Monday, October 28, 2013

Social Media Round-Up of 2013 SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Fall Conference

This was our biggest and most extensive conference yet, and I've put together a social media round-up for those of you who missed the meeting or want to relieve some of your favorite moments. If you have highlights, pictures or comments about the 2013 SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Fall Conference, but sure to link to them in the comments or tag them with #SCBWIMidAtlantic on twitter.


Conference Co-Chair Erin Teagan created a funny and fabulous list of Ten Things about the 2013 MidAtlantic SCBWI Fall Conference. Erin and Val Patterson did an amazing job coordinating this event, and Regional Advisor Ellen Braaf is just about the most welcoming host anyone could ask for.

*As a wonderful new addition to out chapter, Elizabeth Metz gave an illustrator's perspective on the meeting. This was also her first time attending an SCBWI conference, and her "notebook doodles" are both insightful and beautiful.


You can still read all the tweets about the conference even if you didn't have the change to attend the meeting yourself. People shared words of wisdom, encouragement and networking opportunities.


Follow SCBWI Mid-Atlantic on Facebook! While the page administrator Anne Marie Pace wasn't able to attend this year's conference (she was speaking at her alma mater's homecoming), there are a lot of comments and highlights and questions about the conference going around. It's also a great place to find out about events and book releases for local SCBWI members throughout the year.


I wasn't great about taking pictures or notes this year, but I do have a couple to share.

My friend Judy Egan makes her wish on Cynthia Lord's Newbery Honor plaque for her book Rules.
VCFA represents with Anne Westrick, author of Brotherhood, and Hannah Baranby, author of Wonder Show. Gigi Amateau, not a VCFA grad but still a wonderful and prolific author, also joined the panel.

*Added 10/29/13

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Third Grad School Reading List of Third Semester

I will admit it, I'm in a reading funk. After more than a year of detailed reading for school, it has lost some of its appeal. Which makes my reading of Danalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer more than a little ironic. The thing is, I read a lot of really good books for this unit that at any other point in my life would have become instant favorites. Hell, I even found a classic British book that was right up my alley (hope you didn't fall off your chair hearing that). So while I was probably overly critical of some of these books, know that they were are pretty good reads. Unfortunately, I'm just not a good reader at the moment.

Amazing, isn't it? That a self-professed bibliophile and YA lit fanatic can suddenly stop enjoying reading. Actually, it's not that amazing nor surprising as it's a pattern well establish with kid readers. They go from loving books to hating books to loving them again over a course of days or years or decades. I don't believe in reluctant readers—I only believe in readers who need to find the right book at the right time. (I'm paraphrasing Anita Silvey there.)

So I'll keep reading and analyzing and looking for good books, and hopefully I'll find that passion again. And find it soon! I have grad school to finish.

“Dead to Me” by Cinda Williams Chima: I am all for short stories. I love the way that they compress a timeline and get to the heart of both character and plot in so few words. But I HATE teasers disguised as short stories. And no matter how much I love Cinda and her writing, this “short story” had a critical lack of “story.”

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, narrated by Ralph Cosham: Now these are short stories done right. I was surprisingly delighted by this book as my disdain of classic Brit Lit is well documented, and I was expecting to completely dislike Holmes as he is often portrayed as egotistical and pretentious, belittling others to more fully highlight his own intelligence. However, these short stories highlight his intelligence through his compassion for those who have been wronged as well as those who have made poor decisions in their lives. But even more impressive is Doyle’s plotting ability—though the crimes/actions are relayed in rather long monologues given to Holmes by clients, it is the adventure in solving the mystery that makes these stories fun and engaging.

The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka: I’m usually not a fan of the first-person past narrator with an abstract timeline in picture books, but this one worked for me, even if the topic was a bit overly sentimental. Maybe it was because the illustrations were crayon and watercolor collages that provided authentic childlike images to ground the voice.

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull, illustated by David Diaz: I remember learning about Wilma Rudolph back in middle school, and I remember a lot of the instances in this book from the character actor who came to my school—she even brought one of Rudolph’s gold medals and a pair of her Olympic running shoes that were displayed in our trophy case for the week. This author picked the best moments of Rudolph’s life to share.

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Danalyn Miller: While I found some of the information repetitive and self-congratulatory, there was a lot of good content about talking about books with kids7mdash;how to connect them with books, help them increase reading ability and confidence, and set a good reading example. It might be geared towards educators, but the topic is just as important for parents and writers to be aware of and strive to implement in the learning environments they create. It reminded me of Anita Silvey’s 100 Best Books for Children or Jim Trelease’s The Read-Alound Handbook.

All in a day by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure: It was the illustrations that made this book work for me as well. Rhyming picture books with idyllic themes tend to wear thin on me because they are overly sentimental. But if anyone can get away with being sentimental, it’s Rylant (i.e. When I Was Young in the Mountains). She picks her imagery well and doesn’t get carried away/lost in the poetry.

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurliff: This is a very telling book filled with generalized descriptions that don’t make any details stand out: “King Barf wore a gold crown on his head, gold chains around his neck, gold armor on his chest, gold rings on all his fingers. His saddle was gilded gold. His boots had gold buckles” (68). The action passages use simple—often passive—structure that is incredibly narrator centric: “I stood frozen for a minute and I almost ran back just as fast as I had come” (82). The concept is intriguing, as most fractured fairy tales are, but it offered nothing truly special. The author missed so many great opportunities to bring this magical world to life.

