Even with our wide angle lens, it was difficult to get me and the top of the cactus in the same photograph. As you can see, there weren’t any clouds the first day we went out. If you remember yesterday’s sunrise photographs, they had lots of clouds, which made the colors very interesting. When Richard was taking the sky photographs and it was still dark, he needed to keep the camera steady. We didn’t bring a tripod so he set the camera on my head. He is just enough taller than me to look straight through the viewfinder with the camera sitting on my head. We should’ve gotten a picture of that.
Richard participated in a panel discussion this week at the SRI in the Rockies conference, a large meeting of folks interested in socially responsible investing. I tagged along for a few days alone with him and to visit a new part of the country. I have to admit to some trepidation as we flew into Tuscon and all I could see was an orange/brown rocky landscape. I couldn’t see any green or any trees. I didn’t think I’d like it so much. But then we got up early both mornings to hike some trails around the resort and I really enjoyed it. We saw all kinds of interesting plants and a few animals. I’ll be sharing photos over the next few days.
At the recent Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference, I asked other writers with blogs to find me and give me a card. I wanted to collect posts about the conference in one place. In the end, not all of the writers/bloggers put up posts about the conference, but I thought I’d put together a post showing the diversity of blogs in our region. If you look to the left on my blog, you’ll see that I already list other Southern Breezers in my blog roll. When I get more time at home, I’ll add these new ones to that list. In the meantime, feel free to explore:
Al Waller blogs at Varmint Bytes.
If you are a writer in Alabama, Mississippi, or Georgia, and you write a blog, please post a comment letting me know about you.
I spent two very nice days this week at the Mississippi Library Association annual conference. Rick Bragg spoke on Thursday morning. He read from his latest book, The Most They Ever Had, a memior of the people in the milltown Bragg grew up in. I started reading it during the next break in the conference and finished it after I got home Thursday night. I really enjoyed it. He has such a way with words, managing to paint a complete picture through six or eight vignettes. One story of two women who met a seemingly impossible challenge (picking down and back on a very long row of cotton in one day) for two extra dollars was particularly good. I recommend this to people who are studying memoir or the use of detail to round out characters or who just want a good read.
Nancy Opalko, children’s librarian at Oxford Public Library, introduced a panel discussion on greatstoriesCLUB, an American Library Association program aimed at putting books into the hands of underserved teens. Librarians can apply to launch a program (the deadline is Nov. 2) in their own community. Besides reading books with teens, some librarians expand the program to include visiting authors.
An author who has worked with several greatstoriesCLUB sites is Paul Griffin, a New Yorker who writes books for teenagers. He launched a “story jam” during his talk with a few lines about a librarian who received a letter containing a $100,000 donation and the promise of $900,000 more if the librarian agreed to meet the donor that night. The story was passed from person to person — with many zany twists — until a lbrarian wrapped it up in a most satisfying way. Griffin uses this exercise with teens in juvenile detention facilities to get them comfortable with storytelling as a bridge to writing. I am looking forward to reading Paul’s two books, Ten Mile River and Orange Houses.
Ken Waldman, who bills himself as the Alaskan Fiddling Poet, gave a talk on using poetry with kids. He incorporates music and movement into his very engaging presentation. In addition to his work as a traveling minstrel, he offers books, CDs, and cards. His talk prompted an interesting discussion on the relative merits of rhyming in poetry. Waldman prefers to write without overt rhyme and encourages kids to write without thinking of rhyme as a constraint.
This was my first MS Library Association conference and I hope to return in future years. At lunch one day, I had a real treat. I had made plans to meet my friend Jackson S., a young reader who struck up a correspondence with me last year. He has found about a half dozen wolfsnails near his Hattiesburg-area home since he read Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. I was happy to get his (positive) reaction to Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. He and his mom took me to lunch and we had a fun time talking about reading, writing and publishing.
After describing the impossibly busy life of an editor at a publishing house that receives more than 20,000 submissions a year, Kathy Landwehr, editor at Peachtree Publishers, urged writers to approach writing as a professional, even though the financial rewards are small. “If you are not doing it because you have to — not just because you want to — don’t.” Though just about every one of Peachtree’s titles for young people can be used to advance curriculum objectives in schools, the goal of educating is secondary. “A book is to be enjoyed, first and foremost. If there’s a message there, it should be like a Trojan horse. What we really do love is story.”
A title she’s very excited about right now is 14 Cows for America by written by award-winning author Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by newcomer Thomas Gonzalez. It was released in August and has started with strong sales.
Here are photographs of some of the other speakers:
The Chudney Agency
Gayle Brown, art director, at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, walked writers and illustrators through the publishing process: from a manuscript’s arrival on the editor’s desk through to publication. Brown was among speakers at Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK), which is put on each year in Birmingham by the Southern Breeze region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Brown showed examples of “in-process” drawings by illustrators, including one book dummy that had little more than line drawings. “If we hadn’t worked with this illustrator before or knew her work, this would have made me very worried.”The sparsely illustrated dummy had tons of purple sticky notes attached to it; I don’t know if those were the illustrator’s notes to Gayle or Gayle’s notes to the illustrator.
Some of the books she showed us were: A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, a Caldecott Honor Book, by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet; The Lord’s Prayer with illustrations by Tim Ladwig. She told us to look for a book that will be out this spring called Beatitudes by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ladwig.
That’s all for today. More conference news tomorrow.
My friend Julie’s children found a wolfsnail near their Jackson home over the weekend. You can read about it here.
Never give up — not even after more than 300 rejections. That was the message speaker Diane Z. Shore, the author of six picture books, gave to about 140 writers and illustrators who gathered at Writing and Illustrating for Kids ’09. Shore said she finally broke into the children’s market after working harder on her writing than on selling. She urged writers to read books on writing, to take classes, and to share writing with others for informal critique. Shore peppered her talk with her trademark humor, including a commercial segment for an editor voodoo doll.
In addition to Shore, who also led four workshops, conferees had opportunities to take workshops with three acquiring editors, an agent, an art director, a creativity coach, and five writers working in a variety of genres. I enjoyed presenting a talk titled “Photographs + Stories = Winning Nonfiction.”
Lynne Polvino, an editor at Clarion, said she is very interested in getting young adult novels. She described the market for picture books as “challenging” and said a PB manuscript would have to be really special in order to make it through acquisitions. Two books she’s excited about are: Two at the Zoo by Danna Smith and When It’s Six O’Clock in San Francisco by Cynthia Jaynes Omololu.
I’ll write more about the conference in the coming days.
We were excited to learn earlier this month that Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator won the Maryland Blue Crab Young Readers Award in the Beginning Non-Fiction category. It was announced today at the MLA’s Kids Are Customers, Too conference in Westminster, Maryland. I will accept the award at the Maryland Library Association conference in April in Ocean City. I have been corresponding with Janis Cooker, the youth coordinator for St. Mary’s County Library. Aside from driving through on my way from Lexington, Virginia, to Dover, Delaware, (the home of wolfsnail researcher Melissa Harrington), I haven’t spent any time in Maryland. I am looking forward to my visit with Maryland’s librarians next spring. And, thanks.
Since we were both out with cameras, we actually have pictures of us. Richard was shooting with the Nikon D700 and the Tamron macro lens. I was shooting with the Nikon D200 and a Sigma telephoto lens. Can you look back at the previous posts and figure out which one of us took which photograph?