I have been throwing myself into a new project. I have read several scholarly history texts, organized a bibliography, and written a proposal letter. I haven’t sent it. It’s not ready yet. Then, I realized that I still had some revisions that I had promised my editor I would make to the current manuscript. You know how sometimes you think that because you’ve thought about something a lot that you’ve actually done it. Well, not really. I decided that maybe all the energy for the new project was because I was avoiding the hard re-writing I had to do. So, I sat down tonight and tackled it. It was easier than I thought to come up with some different sentences. I didn’t have to make major changes, but I did have to alter meaning. It is hard to keep the writing simple when the changes in meaning are very subtle. I have sent the revisions off to my editor — the book itself should be with his colleague the art director (if I have the timing right). Hopefully, when the layout and design is ready, we’ll be ready to plug in the final text changes and keep on trucking.
That’s when I’ll really dive into the new project, right? Well, I do want to keep reading that history book beside my bed.
Today I gave the keynote address at the Reading Rainbow Young Authors & Illustrators Awards Ceremony at Mississippi Public Broadcasting. I was able to listen to stories by winners from kindergarten through third grades. I loved the stories, the illustrations (including some photographs), and the confidence of the young readers. Their stories ranged from chronicling the everyday joys and sorrows to documenting the momentous to imagining the fantastical. These kids are clearly reading and writing a lot at home and at school. Hooray!
This was the first time I’ve had the luxury of using a lapel microphone and it worked like a dream. I am always trying to read and point and move around and I hate being tied to a particular spot. Thanks to Darrell, who took photographs using his camera and mine, and to Maggie Stevenson, who invited me to speak.
This is my son painting the face of one of our day campers. My three boys are running a four-day camp for some neighborhood kids. I caught them “working.”
Richard and the boys built a new desk over the weekend. D, our youngest son, saved enough money to buy the components for a computer; he’ll be building it with his Dad. We decided we couldn’t fit his computer onto the table with his older brother’s computer and the one the two younger ones had been sharing. Richard decided to build one that would hold all three. You can see the set up before, during the final clean-up, and after. The new computer will be here any day now — in parts of course.
I got a call this week from my local independent bookstore, Lemuria, saying Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator had been added to a local school’s summer reading list. The bookstore needed four more signed copies. Another local school, Madison Station Elementary School, has Wolfsnail on its list of finalists for the 2009-10 Mockingbird Award. Wolfsnail is also on the summer reading list for Washington Episcopal School in Bethesda, MD, and Parish Episcopal School in Austin, TX.
It also makes an appearance on the Horn Book summer reading list. Wolfsnail earned a mention on Through the Tollbooth, in an entry noting how nonfiction titles are winning notice even in categories not exclusive to nonfiction. To sum up, Nancy Bo Flood asks: “Is nonfiction about content – facts – or story and passion? I say both are essential. And great visuals – ones that intrigue as well as clarify. Write with passion. Find the story. Tell the facts.” Well said.
Another mention was in the online edition of the Naples (Fla.) News, in the education briefs.
Texas Librarian posted an interesting article on Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator on her blog. The article lists comprehension strategies readers might employ to read and understand my book. I must admit that when I first read it, I felt a little like I was coming into the middle of a conversation — and that the conversation was taking place in a specialized language. I asked my sister, the one who is a reading specialist in a Boston elementary school, about it. She said the article details common reading strategies. She directed me to three books, Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann; Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis; Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller. I plan to get a hold of these soon.
A lovely package came in the mail from Great Salt Bay Community School. The students in first and second grades we met during our school visit wrote us letters, drew pictures, made cards, and made flip books. It made us so happy to get them. This drawing is by Ellie and she wrote: “Thank you for reading Wolf Snail. What made you want to be an author?” Well, Ellie, the first answer is that I love, love, love to read and sometimes when I am reading, I think ‘Wow! I want to be able to do that.” The second answer is that I like to write. I do all kinds of writing — letters, like the one you wrote to me; newspaper articles; and journals. The third answer is because I love to make things. Writing and illustrating books gives me the chance to make a wonderful thing that people can read.
The flip books are wonderfully colorful! Here’s one page, made by JoJo. As you can see, it asks “What protects a wolfsnail? Flip up the flap and you’ll see: “Its shell.” The questions in these books ran the gamut — including “Where do wolfsnails live? what do wolfsnails eat? What part of the wolfsnail comes out first? How do wolfsnails walk? How many feet does the wolfsnail have? Does it eat worms? How does a wolfsnail find its food?”
