I’ve been hard at work on the work-in-progress. And, the work is hard. I’m wrestling text and images and graphics into place, staring down a deadline. In the last two days, I’ve made really good progress. There’s nothing like having Richard available to produce the graphics I need when I need them. I wish he were my full-time office companion.
After two long days, I need to let some things settle a bit so I have time for a quick blog post. I was in San Antonio last weekend for the National Science Teachers Association annual convention.
I was one of nine authors (Terry Jennings (Gopher to the Rescue), Darcy Pattison (Desert Baths), Elizabeth Rusch (The Mighty Mars Rover), Melissa Stewart (Under the Snow), Catherine Thimmesh (Team Moon), Peggy Thomas (Farmer George Plants a Nation), and Sallie Wolf (The Robin Makes a Laughing Sound) who participated in a workshop titled: “Integrating Science and Literacy: A Journey, Not a Destination.” Each of us was paired with a professor of education. My partner was Dr. Amy Broemmel from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She helped me share the educational materials I’ve developed for Wolfsnail and Growing Patterns with four groups of teachers who rotated through our table. She took these photographs.
In my second session, “The Power of Scientists’ Stories in Teaching NGSS Methods and Practices,” I teamed up with Dr. Kristin Rearden, who also teachers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Andy Boyles, science editor at Highlights.
Once again, it was my job to share ideas with teachers for using my books in classrooms to meet the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
I led the group in making a Fibonacci Folding Book, and talked about the Fibonacci Puzzle, the Wolfsnail On The Move book, and the instant book.
Here is Kristin talking about bringing pinecones into the classroom to have students look for the Fibonacci sequence in the spirals on the bottom.
We had lunch after our session to talk about what we might do for future conferences. Presenting at national conferences is always a wonderful experience because it brings me into dialogue with the people who use my books in classrooms and libraries with kids. I always learn things, and I always have fun.
Check out a new blog called Perfect Pairings: Linking Science and Literacy written by Kristin and Amy. You’ll find great trade picture books to use in your classrooms.
I learned today that I received a $500 minigrant from the Mississippi Arts Commission to cover the cost of three sets of marketing materials. Many of you know that Richard and I developed a new logo and a new website this year. The minigrant will pay for printing of new business cards, a Fibonacci Puzzle marketing piece, and a new set of bookmarks.
Many of you know I have a new manuscript under consideration at Boyds Mills Press. I hope to have news soon. In the meantime, I thank the Mississippi Arts Commission, members of the Mississippi Legislature, and the National Endowment for the Arts for continuing to support my work as a Mississippi artist.
All children — those who live sheltered, protected lives and those who face hunger, cruelty, and neglect — need to read about terrible things, according to children’s book author Donna Jo Napoli. If you visit her website’s page listing interviews, you can listen to her TEDx talk on the topic.
“It is very consoling to see that other people have problems. It gives you perspective. … When we write about terrible things, we look for the strand of strength in our characters.”
“From reading books, she (an unprotected child) can learn that with hard work and a good spirit, she can see that she can live decently in her own world — even if just inside her own head.”
“In reading, you step inside someone else’s skin. You live their life. You develop empathy. And empathy is the cornerstone of civilization.”
“There’s no better, no safer place to develop that empathy than in a book.”
“When it comes to trying to be the writer you want to be, I urge you not to be afraid of the things that bring high emotion to you. … We need to embrace our misery and learn how to use it.”
Napoli delivered the keynote address at this year’s Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference. Put on by the Southern Breeze region of the SCBWI and held each year just outside Birmingham, WIK offers workshops, critiques, and opportunities to meet and learn from other writers, editors, and agents.
I presented two workshops: Stories + Photos = Winning Nonfiction and You Mean I’m Not Finished? Developing Marketing and Educational Materials. I uploaded two handouts for the Stories + Photos workshop on my website. Click here to see them. I created a Pinterest Board to gather examples for the Not Finished workshop. Click here.
