I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

SpringMingle '13 Blog Tour, Day 3.

    Every February, the Southern Breeze SCBWI Region holds their Spring conference in Atlanta. This year, our    keynote speaker will be the amazing writer and poet, Nikki Grimes.

    I have the pleasure of introducing you to her. Register for SpringMingle ( Feb. 22-24) to hear Nikki speak and participate in her all day writing intensive.                 

Welcome Nikki! 

Would you share a preview of your topics for the all day Friday intensive and the Friday night keynote?

The focus of the intensive will be my step-by-step process for developing a picture book story or novel-in-verse. As for the keynote, I'll keep that under my hat.

You're known as a writer of poetry and prose. Whose poetry excites you? Whose prose do you enjoy?

I adore the poetry of Lucille Clifton, and I'll read any prose written by Angela Johnson or Gary Schmidt.  They are both incredible storytellers, each with an usual gift of restraint.

Do you plot out your stories-in-verse like  prose, or does poetry come to you more organically?

Poetry comes to me organically, but all stories need to be plotted out, no matter the format.

Asking a writer to pick a favorite book is akin to picking a favorite child, but is there a character you enjoyed writing more or connected with more than the others?

I most love the character I'm writing, at the moment. Right now, that's a character named Gabriella.

What would you say to writers contemplating SCBWI membership?

I strongly urge anyone who is serious about a career in children's literature to, first of all, join their regional SCBWI.  That's job #1.

The themes in your stories seem to correlate well with school curriculum  (character education in particular) as well as topics for school counselors. Do you have the educational market in mind when you write?

I don't have any particular familiarity with curriculum, but I do understand what children need. I speak to that, and let the rest take care of itself.

Do you have something you're working on that you can share with us?

The character I mentioned earlier is from a manuscript called Words With Wings, which is currently in production.  It is scheduled to be published this fall!  Can't wait.

What's one thing you'd like writers to know about you that they might not already know? 

I face rejection like any other writer does.  It goes with the territory, but you can't let it stop you from pressing forward!  Simply because you have a genuine gift or talent doesn't mean the road will always be easy.  The old adage, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" still applies!

Thank you Nikki, for a peek into your world. To learn more about Nikki Grimes and her books, check out her web site

Know who else will be at Springmingle '13? Check out this list, follow the blog tour to meet them, then register to see them in person at www.southern-breeze.net

Jan. 21: Will Terry, illustrator, at Elizabeth O. Dulenba"s blog
Jan. 22: Beck McDowell, author, at Bonnie Herold's blog "Tenacious Teller of Tales"
Jan. 23: Nikki Grimes, author, at  Gail Handler's blo, "Write From the Soul"
Jan. 24: Jill Corcoran, agent, at  Donny Seagraves's blog
Jan. 25: Chad Beckerman, creative director, at Laura Golden's blog
Jan. 28: Katherine Jacobs, editor, at Cathy C. Hall's blog
Jan. 29: Mark Braught, illustrator, at  Vicky Alvear Shecter's blog, "History With A Twist"
Jan. 30: Carmen Agra Deedy, author, at Ramey Channell's blog "Moonlight Ridge Series"

Monday, November 19, 2012

                  The Next Big Thing (part deux)

Author, Jo Kittinger
     I am delighted to share my space with a wonderful children's author, Jo Kittinger, who also happens to be the Co-Regional Advisor of the Southern Breeze Region of  SCBWI. 
Jo has written some FABULOUS picture books (see them listed below) and her "Next Big Thing" sounds amazing. Let me turn this over to Jo and her 10 question answers.

What is your working title of your book? 
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was brainstorming with Tony Barash about what subject should be a follow up story to A BREATH OF HOPE, dealing with some legally related topic. We decided to go with a Post Traumatic Strees Syndrome storyline, offering help for those dealing with war-related stress. Tony is the impetus behind the series, which has been picked up by the American Bar Association.
What genre does your book fall under?  
Good question! It's a fiction picture book, but with a definite intent to educate. A page of back matter will offer information for those dealing with PTSD.
*** Wow Jo! I really respect your choice of tackling PTSD for children. There are many children of returning service men and women, I imagine, that are living with these issues in their families. How wonderful to provide them with a resource. Gail
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
I'm afraid I don't know any male child Latino actors to play my main character. For the friend's uncle who has PTSD, perhaps Eion Bailey.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  
Cristian helps his friend, Brie, get help for her uncle who is suffering from PTSD.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
It will be published by the American Bar Association.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  
One day . . .  after weeks of thinking about it.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
I wish I could think of something other than my own book, A BREATH OF HOPE. I'm just not aware of other fictional picture books that are explicit in their purpose of teaching about a topic. I enjoy writing both fiction and nonfiction, and this blend of both satisfies both those pleasures.
*** Bravo for filling a need in children's literature. It's important tfor kids to see themselves in the stories they read. Gail
Who or what inspired you to write this book?  
Reading about the vast numbers of our servicemen and women who are struggling with PTSD was a major influence -- then, knowing one soldier and the issues he faced after returning from Afganistan, along with other individuals that deal with other mental illnesses. Individuals who return from war with physical injuries get medals, while those who live with mental injuries are often misunderstood and underserved.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
 There are service dogs who are trained to help servicemen and women with PTSD. The dogs help the soldiers stay connected with "reality". That's pretty cool!
*** Doesn't it amaze you how many types of jobs dogs can do to help humans? Gail

