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Fractals in Asheville

Home from a great trip to Asheville, North Carolina, where I met friends and talked a lot about fractals. After the book stuff, I went to a family wedding. But first, Asheville … I met up with Joe D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan. Joe wrote Blockhead, a picture book biography of Fibonacci that came out in the same season as Growing Patterns. We enjoyed wonderful food and fellowship.

Malaprops

I signed books at Malaprop’s Bookstore.

hall fletcher
I did a presentation for 4th and 5th graders at Hall Fletcher Elementary School, and made fractals with 5th graders.

group pic
Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that I also sat for an interview with Greta Johnsen, the co-host of Nerdette, a podcast that is distributed by WBEZ in Chicago. I’ll keep you posted for when that will air.

Like true kindred spirits, Joe and Denise had sunflowers in their garden. I love sunflowers.

flower1ash

flower2ash

Horn Book Gives Mysterious Patterns Strong Review

mysterious patterns coverMy Horn Book magazine arrived yesterday with the review for Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature. It brought a big smile to my face.

“Bring up the math term fractals in a roomful of adults, and it’s likely quite a few eyes will glaze over. Yet wife-and-husband team Sarah and Richard Campbell (Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature, rev. 5/10) succeeds in making fractals accessible and engaging to—get this—the elementary-school crowd. Sarah Campbell’s writing is clear, fluid, and concise, effortlessly so.”

The review is illustrated with a spread from the book (pp.12-13), which explains fractals and illustrates the explanation with a graphic of a fractal tree and a photograph of a living tree. Here’s a blog post from the day we took the tree photographs.

It still gives me thrill to see my work reviewed in The Horn Book because it has been part of my education in children’s books. “Glossy, well-designed pages feature crisp, up-close photographs, which pair perfectly with the text — making this the go-to choice for introducing fractals to children (and grownups).

Back-to-Back Conferences

On Friday, I drive to New Orleans to present at the International Reading Association‘s Annual Conference. I’ll be doing a session Saturday called “Reading and Writing Science Books? Paths to Creating Authentic Informational Texts,” with Dr. Amy Broemmel, who teaches pre-service teachers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Jessica Crosby-Pitchamootoo, who is a reading specialist at Girls Prep Charter School Bronx in New York. I spent a few days at Girls Prep in March, which you can read about here.

I will be signing copies of Mysterious Patterns and my other books on Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Boyds Mills Press booth.

On Monday, I fly to Pennsylvania for Writing About Nature, a Highlights workshop held at the homeplace of Highlights’ founders, Garry and Caroline Meyers. I’m excited to be on a faculty that includes Dianna Hutts AstonSallie WolfDebbie S. Miller, Mark Baldwin, and Andy Boyles (science editor at Highlights). I’ll be presenting a session titled “Photos + Stories = Winning Nonfiction,” critiquing manuscripts, and learning more about nature journaling and photography.

Boston Globe Review

The Boston Globe ran a nice review of Mysterious Patterns, too. “Sarah C. Campbell, aided by photographs she and her husband, Richard P. Campbell took, explains what does (lightning) and doesn’t (a swallowtail caterpillar’s markings) constitute a fractal. She delivers a tidy education, gives a nod to the use of fractals in the built world, and offers the hope that readers will invent new uses.

Read full review here.

Guest Posting at Elizabeth Dulemba’s Blog

Today, I offer tips on finding and working with experts when you are writing nonfiction for children. My post appears on the blog of children’s author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba, a friend from SCBWI’s Southern Breeze region. I hope you’ll click here to read the post. You could win a free copy of Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature.

Elizabeth has a new novel out next month called A Bird on Water Street. I read an advance copy and I think she did a masterful job of exploring the environmental impacts of resource mining through the eyes of boy growing up in Appalachia.

Physically, I am in Boston for the annual convention of the National Science Teachers Association. I will present in a session titled, “A Real-Life Page Turner: Award-winning Trade Book Authors Share Their Research Strategies” and then Richard and I will sign copies of Mysterious Patterns. I’ll post pictures when I get back home.

 

 

The F&Gs for Mysterious Patterns Arrived!

I’m very excited to have the glossy pages in my hands! (Here’s a good explanation of F&Gs from Editorial Anonymous.)

Mysterious Patterns F&Gs

All the back-and-forth we did on layout, design, and final nit-picky details was done by sending electronic documents back and forth. I always have to trust that the photographs are going to be clear, sharp, and crisp when they are printed on real paper. And, they are! I love it when a book comes together. (OK, so this one is not bound yet, but we are oh, so close!)

Another fun piece of news is that I’ve been invited to join the faculty of the Writing About Nature Retreat offered in May 2014 by the Highlights Foundation. Read about the other great faculty here, and consider joining us. I participated in similar workshops in 2007 and 2009. You can read some posts about previous workshops here.

The Marketing Begins

I guess it’s time to write about work again. I’m in the lull between finalizing text and images for my newest book, Mysterious Patterns: Fractals in Nature, and seeing a layout. Today, I got an email from Boyds Mills Press that officially jumpstarts the marketing process: the author/illustrator questionnaire for books on the 2014 Spring List.

I’ve already been marketing for Mysterious Patterns in several ways:

daisy luck
Someone who knows more about children’s publishing than I do said the best marketing for already published titles is to get a new book out, so I’ve spent a good lot of time this year gearing up for a marketing campaign for Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature and Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator.

Two Sessions at NSTA 2013

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.

Sarah at NSTA13

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.

the backstoriesIn 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).

teaching looking at snail on move book

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.

Kristin Rearden

Here is Kristin talking about bringing pinecones into the classroom to have students look for the Fibonacci sequence in the spirals on the bottom.

three presentersWe 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.

Studio Tour

I am the featured artist today on the Southern Breeze Illustrators’ Corner blog. Richard and I produced a studio tour. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Thank you, Mississippi Arts Commission!

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.

Writing and Illustrating for Kids 2012

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.

Donna Jo NapoliHere are some quotes I noted down: “I don’t think there’s anyone lonelier than a child who thinks they are the worst person alive.”

“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.

Sarah at signing table

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.

Julie Ham

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.

pegram and lewis

 Here are Sharon Pegram, the conference coordinator, and Keri Lewis, my angel during the conference.

Five Years Old and, finally, a Name

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.

New Homepage

homepage mockup