty tidbits of information from each of them. Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, will be there. Andrea Welch, senior editor at Beach Lane Books, will be there. And Tracey Adams, agent at Adams Literary, will be there. I’ll be on a chocolate high by the time the weekend is over. I’m not greedy. I’ll gladly share some pieces of tasty information with you on my Tuesday post.

The Rest of the ABC Travel Tale

October 11, 2011

New England is gorgeous in fall. When you experience it with family and friends, it’s even more so. The past few days, we walked our little tootsies off. We talked nonstop. We laughed until it hurt. Impressive sights, gourmet delights, and incredible memories topped off the long weekend.

Let me start again and give you the ABC lowdown.


Apples Galore

Boston Harbor

Covered Bridges

Duck Boats

Elizabeth among the Mums

Fall Colors in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

Glen Ellis Falls in New Hampshire 

Hooker Entrance

Institute of Contemporary Art

John Kerry’s Residence (2 for 1)


Movie Set for R.I.P.D.

North End

Old South Meeting House

Pumpkin Picking

Quincy, MA

Rose Kennedy Greenway


Treasure Trove of Colorful Trees

Umbria (Food!)

Vintage Lounge (Libations!)

Waterfall in New Hampshire

XV Beacon, a Boutique Hotel in Boston


The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

That’s it! My ABC travel tale is finished. I’m tired out and I’m lettered out, but I still have a huge smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart.

If you’d like to peruse an autumn ABC book, check this out.

A is for Autumn by Robert Maass (Henry Holt and Co., August 2011)

An ABC Travel Tale

October 7, 2011

“A” is for American Airlines.

“B” is for Beautiful Berkshires.

“C” is for Culinary Cravings.

What’s this travel tale about?

I’m bound for New England to visit family and friends. Along the way I’ll be taking in the autumn beauty of the Berkshire Mountains, the White Mountains, and Boston Harbor. It’s a short trip, but I’m determined to see it all and find the rest of the travel tale alphabet.

Log in next Tuesday to see what I found. In the meantime, mind your p’s and q’s and check out this cool alphabet book.

LMNO Peas by Keith Baker (Beach Lane Books, 2010)

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