Thanks for the opportunity to participate, Gail!!
Thank you, Jo. I can hardly wait to get a copy of this book!
And check over at Cathy Hall's blog to read her "Next Big Thing" post.  -

Books Jo Kittinger has authored:

Monday, November 12, 2012

     The Next Big Thing

  I'm excited a writing friend, Debra Goldstein, author of Maze In Blue, has   invited me to participate in a blog tag. For those of you looking puzzled, a blog tag   is sort of like the childhood game of tag, but you're picking someone in cyberspace rather than the playground. Each person tagged answers 10 questions about one of her WIPs (works in progress). I say 'her' because this is to promote female writers!

     Anyway, the answers will give you a sneak peek into what I hope will be a future published children's book. Here goes:

1)  What is the working title of your book?
      So far, I'm calling it, The Anvil Is My Instrument, which is a quote from a speech given by the subject of the book.

2)Where did the idea come from for the book?
       I learned about Philip Simmons, a master blacksmith, during a visit to Charleston, S.C.
3)What genre does your book fall under?
     It is a nonfiction picture book.
4)Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
     Yikes, this is tough since nonfiction picture books are rarely Hollywood material. But, since I'm pretending, I'll dream big....Denzel Washington would be awesome.
5)What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
     The Anvil Is My Instrument tells the story of a humble man, blacksmith Philip Simmons, who went from simple beginnings to world wide recognition for the craftsmanship of his ironworks, and he became one of the the first individuals in America to receive the National Heritage Fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts. With this award, the recipient is viewed as "a national treasure."

6)Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
     I hope to find an agent and publisher with a passion for the story that matches mine. However, I wouldn't rule out self-publishing. I'm open to options. Oh yeah, there's also that movie we were talking about earlier!
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
      I know this will sound crazy, but it took me about a year. Since Mr. Simmons still has living relatives and friends with whom I spoke, they wanted to see the manuscript. That brought about changes. I had two professional critiques done on the manuscript, bringing more revisions.  I think I'm on draft number 7 now. I feel good about this version, and 7 is my lucky number!
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
      When I read It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate, illustrations by Greg Christie, I felt in my heart that this was the type of book I wanted my Philip Simmons'  story to aspire to be. It's heartfelt and shows the character of the man it portrays. 
I want to do that too.

9)Who or what inspired you to write this book?
     I took a bus tour in Charleston that showcased the African-American history of the city. Something about Mr. Simmons touched me. So I went to the Charleston Preservation Society and purchased a book about him. That night on PBS, there was a program on Craftsmen in America. Of course, I turned the program on just as they began to speak about and with Philip Simmons. I knew it was a sign that I needed to write his story.
10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
Tulip Gate by Philip Simmons
        I believe that Philip Simmons' character, belief system, and perseverance  make him a wonderful role model for all children, but especially African-American children. His beginnings weren't easy- raised by grandparents, working at an early age- but using both brain and brawn- and maintaining a positive outlook on life, despite its tragedies- he lived a long, productive, and prosperous life. His desire always to help others, especially children, is the legacy he left in Charleston. That and the hundreds of gates, fences, window grills, and a pavilion in the airport!          

Well, there you have it; a peek into my writing world. You'll have to excuse me now; I need to go back to my manuscript. Lucky 7, I can feel it.

I asked several writer friends if they wanted to continue this blog tag. One said she didn't have a "next big thing" right now and the others must be busy writing because I haven't heard from them yet! I'll go ahead and post this then add an addendum when I hear from them! 

Addendum for week of Monday, Nov 19th:
Watch for a posting here by children's author, Jo Kittinger and Cathy C. Hall at this link

Saturday, October 27, 2012


What's So Special About November? (Besides Thanksgiving)

       Those of you who write probably think the answer to the question above is: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Yeah, that's one option. 

       But some of you might find NaNo overwhelming and too time-consuming. Thanks to Tara Lazar, there's another option: PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month. 
   It's a simple premise: Write down 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don't need to write the whole manuscript [although if you can do that in a day, more power to ya!], just jot down a sentence or two about a character, a scene, a setting. You might even pose a "what if" question. Not so time-consuming, huh!

   There are 'benies' to signing up for PiBo. P-r-i-z-e-s. Good prizes. Really cool prizes like winning a critique from an editor or a literary agent. Now who wouldn't want those kind of eyes eye-ing your manuscript? Of course, to be eligible, you have to register by November 4th. And you need to link back to Tara's blog. Oh yeah, you need to post the official badge on your blog or web site, or Facebook page....if you have one of those.    

