This year Father’s Day and our children’s 18th birthday fell on the same day. We decided to go kayaking on the White River. Even though it was overcast and a bit drizzly, we had a great time! I took the pictures with my phone from my kayak, while trying not to drop the phone in the water, so they are a bit blurry, but you get the idea. It was very peaceful and beautiful. We saw several Blue Herons fishing and a lot of turtles.
I had a busy month of May with school visits. Visiting the schools and talking with kids about reading and writing is really a joy! At Snacks Elementary, a group of students read Indian Summer as part of a reading group and had a pizza party during my visit. They asked a lot of great questions and everyone wants a sequel. I do have the beginnings of the sequel forming in my imagination, but it will have to wait until I get The Field, my next novel, down on paper (or into the computer). At Stephen Decatur Elementary, I did a presentation on ‘Reading for Literacy’ to the Muffins for Moms program and almost 400 people attended. They were very excited to buy books for summer reading. I spoke with 200 4th and 5th graders at Eagle Creek Elementary about ‘Bringing Characters to Life’. They were a great audience.
I’m getting a lot of great writing done on The Field this summer. I like to write outside when I can where I can look at my garden and take breaks to play fetch with Ernie.
I am doing an Author Visit to Stephen Decatur Elementary School on Friday, May 6th for 400 students and parents at Moms and Muffins. Yes, you read that right – 400! That will be my largest group so far. I am very excited. Okay, I’m a bit nervous, too. My topic is Reading for Literacy and I am, of course, trying to make my talk both fun and informative. The ultimate goal is to get the kids exicted about reading. Here’s something interesting I learned in doing my research:
“The single most important activity for building the skills to be a successful reader is reading aloud to children.” ~ 1983 National Commission on Reading
Reading aloud to children improves reading skills, writing skills, speaking skills, listening skills, attitudes about reading and even math skills! And we shouldn’t stop reading to our kids when they get into middle school. We should read to them up to eighth grade and even beyond. Share funny or interesting excerpts of what you are reading with your teens. I know you might have to wrestle them to the ground first to get them to listen, but it’s for their own good. The Read~Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is a fantastic guide for parents interested in learning more.
Reading = Knowledge
Every spring I get this surge of energy as the weather starts warming up and nature gets busy. This year I really need it because it’s crazy busy at our house! All four of us have work (or school), writing and publishing plus just getting on with the usual things. My children are both juniors in high school this year, so we’ve begun the college search this spring and have visited several places. I am a little bit jealous. I want to go off to college and have adventures, too! My son’s band is going to the recording studio to lay down some songs and is planning a midwest tour this summer. My daughter is working on developing a senior picture business as her summer job. I hover over them offering support, advice (solicited or not) and make phone calls. My brother and sister in-law just had their second child, a beautiful girl, so I’m planning a trip to visit them, and this year is my 25th anniversary with my wonderful husband! Whew! I also have several school author visits that I’m looking forward to in May. Lots going on!
Here’s a picture of my writing space. I try to fill my home and office with things that I love and have collected over the years and lots of COLOR! I love the color of this room. It is makes me feel energized and focused. The pictures on the wall are framed hankerchief’s of my grandmother’s. She lived in at time when ladies carried beautiful hankercheifs instead of tissues. My dad still carries a hankerchief. The Effiel Tower sculpture reminds me of my various trip to Paris. The framed photos at the back of the desk are from our lake cottage (the inspiration for Indian Summer). They remind me of many wonderful summers spent with family and friends at the lake. My family started a tradition of collecting little figurines from the different places we’ve been on vacation. I have the Chrysler Building from New York City, Big Ben from London, the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, the Coliseum from Rome, the Acropolis from Athens, and many others. They have a spot of their own as they take up too much room on my desk. Here are two quotes I like about life and travel.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” — St. Augustine
I recently got to spend a few days on Coronado Island in San Diego at the Del Coronado Hotel. The hotel is a victorian beauty over 120 years old and is said to be haunted! Unlike Marcie in Indian Summer, I wasn’t visited by any spirits, but it wasn’t for lack of wishing. Although the temperature was only in the 60’s (way better than Indianapolis) it was sunny and the area is beautiful. We drove up to La Jolla to see the seals and sea lions lolling on the rocks by the shore. You can tell them apart because sea lions have large front flippers and make a barking noise. We even saw some humans swimming in the VERY cold water without wet suits. Yikes! Then it was back to the midwest for cold, rainy weather and a book signing at Barnes & Noble with other members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Lots of great books!
