Friday, March 26, 2010

How is the Library Challenge Coming?

Fifty (50) comments have come in thus far! Thank you all! The more comments I receive the more books the library will be able to purchase. Better get a move on folks! Twenty five dollars will not buy many books! Enough comments might even convince me to donate a little more!
Keep passing the word along and visit the others who are participating and comment on theirs too. Here is the link to the list:

Boys and Reading

REMINDER: Remember the Library Blog Challenge described in my March 23 post.

Recently the Center on Education Policy released a report that clearly shows that the reading levels of boys in the United States are lagging behind girls. Being a retired educator, I have studied these statistics for years and therefore was not surprised. I was disappointed though! Educators have considered boys a high-risk subgroup for many years now. Specific interventions for boys have been put into place; however boys are still lagging!

Do you suppose as authors and ‘trying to be’ authors that we could play a significant role in changing these statistics? Could we consider writing more stories focused on the interests of little boys? What if we filled classrooms and libraries with stories that would intrigue them so much that they would want to read more and more?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How is the Library Challenge Coming?

Forty two (42) comments have come in thus far! Thank you all! The more comments I receive the more books the library will be able to purchase. Keep passing the word along and visit the others who are participating and comment on theirs too. Here is the link to the list:

My Grandson’s Reading List

This writing ‘gig’ is making my house messy! I intended to devote my morning to household chores-the great advantage of working from home. As I picked up the stack of books by my recliner, I was touched with memories of my grandson’s visit. You see, these are some of the books we read while he was here. As I put each book on the shelf, I remembered our joy and discussions as reading. Then I thought some of you might like to share those memories too. So here are the books we most recently read together:

Which One Doesn’t Belong? By Linda Haywood ©1981---This book happened to belong to his uncle and mother when they were young. It is full of puzzles that he loves doing over and over again.

Wubbzy’s Wild Ride adapted by Jo Hurley © 2009. He loves Wubbzy and this book.

The Silly Family by Katherine Pebley O’Neal © 2008. He actually chose this one out of a bin at the grocery store, believe it or not, during this past visit. A four year old really loves the silly jokes!

The Berenstain Bears and the Slumber Party by Stan & Jan Berenstain © 1990. This is another of his mother’s childhood books and is just as good today!

Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat by Jeff Brumbeau © 2003. This book was discussed in an earlier [posting]. Elliott loved it as much as the class I read to did.

My Day by Sindy McKay © 2002. This is a ‘We Both Read’ book. Even though Elliott is not actually reading yet, this book is written so that he could do part of the child’s pages by himself. At four, he loves doing everything by himself.

The Bears’ Christmas by Stan & Jan Berenstain © 1970. Another classic! Elliott laughs as loudly as his mother did when she was four.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss © 1960. His mother’s was totally worn out, so this is a new copy. We have read it so often that he can recite parts of it with me.

Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg © 1988. Elliott had such a serious face as I read about the trials of these ants.

Thomas’ Big Storybook by The Reverend W. Awdry © 1985-2006. Being Thomas the Engine’s biggest fan, this is Elliott’s all-time favorite book. This book has 185 pages. We have read all 185 pages many, many times! We read it so often that my daughter and I take turns hiding it for a while to give ourselves a break!

Did I mention that my grandson loves books and being read to? Reading books to my grandson that I read to his mother is a wonderful connection of generations.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Children’s Book Choice Awards & Library Challenge

Did you know that the Children’s Book Council and the International Reading Association sponsor the Children’s Book Choice Awards each year? Publishers submit hundreds of titles for consideration. Check out the finalists for this year! Better yet take time to vote.
I plan to read every book on the list! How about you?
Remember the Library Blog Challenge from yesterday’s post! If you have not commented, do so and help out the Gilbert H. Gragg Library. Pass this on!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This is a Library-Loving Blog Challenge!

For every commenter on this post between now and midnight of Saturday, March 27, I will donate fifty cents (50¢) up to a maximum of $100.00 to my local library’s children’s section: Gilbert H. Gragg Library.
How easy could it be? You comment, I cough up the money, the library gets a gift! If you don’t know what to say in your comment, “I love libraries” will do.
Note that my pledge is “per commenter”—so if a single person leaves 50 comments, that still only counts once! But you can do more by spreading the word ... please link to this post, tweet about it, share it on Facebook, and send your friends here so they can comment and raise more money.
If you’re moved to make a flat-fee donation to your library, or to start your own challenge, you are quite welcome, and please leave that information in the comments.
For a complete list of participating bloggers (and to visit other sites where you can help libraries just by leaving a comment!) visit the writerjenn blog at

May the comments flow!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Technology Challenged

Children love to hear about the lack of technology in the dark ages of my childhood and young adult life. They cannot seem to imagine such a world. I, on the other hand, am working continually to catch up with the technology of today. In fact, I have not caught up to all the technology of yesterday. My own children are now grown and living in other towns. They were my saviors. It was second nature for them to program my technology, explain it to me, and save me when I got in a technology-based mess. I am technology challenged!