But why am I telling you this stuff? Just follow this  link:

I'm signed up and sworn in. I've got my idea notebook begging to be filled.

So, who's with me on this? This is less fattening than your Thanksgiving meal!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

 A Confession (even though I'm Jewish)

       It's been three, almost four months since my last post. It was never my intent to go MIA. Sometimes life events just get the best of us and a hiatus becomes important. Since June I've had a few wonderful ups but a few intense downs. The combination became overwhelming. Thus my "disappearance." 

      I took time to contemplate, analyze, be sad, be glad, regroup and now recommit to blogging, to supporters, to the craft of writing, and to forward motion. [no political innuendo intended]

      I think in the Catholic church, after a confession, there's a form of penitence or contrition. This time of year, in Judaism, we are approaching the Day of Atonement, otherwise known as Yom Kippur. On this day, while in synagogue, we recite a series of prayers confessing our sins ( and a whole bunch extra just in case we've forgotten some). So I guess I'll need to say about three "Al Chates"  [that's 'ch' as in the sound you make when coughing something up]. And lest you think that's not enough, keep in mind we are fasting 24 hours on this holiday-no food or liquid- and I'll be about 12 hours into it!!                                                                        

Monday, June 4, 2012

                    Sharing With My Community

      In my last post, I talked about my involvement in several communities.  It's important to not just be a part of a community but to give back to one's community, so today, I'm offering up some special books.

      First, I have a double autographed copy of It Jes Happened by Don Tate and illustrated by Gregory Christie. I was able to spend a little time talking with them at their recent gallery talk/book signing held at The High Museum of Art. (Don and I met last summer at the               
Highlights Writers'  Workshop at Chautauqua.)

           The second book, Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose, is written by Tina Nichols Coury, known as "The Rushmore Kid" in the blogosphere. Tina is always promoting other authors and their books so it's nice to see her in the spotlight. The book is illustrated by Sally Wern Comport.

      Both of these picture book biographies are fabulous! They share life stories of individuals unknown to many and celebrate their remarkable contributions to the world of art and to America. I have read these books several times. There's have a smooth flow to each story matched by the cadence of words. I can only hope that the picture book biography I'm working on will shine half as bright as these fine books.

     So, how can you win one? Stop by this blog and leave me a comment. Tweet, FB post, or blog shout-out and earn extra chances. You don't even have to be a follower (although I'd love for you to!) Giveaway ends at midnight on June 15th.

       Each book is special in its own way, but they have a couple threads in common: always be observant of the world around you and find something you're passionate about and participate in it. These really are great stories, so if you don't win one, go out and buy them!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

           It's All About Community

         I've been contemplating the idea of "community" for the past month. And I've come to realize how very mportant the concept is within my life.

         A dear friend of mine has lapsed into dementia, rather suddenly following a health issue. Anyone who has a family member or friend, or knows someone  connected to an individual in the dementia spiral, can appreciate the toll it takes on those closest to the afflicted. Your interactions change, your communications change and you must accept it and move forward while grieving the loss of the person you knew. It helps to have a community of people who care about the individual. Together we can hopefully help our friend still feel valued and loved.

       I find I need  a community of visually impaired and sightless people, as well as family and friends who support me through  the vision loss challenges. That's why I'm a Board Member for the local chapter of Foundation Fighting Blindness and assist with our support group. When I had to give up driving and then when I needed to learn to use a white cane, I wasn't sure I was up to the challenge. [To see how I handled it, check my archived posts for those labeled "Visualeyes"] But those in the support group knew exactly how I felt having gone through it. They reassured me I'd get there when I was ready.

     I also participate in a listserv for the visually impaired. The other day, a woman confessed to hesitation about using her white cane because she just knew everyone was staring at her and it was embarrassing. She was going on vacation and planned to use the cane elsewhere, around people she didn't know. She thought it would be a more comfortable environment to practice her mobility skills. My heart was racing and my palms were clammy as I read her post. With every cell in my body I understood her fear, her embarrassment, her sadness because I experienced it all. And guess who else tried out the cane on vacation around strangers? Yup, I took mine first to a beach town and then made my first "public appearance" at the LA-SCBWI summer conference. I was only semi-mortified in LA because I just knew 3 people out of about 1,000. 

         As writers, we definitely want a sense of community. Writing is usually solitary, and can be isolating. It's easy to feel vulnerable and lack confidence on your own. 

          But critique groups, blog buddies, web writing challenges, surround us with support, with guidance in writing, cheer us on after rejections, and understand the frustrations and snail's pace we've come to know as trying-to-get-published. 

        So many aspects of our lives involve a community. Even communities within communities. I for one, depend on them. I thrive with them. I'm grateful to be a part of them. Long live communities.