I’ve really been getting into the writing groove on my next novel, tentatively titled “The Field”. This one’s targeted at an older audience and my teenage children and their friends are a HUGE source of inspiration and source material. A recent dinnertime conversation is definately going to be crafted into a scene. My son had posted on Facebook that the next day was ‘spicy chicken sandwich Tuesday’ and we got to talking about the chuck wagon meat cycle in the dorm cafeteria from when my husband and I were in college. The meat would first appear as a hamburger patty and be fairly edible. The next day it would arrive as salisbury steak covered in gravy and on the third day it would be converted into chuck wagon stew which we were afraid to eat. They also served yogurt as an entree alternative – yogurt was fairly new on the culinary scene at that time – which is what I went with most of the time (and gained the freshman 10 pounds). At my kids’ high school, the spicy chicken next shows up as an oriental spicy chicken dish and then later as spicy chicken balls. Amazing how history repeats! Except that my son loves all the variations of spicy chicken! Look for the spicy chicken sandwich evolution in “The Field”.
What I love – Snow Days! Tomorrow will be the third snow day for my kids – a new record I think. I will have to venture out tomorrow, but I’ve had two ‘gift’ days at home. I’ve made the most of those days, too! My girlfriend and I spent time each afternoon knitting, drinking tea and talking. A rare treat. Getting to each other’s house was a bit of an adventure, though. My house sits on a little rise and I slid from my door down to the sidewalk – at least I was still on my feet and not on my rear. My friend wiped out right on her front stoop, but was fortunatley unhurt. Of course, I’ve also been reading. At any given time I am in the middle of reading three or four (or five or six!) books. I started using Audible on my Kindle to listen to books as I do a lot of driving, so my capacity to devour books has increased. Right now I am listening to MOCKINGBIRD by Katheryn Erskine and read by Angela Jayne Rogers. It is a middle grade book about a girl with Asperger’s dealing with her brother’s death. It is a stunning book and Angela Jayne Rogers gets the ‘voice’ of 10-year old Caitlin so exactly right! I also recently finished MARCELO in the REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork which is for high schoolers and is about a boy with something like Asperger’s, although it is never clearly defined in the book. It, too, is an excellent book and both give a voice to children with learning disabilities. I found it very interesting to get into the head’s of Marcelo and Caitlin as they navigate the ‘real world’ without grasping many of the emotions and nuances that the rest of us feel. I’m almost finished with MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool, this year’s Newbery winner. I love the supernatural aspect of the gypsy ‘Diviner’ and that it deals with the first World War and the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918. A little history lesson as we enjoy a terrific tale. For adult titles, I just finished HALF BROKE HORSES by Jeannette Walls, a ‘true-life novel’ about her grandmother’s remarkable life in Arizona, which I really enjoyed and now have to read her other book THE GLASS CASTLE. In the que are THE GIRLS FROM AMES, for my bookgroup and AN OBJECT OF BEAUTY: A NOVEL by Steve Martin as an audio books on my Kindle. So many books to get to! What are you reading?
My first ever blog post is about something very exciting – Indian Summer is under consideration for the Young Hoosier Book Awards program for the 2012-2013 school year! Being selected would be a great honor and would get Indian Summer into the hands of students all across Indiana. I attended the YHBA Banquet last November and was fortunate to get to hear Nick Bruel, author and illustrator of Bad Kitty, which won in the picture book category for 2009-2010, speak about writing and illustrating. Not only can he craft a delightful and engaging tale and create lively and appealing characters, he is also a terrific speaker. The authors of the winners in the intermediate and middle-grade categories could not attend, so Nick had the podium all to himself. I was so impressed that I bought several of his books for my two nephews. If you would like to submit a recommendation to the YHBA committee for Indian Summer, you can download a form here http://www.ilfonline.org/clientuploads/YHBA/BookNominationForm.pdf
2011 is off to a great start!