I do not have a smart phone. I have a two year old Razor and have not figured out all the functions on it. I have a digital camera but it takes me hours to upload/download the pictures to my computer and even more hours to send and post the pictures. I have a camcorder that I have yet to figure out how to download the videos. I don’t have a Kindle. Even though I love holding a book in my hands, I do see times that having an e-book reader would be really advantageous. I also fear I will not be able to figure out how to download books to it. We have a DVD player (not recorder) but I have to keep a cheat sheet beside me to see a movie. My four year old grandson is trying to teach me to play his VTech video game with him. He outplays me every single time and this grandmother does not believe in letting children win all the time. I simply CANNOT beat him. I do not have an IPod. My husband has to download music for me on my mpg player.

I struggle with the technology of blogs. I cannot get the formatting just right. I struggle to insert pictures, although I finally learned how to insert links. I cannot even begin to set up a website, although I know the importance of web presence. Even my word processing program is a battle at times. Word thinks it is smarter than I am and maybe it is. I comprehend most written directions extremely well; however, all the technical terminology in technology directions leaves me clueless. Will I be able to compete in the publishing world with my limitations? Can I survive? Where are some easy directions on how to effectively use technology?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Authors’ Desks

Pictures of authors’ desks attract my attention. I love looking at all the details and enlarge the pictures when possible. The books and supplies on the desks titillate me. If I am unfamiliar with an item, I often do a little research. Who knows, maybe I need that too! The pictures and knick knacks around the desk tell me things about the authors and what inspires them. Even the food or drink on the desks gives me a little insight. Some desks are in what appears to be dark little corners. Others are in open airy spaces. I wonder what people will think when they dig up these desks thousands of years into the future. What will they determine about the writers of today?
A fascinating aspect of authors’ desks is their organization. Some I have seen must be the desks of my soul mates. These desks are neat and orderly with everything in its place. These could be my desk! Others have huge piles everywhere. The piles are disorderly and look as if they will tumble over at any moment. Where is the computer? How do they find anything? I suspect, like someone near and dear to me, that they can reach in and put their hands on the exact paper they want.
Both types of desks belong to authors who have published numerous books. I can only assume that both methods work.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Do genetics or environment determine our ability to contend with distractions? My husband and I are complete opposites in this matter. My husband needs complete quiet to concentrate and shuts himself away from the world. I, on the other hand, can tune out almost anything. This ability of mine caused great speculation and wonder when I was in the working world. I always left my office door open, even in the busiest of offices, but was in total concentration on my task at hand. The only sounds that obtained my attention were the fire alarm and the buzzer on the phone on my desk.
I now work from a home office that has no door and my desk is directly in front of a large window overlooking my front yard and the woods beyond. My two dogs and I are the only ones at the house most of the day. There is usually a television turned on somewhere in the house. I have a stereo in my office with a variety of music. My computer screen has my total focus when I am writing. I notice nothing around me when I read. How can this be?
I believe environment is the answer. My husband and his sister were raised in a quiet house by their grandmother. My husband’s bedroom was the only room lived in on the second floor. He grew up in a quiet sedate environment. On the other hand, I was raised with three more siblings, a dog, a cat, a parakeet, a turtle and the occasional snake. My sister and I shared a bedroom. The cat took great pleasure in attacking the dog or any person walking by. Sometimes the snake would escape. Four kids and their friends were always tromping through. There was only one television in the house but we all had our own radios and record players and often they were all playing at once! Life was never quiet at our house.
The noise did not bother me. I thought everyone lived like we did. I was an avid reader and could read with total absorption, never noticing all the hoopla going on around me. In fact, my entire family was composed of avid readers. If you wanted to get into serious trouble at my house, read one of my mother’s books and not return it before she got home! We all loved to read and there was no quiet place to do so. Therefore it is my contention that the ability to focus is determined by the environment in which you were raised.
Do your experiences agree with my contention?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Voices of My Characters

I learn so much by regularly reading numerous great writers blogs. I have a huge file of writing exercises and tips. One I read religiously is Teaching Authors--Six Children's Book Authors Who Also Teach Writing. A recent posting by Mary Ann Rodman: Wrestling with Voice struck a chord with me. In this posting, the necessity of each character having his/her distinctive voice was addressed. After reading it, I went back to my writing with a more critical eye. I think some of my characters’ voices need work. The best thing about these postings is they often have exercises to use to improve my writing. So I am once again revising!
This paragraph by Ms. Rodman truly spoke to me:

“My characters live in my head for years and years before I get around to bringing them to life. I keep notebooks, computer files and file folders on future characters, as they "share" with me such diverse information as their favorite baseball player, what their side of a shared dresser top looks like, how they feel about various family members. Sometimes I learn more about my characters through the writing process, but I would never presume to tell their stories without having at least a working knowledge of them.”

I too have characters dancing around in my head!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Writer’s Diet Update

Due to preparations for an unusually busy weekend, I am behind on my writing. I did however find time to step on the scales. The display showed……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… …....................................”LO”.