I love seeing what teachers and students do with Wolfsnail — to extend the learning process. Please keep sending us letters, cards and books. We love them!
My new website went live yesterday. Let me know what you think.
We harvested our spinach yesterday and made a delicious salad. Overnight, the central stems had shot up and were looking like they were going to flower. I thought I had waited too long and that the spinach would be bitter. Not at all!
After consulting our friendly nursery manager, we pulled the broccoli and cabbage. Though they grew like gangbusters, she said they likely wouldn’t produce nice heads. We got them in too late. I salvaged four small bunches of cabbage and two tiny buds of broccoli. Richard put them in a minestrone soup. I can’t wait to eat it.
Our picture of a hummingbird is in High Five magazine this month in the Look at the … feature. Four other photos we took will appear in the coming months. Look for the squirrel, tapir, zebra, and river otters.
I had a wonderful time Thursday at St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Vicksburg. I spoke with first through sixth graders in three separate groups. I got some suggestions from the students about what my next project should be: vampire bats and tide pools. I was invited to St. Francis by Mrs. Dinnie Johnston, the librarian. We met at the Children’s Book Festival this year. I learned during the visit that Wolfsnail is now part of the Accelerated Reader program. It is leveled at 4.4 and is worth .5 points. I took a look at the AR quiz for Wolfsnail. The last question was a little strange. One of the possible answers was a “female wolfsnail.” Snails are hermaphrodites, which means that each snail has female and male reproductive parts. I have always wondered about the AR process — how books are selected and who makes out the tests. After the visit, I stopped at Lorelei Books to leave some signed copies of Wolfsnail.
Today’s post is my 200th. I started the blog nearly 2 years ago (August 2007). It has become an integral part of my work. I love being able to communicate so easily with friends, readers, students, colleagues, and, even, family. I received a letter this week from one of my readers who lives in Hattiesburg. He told me he’s found several more wolfsnails near his house. “Me and my friend set a woflsnail on our piano and forgot about it. Then the next day I found it stuck to a corner of the piano! There are so many wolfsnails here!!!” He signed his letter “Wolfsnail Jackson over and out.” It was great to hear from Wolfsnail Jackson. His story about the piano reminds me of the day we “lost” a wolfsnail in the kitchen. We found ours tucked between some cups that held the boys markers and pens. My mother took the photo on the left. The snail was crawling onto my hand from a table at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and leaving quite a trail behind.
For a long time I have been wanting to be able to create quick collages for my blog. I’ve admired the ones I’ve seen on other blogs — many using Picassa. I wanted to try to do the same thing, but using Lightroom. After searching the net for a tutorial, I found one on Adobe’s Lightroom Killer Tips. This is a great place to go for information on Lightroom or Photoshop, for that matter. I am still working on perfecting the technique. It doesn’t always do what I want it to do — yet.
Richard and I were searching around the photo catalog for another reason and I came across these photographs that my mother took when I visited the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science last year. They capture just how much kids are fascinated by a wolfsnail. Let me know what you think of the collage.
Here’s a link to the actual collage-making (multi-photo picture package).
On Monday, I was a guest on Book Bites for Kids, a talk radio show hosted by Suzanne Lieurance, director of the National Writing for Children Center. During the half-hour interview, we talked about how I wrote Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator and how Richard and I took the photographs that illustrate it. You can hear the entire interview here. As soon as the new, improved website is ready to “go live,” I’ll post a link to the interview there. We had less than a minute to talk about Growing Patterns (the Fibonacci book); the half hour flew by.
Speaking of Growing Patterns, I checked in last week with my editor. We talked about a few small changes and then he sent the text on to copy editing. The art department has all the photographs. As soon as the copy editor finishes, the art director will design and layout the book. I can’t wait to see it! This flower is called a Spiderwort. I love the color of the petals and how it contrasts with the color of the stamens. This is my photo Tuesday offering; it’s from the new book.
On their Nonfiction Monday post, the writers at Wild About Nature called Wolfsnail a “must-read for children—who just may be inspired to grab their magnifying glasses and seek out wee wonders in their own back yards.” Read the entire review here. Heidi Bee Roemer, Kim Hutmacher, and Laura Crawford team up to write Wild About Nature. Individually, they write books on nature topics — including What Kinds of Seeds Are These?, Paws, Claws, Hands, and Feet, and In Arctic Waters.