Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature earned a superior rating in The Horn Book Guide. For the uninitiated, this is a 2 on a scale from 1 (outstanding) to 6 (unacceptable). Any book with a 1 or 2 rating is marked with a bold triangle in the guide. I am grateful for the notice.
Also, Growing Patterns has been nominated for a Cybil Award in the 2010 Non-Fiction/Informational Picture Books category. The Cybils awards are given each year by bloggers for the year’s best children’s and young adult titles. The Growing Patterns‘ nomination came from Jennifer Wharton of Jean Little Library. Thank you, Jennifer. Read her review of Growing Patterns here.
Finally, a new librarian friend sent along some photos from last week’s Mississippi Library Association Author Awards dinner. So, Richard makes a rare public appearance on the blog.
I had a wonderful time on Thursday at the Mississippi Library Association annual conference in Vicksburg.
I was honored Thursday night by the Mississippi Library Association. For Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator, I won the 2010 Youth Award. I am pictured here with Chris Myers Asch, the recipient of the 2010 Nonfiction Award, and Lynn Shurden (between me and Asch), chair of the Authors Awards Committee. The other two women pictured are also members of the awards committee, (from left) Ann ?, and Donna Fite. Deborah Johnson won the 2010 Fiction Award for her book, The Air Between Us. She was signing books and not available for the photograph.
This is the first time the MLA has given a Youth Award and I was delighted to be the first recipient. During the award speech and also during a session earlier in the day, I gave a short preview of my newest project, which unlike Wolfsnail and Growing Patterns, comes out of my childhood. It was fun to see Gloria Liggans, my school librarian from 4th through 9th grades, and many other librarian friends I have made since I started writing books for children.
The story included everything a story must, including ever-more-difficult obstacles. She shared photographs from Gee’s Bend in the 1930s, photographs of quilts made by Gee’s Bend Quilters, and a Ludelphia doll that was made for her by a school librarian.
Irene’s next novel is a contemporary one, titled Don’t Feed the Boy, which is forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press.
It was nice to have Irene join Richard and me at the awards dinner.
We cooked a bit of a celebratory dinner the next night, using a brand new cooking pot called a tagine. We made a lamb tagine (the meal is named after the cooking pot), masala dosas, and a spinach salad. I am no good at food photography, but these will give you an idea of what we ate and how we made it.
I’m just back from the annual fall conference of the writing organization that helped me become an author: the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It was fun to see my twice-a-year friends, many of whom I’ve watched go from unpublished to published and published to award-winning.
This was my first SCBWI-Southern Breeze conference since Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature came out. There’s nothing quite like sharing the real thing with colleagues who have been hearing about it since it was just the kernel of an idea. My colleagues are also good customers. Thanks!
It was my pleasure to serve as an “angel” for Kerry Martin, a senior designer at Clarion Books. This means I tried to be helpful to her while she navigated her responsibilities, which included four 45-minute sessions, a panel discussion, formal portfolio critiques for 5 illustrators, and an informal review of all illustrator portfolios. It was fun getting to know Kerry, a Rhode Island native and graduate of Parsons The New School for Design. We talked about a book she’s working on right now that sounds interesting: First Garden by Robbin Gourley. You can read about it and other forthcoming titles from Clarion Books here. Gourley recently joined my publisher, Boyds Mills Press, as art director.
I attended sessions by Jamie Weiss Chilton, an agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency; Stacey Barney, an editor at Penguin/Putnam; Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, author of The Origami Master and many other books; Kate Sullivan, an assistant editor at Poppy & Little Brown Books.
I learned new things from each of them. Most notably, I learned about Lachenmeyer’s unique approach to writing picture book texts. He writes 14 paragraphs, limits his word counts to between 300 and 500, and includes up to 11 or 12 illustrator notes. He contends that giving yourself permission to include illustrator notes allows you to trim the actual text mercilessly. He asked: why would the author give up one of the most important tools (visual direction) in the picture book creator’s toolbox? Makes sense to me.
Stacey Barney, who edited Irene Latham’s Leaving Gee’s Bend, walked us through the process of reading critically and reminded us that we’d better know our competition well. The two books she highlighted were the Newberry Award-winning When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead and Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork.
Jamie Weiss Chilton talked about characters and helped us understand why publishers are looking for character-driven picture books, what “character-driven” means, and how it can lead to lucrative brands. Her examples included Fancy Nancy and Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse. I was really lucky to have my formal critique with Jamie. She and I spent a delightful 15 minutes or so talking my work-in-progress. I appreciated her suggestions and I was able to fill her in on the story’s origins and I shared some photographs that show the story’s setting. I will be getting back to work within the week. Thanks, Jamie! (Hester Bass, author of The Secret World of Walter Anderson, also provided some very good insight into some of the manuscript’s weaknesses.)
Another fun thing in a really packed day and a half was interviewing two of my author friends about their newly-released titles from Boyds Mills Press. Jo S. Kittinger and I talked about her Rosa’s Bus and Vicky Alvear Shecter discussed Cleopatra Rules!. Look for interviews on the blog in the coming weeks. I think you’ll enjoy learning more about these artists and their books.
For some reason I took so many fewer photographs than I usually do at a conference like this. Here are a few from a gathering of the many volunteers whose hard work make conferences like WIK possible. This is Wanda Vaughn, who always shares her love of baking and gift for hospitality by providing treats for us all day.
I spent last weekend in Cincinnati for a mixture of work and pleasure. I signed books and talked with readers at Books by the Banks, a festival organized by librarians and others interested in promoting literacy in the Cincinnati area.
I woke up with a very scratchy throat on Saturday and proceeded to lose my voice over the course of the day. I had help from my table mate, author Julie K. Rubini, who greeted all-comers to our table, and from my Aunt Mary, who explained the Fibonacci sequence and helped kids and adults use the Private Eye magnifying loupes to examine a pinecone and a nautilus shell.
I have many relatives living in Cincinnati and several came to see me at Books by the Banks.
Here I am with my mother’s cousin Paul, my mother’s brother, Terry, and my great Aunt Ann.
Earlier on Friday, I read Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature to several groups of third graders at Pleasant Ridge Montessori.
After we read the book, we made our own growing pattern, starting with 5 and 5.
Here I am pictured with Sharon Draper, author of many books for young readers, including the most recent Out of My Mind. She and I crossed paths earlier this year at the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival in Hattiesburg, MS.