Hmmmmmm, now that could mean ‘low weigh’ but I doubt it. It could mean, ‘laugh out-loud’ but I doubt that too. I suspect it means ‘low battery’! So the mystery regarding the effectiveness of the Writer’s Diet is still unanswered.
I do know I am behind on my writing and must get very busy because another busy weekend is approaching followed by a visit from my precious grandson! Life is so good!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Writer’s Diet

At the insistence of my dogs, I arose from the computer to let them outside. I stepped on the hem of my jeans as I walked across the house. Glory be, maybe I have lost a little of that excess weight. Maybe the Writer’s Diet is working. Oh, you never heard of this diet? It is really an easy diet. You get up in the morning and have a couple of cups of coffee, say your morning prayers, and then move to the computer to begin work.
If you are akin to me, you become totally engrossed. There are always future postings for my blogs to be written and revised. The two books I am writing constantly require revising for the umpteenth time. On a bad day, I am attempting to get the pictures from my digital camera downloaded to my computer then uploaded/exported onto my blogs. A class might help me do this in a more efficient manner. Whatever I am doing, I am totally engrossed. In fact, I am so engrossed that I don’t stop to eat! I eventually notice my stomach growling and tell myself to go eat at the next convenient stopping point. That point never seems to come. It never fails that one thing leads to another and I just can’t stop.
I have attempted to eat at the computer but that is a very, very bad idea. It actually requires both of my hands to type and at least one to eat. Two plus one still equals three. Crumbs are also the nemesis of the keyboard. Greasy and sticky fingers do little good to the keyboard. Since I am in the Deep South, I always have a glass of ‘sweet tea’ on my desk. Experience has taught me to keep it on the far end of the desk. Consequently, I am on the Writer’s Diet!
Before you all join me on this particular diet I must tell you one more tidbit of information. I have discovered I was wearing my husband’s jeans! Apparently after I showered, I went to the laundry room and grabbed ‘my’ jeans off the hanging rack. I swiftly jumped into them, ran the brush through my hair and headed back to my office. Now I am wondering if the Writer’s Diet is designed to make me gain weight. When I get to a convenient stopping point, I will go step on the scales.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat"

Yesterday I had the great privilege of reading to Mrs. Andrea Givens’ fourth grade class at Miller County Elementary for Read Across America Day and Dr. Seuss’ Birthday! I selected Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat by Jeff Brumbeau. This is a delightful story that is a wonderful read-aloud book. The illustrations by Gail de Marcken are truly awesome. The children responded with great interest and laughter each time I revealed a new illustration. Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat lends itself to a great prop too. It just calls out for the reader to wear her own special hat with a chicken, or two or three, on top.

I love reading aloud to groups of children. The challenge of selecting a preface to the story that will grab the attention of the children and spur their interest is a task I carefully spend time doing. In this case I decided to talk about wearing hats as a child and royalty. I find that children love to hear about what life was like in the reader’s childhood and it held true this time too. Reading with expression is a must when reading aloud. I always practice numerous times before I read. My practice sessions are always aloud, wearing or using any props, and standing. My husband no longer questions what I am doing when I am standing in a room alone reading aloud!

While reading, I like to make sure children know the meaning of words and ask an appropriate number of questions to ensure they understand the content. This can be tricky because I do not want to disturb the flow of the story. I carefully select the words and questions that I feel are most pertinent. The problem is remembering which questions to ask while reading the book in front of a group. Dawn Shepard, a reading coach mentioned in an earlier posting, provided me with an answer to this issue. I now pepper my book with post-it notes containing enough words to serve as my reminder.

Prediction is a skill included in state reading standards that must be taught explicitly and practiced regularly. Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat is perfect for practicing prediction. There are several places in the book that a prediction question is appropriate and allows for a wide range of responses. When the pages are turned, there is the ‘what comes next’ of this book. Since there are no wrong answers to questions about what the children think might come next, even the most timid child is likely to answer. The range of creativity in the group quickly surfaces with these questions and answers. In Miss Hunnicutt’s Hat, no one predicted the last hat that Mr. Brumbeau wrote about and it brought a great tidal wave of laughter.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Read Across America Day

Tomorrow is Read Across America Day which is sponsored by the National Education Association! I urge everyone to participate! Read a book to your favorite children. Volunteer to read to a class at your local school. Donate a book to your favorite library.
At the invitation of my favorite reading coach-Dawn Shepard, I will have the privilege of returning to Miller County Elementary School and reading a book to a class. This will be my first visit back as their retired principal. I have selected a fun book; prepared a great hat; and have a basket full of eggs (chocolate eggs-that is) for my visit. I look forward to posting about my visit.
Miss Dawn is an inspirational reading coach. She will do most anything to get children to read more books and she could talk me into some bizarre disguises to motivate the children. I remember her challenging the kids to reach a reading goad with the promise of the principal (ME) dying my hair red. The kids read and read to meet that goal and therefore my hair was an interesting shade of 'purple' for weeks!
At another time she had me dress up as the old lady to read a book.

All of these were great fun and motivated kids to read more and more.

The most wonderful times are when I get to read to my grandson, Elliott.

Get ready; get set, read tomorrow and every day!