I love sharing my stories in my own workshops, but the downside of being on the faculty is that it limits the number of workshops I can attend. I chose What Educators Can Teach Writers by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen and Trends in Award Winning Nonfiction by Julie Ham, associate editor at Charlesbridge.
Ham led a fascinating workshop. We read excerpts from 10 Sibert Medal winning books and 4 Sibert Honor books. Based on these short snippets of writing (and, our own background knowledge of the books), we rated them on a continuum between traditional, safe writing to expressive, edgy writing. Making these judgments forced us to look carefully at the writing.
Here are Sharon Pegram, the conference coordinator, and Keri Lewis, my angel during the conference.
As my regular readers know, I am in the midst of a complete overhaul of my website. This means I’ve been consulting people and doing lots of looking around at what else is out there. In response to a suggestion from a marketing professional, I’ve decided to name my blog. Hereafter, it will be called Amazed By My Luck.
This comes from an Iris Murdock quote: “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one’s luck.”
I like the name, too, because it applies not only to the writing and photography in my life, but to the other things I write and post photographs of on the blog: my family, my teaching, my garden, my sewing, and my other crafting. And, as luck would have it, it was five years ago this week that I launched the blog. So, five years old and, finally, a name.
Not much will change here with regards to the name — until we go live with the new website.
Starting today, you can read my interview with Alison Hertz, an author, illustrator, and toy designer. She and I talked about how I create my nonfiction picture books.
The interview is part of the blog tour for the 2012 Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference, where I’ll be leading two sessions: “Story + Photos = Winning Nonfiction” and “You mean I’m not finished? Creating Marketing and Educational Materials.”
WIK is organized by the Southern Breeze region of SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. This year’s WIK conference will be Oct. 20 in Birmingham, AL. It’s a great place to learn more about the children’s publishing industry, meet agents and editors, and connect with a supportive network of writers and illustrators.
Learn more about WIK here.
Read my interview at Alison Hertz’ blog.
Having killed my first (bad) idea for the new concept on my website, we have a new concept that we like. I’ll share it here so you can see what we’re considering. It is very different from what we did before, but we want to make it open, friendly, and easy to use. Do you folks have any thoughts?
The photo on the top right (a water drop falling) would change each time a person landed on my homepage, in the same way the header photo changes now. Each photo will be trimmed so that it floats in the space. We have already decided to change the color of the swirl.
I contributed a short essay to a book published this month that encourages teachers to use trade books in mathematics instruction. I wrote about how I conceived of, wrote, photographed, and designed Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.
Titled Mathematical Literacy in the Middle and High School Grades: A Modern Approach to Sparking Student Interest, it was written by Dr. Faith Wallace and Mary Anna Evans and published by Pearson. (ISBN: 9780132180979)
My essay appears in a box in Chapter 5, titled “Picture Books: Where Math, Text, and Illustrations Collide.”
The authors contacted me in the summer of 2010, a few months after Growing Patterns was published and asked me to contribute. I am thrilled to be included in this book. The inside cover includes a chart showing how teachers can use material and activities in the book to meet Common Core standards for grades 6-12.
It’s particularly satisfying to have this book come out a month after I co-presented a workshop on Visualizing Math Stories at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference.
On our morning walk this morning, Richard and I talked about the new website, and I had to admit that my idea is not working. In fact, it stinks.
Even though this desk is the tidiest it has been in years, it still makes an image that is way, way too cluttered for an effective web home page. Richard has worked long hours on coding, etc., to start to make it functional, but, truth be told, it was a bad idea.
So, back to the drawing board.
The time I spent cleaning up wasn’t wasted (it never is). I’m still getting rid of and putting away stuff. I work much more effectively when I’ve done a major clean-up. It helps de-clutter my brain as well.
Other work life improvements
I’ve started using Pocket (formerly Read it Later) to save things I come across on the web. Just like with Evernote, it takes some time on the front end to get it installed on all the devices I use (phone, tablet, laptop, desktop), but it is proving very useful.
I also read this article about blog theft that prompted me to take more security measures with my gmail. Once again, it took some time, but those of us who fully engage with the online world need to take precautions.