Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Institute of Children's Literature transcripts

You'll find some great transcripts of chats over at the ICL page.
And you'll also find (ahem) my chat about humor there also.

This Humor chat was a lot of fun to do. Jan Fields, the web editor for ICL and also the moderator of the chat, is downright brilliant. Still, we managed to digress into low-brow humor at times. Slapstick lives!

If you're a writer wondering about some part of the process of writing for kids, check out the index of transcripts dating back to 1999. The sheer breadth of it all will astound you. And sign up for their free Children's Writer e-newsletter. It's packed with useful information.

Oz and Ends: What's So Funny in Ellie McDoodle

J L Bell ponders who is the real Ellie McDoodle on his blog (while I giggle):
Oz and Ends: What's So Funny in Ellie McDoodle

Thanks, Jon! :)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Kim Norman's Blog Book Tour!

I'm taking a break from getting ready for my daughter's graduation party tomorrow (whew -- almost done!) to take up the Tail end of the Blog Book Tour for my friend Kim Norman, who has a new book out!

Jack of all Tails debuts this month with Dutton, and it's a tail wagger. I mean, it's the purrr-fect read-aloud. And you'll go ape over the illustrations.

But before you read my interview, check out the others:
Read Kim's blog at, and follow the rest of Kim's tour as she visits:
Monday - Elizabeth Dulemba's blog
Tuesday - Dotti Enderle's blog
Wednesday - Kerry Madden's blog
Thursday - Barbara Johansen Newman's blog
Friday - Karen Lee's blog
Saturday - my blog

Hello, Kim! :)

Kim's the
hear her
sing, here

You're an entertainer, a singer, a writer, a graphic artist, a mom and a deep thinker. Is there anything you cannot do? Give us the nasty details, please.

I cannot stay on a diet. I cannot run fast. (Couldn't even BEFORE I needed to stay on a diet.) That holds true for pretty much all forms of athletics, although I enjoy swimming. Instead of thinking of myself as athletically challenged, I like to think of myself as "cerebrally inclined." The only reason I turned out to be any good at tap dancing was because it's more about innate rhythm than athletics.
(Well, unless you're Gene Kelly, my all-time Hollywood crush. Then it's ALL about athletics. Other Hollywood crushes? Christopher Plummer. And Morgan Freeman. And Jewish actors with intelligent faces and thinning hair. Really. I have a thing for Jewish guys. Somehow it always feels a little racist saying that.)
I cannot play the piano well or read music as well as I'd like. VERY poor practice habits as a kid.

What are your school visits like? Pretend I have a budget for only one author to visit my school, and I already hired myself last year. Why should I hire you this year?

I like to think I give an entertaining school visit that leaves teachers with "take-aways." (Things they can reference later, after my visit.) I also like to see that, while the kids are having a good time, they aren't out of control. I recently saw a rather well-known author, (won't name any names) who did -- to be sure -- a funny, entertaining presentation. But, number one -- it was all over the place. One minute he was talking about Santa, the next, somehow we were looking at pictures of butterflies. A very ADHD presentation. Not sure how teachers would use this material later in the classroom. And he got the kids worked up to that level where they become kind of sassy. You know what I mean? Where they think they're part of the show and start showing off, giving goofy, giving off-task answers, cutting up and being rude.

I did a school visit a few weeks ago where the kids were in a howling frenzy over my evil inner editor photos, and yet, if they got too rowdy, it was still easy, before things got too out of control, to give them a polite, "shhh" before I moved onto the next image.

Kim working
with kids at
an author

When the kids ages are right, I often close my presentations with a song I wrote called "The Storytime Boogie." It's a song that encourages reading at bedtime. Another good time spent at my Mac, mixing the song in Garage Band. I could do that all day! I had my talented friend Carol, (who DID practice her piano) record the song for me, then I mixed it in Garage Band, adding sound effects which the kids think are funny.

What's the next book, after Jack of All Tails and Crocodaddy?

Kim's new book

There's a rhyming picture book on one of my editors' desks right now that I need to revise. Plus, I'd really like to pull out that chapter book, "Smoke Rings." Maybe with the inspiration of my new gazebo, I can finally REALLY put some good work into that book. I've just got to overcome that evil inner editor, who harps at me much more loudly on longer works. I've written some really good stuff for Smoke Rings, but I haven't totally found it's direction yet. Maybe I need to pretend I'm just blogging, so typos and ungrammatical sentences don't matter!

Are you a Harry Potter fan? What do you think of all the fuss?

I was during the earlier stories. I think I read up to book 4 aloud to my kids, which was very fun. I remember one vacation in Maine where we had these idyllic read-alouds. Since then my younger son has devoured each one moments after publication. He keeps encouraging me to read the rest of them, but somehow I just never get to it. And I confess, I get a little fidgetty during the movies, although we have been to see all of them so far. Action movies just don't hold my interest the way more character-driven movies do.

What's your dream situation for your books to take you into, in the next 7 years?

Oh gosh. That's so hard to admit out loud, isn't it? It would either sound ridiculously pie-in-the-sky, or like bragging. But I'll take a stab at it:

-- I'd like to win some awards, but not big enough that I have to go on the Today Show. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor told the funniest story when she spoke at a conference a few years ago. Got "the call." Was told to stay off the phone, because the Today Show would be calling momentarily to book her for the NEXT DAY. Says she doesn't remember much after that, but does recall telling her husband something like, "I have to lose 30 pounds by tomorrow." Haha! I know I'd have exactly the same reaction.

--I'd like to do a series. Something that would just fly off the shelves as the next book is announced. (Hey, we okayed pie-in-the-sky for this list, right?)

--I'd like to be one of those speakers who gets a WHOLE page to herself in the conference catalogs. I do think my speaking skills are a good match for my writing career. I know some writers just shudder at the thought of having to give a speech. I'm lucky that I don't get nerves over that sort of thing. I get nerves over finding my way to the venue where I'll DO the speaking. That's another of my "cannots." I am very directionally challenged.

How many half-written story ideas do you have stuffed in a drawer?

Oh, dozens and dozens! Well, maybe not that many half-written, but I do have an idea file into which I quickly record ideas. That's in the hundreds at this point. (If I'm at work at the newspaper and an idea comes to me, I send myself an email.)

I have a jar of old keys I found at my grandmother's house. They're gorgeous old skeleton keys, old barn keys, some just plain keys that don't look as old. But I was enchanted when I found this heavy box of keys in my grandmother's house after she passed away. I put them into an antique canning jar so you can see them properly. The keys represent inspiration for me, because every key has a story. It's up to me to find those stories. There used to be 231 of them, but sometimes I send them to friends when their books are published, so I don't have quite that many now.

To some of the keys, my grandmother had affixed notes like, "Found outside church, Sept. '46." I'll never know whether she kept them because she hoped to return them to their owners, or if she just liked the design of the keys. I'm guessing more of the latter.


Once, as an experiment, I went thru all my idea notes, printed them up on slips of paper and stuffed them into a second jar. I wanted to have as many ideas in that jar as I had keys. I made it, too! I often bring the jar with me to school visits. There's always at least one clever child in the audience who immediately gets that the keys represent stories to me. I call the second jar my "keynote jar."

Do you keep a journal? How do you keep track of your good ideas?

I used to keep a journal into I wrote every morning after my walks. I've let BOTH those good habits lapse in the past couple of years. Really need to get back to that! Have resolved that before this summer is over, I WILL. (Yeah. Like the diet I'm always starting tomorrow.)

I talked about my messy collection of notebooks on another blog this week, and mentioned my idea jar above, but that's still not a good way to organize my ideas. I do have a folder on my computer into which my more developed ideas go. If I've taken the time to work on an idea a bit, (rather than that initial scribbled sentence), I'll go ahead and create a folder for that story and put it in my "Kim Stories" folder.

But I still don't think it's ideal. I'm one of those organizationally challenged types, (a double whammy with my directional challenges) who does best if she can SEE a project. So I used to have these colorful, vertical hanging files into which I'd put the stories as well as any publisher correspondance. But THAT didn't work well either. I ran out of wall space to hang them! And some of the folders got too fat and heavy! So I'm still looking for that ideal filing system that works just right for my particular brain.

What's the most important message you have for your fans?

Buy lots and lots of my books! No, seriously, just buy books.... and love books. If you can't afford to buy them, (I buy most of mine 2nd hand), check them out from the library -- by the boatload.

I was thinking about the "state of books in America" recently, as I enjoyed my book launch party. You constantly hear that books are a dying form of communication. And yet, here were all these people who took time out of their day to come and celebrate with me. Americans still DO get excited about books. They admire authors because they admire books. Or at least, they admire the act of book writing. They think of it as a kind of magic. Heck, I write them myself and *I* still think it's magic. I'd just like people to continue to believe in that kind of magic.

It's magic to me! Thank you, Kim -- you're a good friend and a fabulous writer and an entertaining interviewee.

Kim's blog
See more of Kim's interviews here:
Monday - Elizabeth Dulemba's blog
Tuesday - Dotti Enderle's blog
Wednesday - Kerry Madden's blog
Thursday - Barbara Johansen Newman's blog
Friday - Karen Lee's blog
Saturday - my blog

Friday, June 15, 2007

Happy Book Birthday to Jack of All Tails!

My friend Kim Norman has a book out today.
Congratulations, Kim!
Please clear a path while I sing.
:::soft, sweet, clear voice:::
Happy birthday to you,
:::a little louder:::
Happy Birthday To Youuu,
:::picking up steam:::
:::screeching now:::
Y O U U U U !!!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Camping with the Fourth Graders

Check out my sketches!
I went camping with the fourth graders (are you smarter than a fifth grader? I'd like to believe I am!) and kept a sketchbook of it all.
Came home and slept. And slept. And slept...
I'll put the sketches on my website so you can see how it all went.
And I'll post some of the extra-good ones here.