Here by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak: I picked up this poetry hoping to find something to connect with by reading a Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet; what I didn’t expect to find was a kindred spirit. I am terribly saddened that Szymborska passed away a year and a half before I discovered her poetry, but I am so glad that she left such an amazing body of work that I can explore for years to come. I loved looking at her line and stanza breaks. It’s amazing how her cheekiness and self-deprecating humor can be so evident in such few, well-chosen words.

Hora de dormir del conejo: Rabbit’s Bedtime by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, translated by Annie Garcia Kaplan: I’ve been thinking a lot about bilingual books—and by that I don’t just mean books that are either translated or use dialogue that’s a hybrid of English and another language—I mean books that feature two languages. Here had the Polish on one page and the English translation on the facing page, and this rhyming picture book had the Spanish text with the English translation below. While I don’t know more than the basics of Spanish and a few words in Polish, I found it interesting to see the choices in translation. Sometimes rhythm and rhyme were sacrificed for clarity, and other times the poetry of both languages fit so perfectly, it was hard to tell which was the original language.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley: I love that because of Linda Aronson's The 21st Century Screenplay I have a name for this storytelling form—fractured tandem. I love that it’s mysterious without being a mystery, fantastical without being a fantasy and melancholy without being depressing. But the best part is watching all of the threads come together in the end. Someday I’ll be brave enough to write a story in this form, too.

Monday, October 7, 2013

SCBWI Mid-Atlantic Annual Fall Conference: Children's Publishing in 2013

I'm usually much better about posting information about the SCBWI Mid-Atlantic activities, but once again, I'm going to plead grad school. This is an amazing event for local children's writers and illustrators. Not only do you learn about writing for children and young adults, but it also connects you with an entire community of writers. This year, the event returns to the Holiday Inn Dulles on October 25-26. Registration is still open, though only one of the intensives on the 25th is still available.

The keynote speaker will be Cynthia Lord, author of the Newbery Honor book Rules. Featured speakers include picture book master (and VCFA faculty member) Mary Quattlebaum and Frances Gilbert, Associate Publishing Director of Random House, Golden Books, Doubleday Books for Young Readers. You can check out the full faculty list as well as the agenda on the conference website.

Click here for more information and to register for the event.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Five FREE Place to Visit in DC during Government Shutdown

If you happened to plan a family vacation to Washington, DC, over the next few days, you're probably incredibly frustrated at the moment. After all, what on earth are you going to do? Maybe you wanted to teach your kids about American history or wanted to see our government in action for yourself. Though you can't tour the Capitol, monuments, or the Smithsonian museums, here are five FREE things you can do.

Arlington Cemetery
Though the tour tram won't be operating, you can still walk through the cemetery. I recommend starting at President John F. Kennedy's grave site with a visit to Robert F. Kennedy's site as well. From there, the walk through the trees to the Tomb of the Unknowns is both beautiful and moving, especially as we head into fall. After paying your respects during the Changing of the Guard, head around Memorial Amphitheater to see the Mast of the U.S.S. Maine, the Canadian Cross, Columbia Memorial, Challenger Memorial, Iran Rescue Monument and the Third Infantry Division, all within a few feet of each other. Arlington House is closed, but you can still end your visit with a stroll through the newly refurbished gardens and enjoy the spectacular view of the National Mall from the top of the hill. Keep in mind that there are still several funerals planned at the cemetery, so be respectful to mourners.

Washington National Cathedral
This beautiful homage to American faith is well worth the visit. While there is a suggested $10 donation (and I encourage you to leave more if you can as they are still trying to fund repairs for the damage caused by the same 2009 earthquake that shut down the Washington Monument), you are still welcome to visit without leaving a monetary donation. The architecture, art and grounds are simply breathtaking--my favorites are the moonstone displayed in a stained glass window and the Darth Vader gargoyle. There are half-hour tours offered most days between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., but be sure to check their website for conflicts. The Sunday services held between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. in both the main chapel and the smaller chapels are also worth attending. There are many churches in the DC area worth visiting, including St. Johns Church Lafayette Square, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Calvary Baptist Church, National City Church, Christ Church in Georgetown, the Masonic Temple in Alexandria, VA, and the Mormon Temple in Kensington, MD.

Rock Creek Park
The largest of DC's many parks, Rock Creek is a beautiful spot for hiking, biking and driving. Okay, so technically the park is closed (along with the National Zoo which is housed in the park and run by the Smithsonian Institute), but there is little enforcement of the closure. While the main road remains open to automobile traffic--for the moment--Beach Drive is closed to cars, and many bikers and joggers are enjoying the winding, shaded road. The C&O Canal and the Mount Vernon Trail are also "closed" with little to no enforcement.

The Big Chair in Anacostia
Yes, seriously, this is one thing you don't want to miss. While DC is full of beautiful architecture and rich American history, it is also a community with a quirky culture. This is no longer the biggest chair in the world, but in my book, it is certainly the most impressive. And while you're out looking an funky sculptures, why not check out the massive Einstein Memorial on Constitution Avenue, the Friendship Archway in Chinatown and the Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden on Massachusetts Avenue.

Old Post Office Pavilion
You might not be able to go up the Washington Monument or tour the dome of the Capital, but you can take a free ride up to the clock tower of the Old Post Office Pavilion. They give a really great tour and talk about a lot of American history that you might otherwise miss out on because the museums are closed.

And So Much More
Learn about modern art at The Pillips Collection (free every Tuesday through Friday), see local artist at Eastern Market, play in the HUGE playground at Turtle Park, or sit in the lobby of Willard InterContinental Washington where Julia Ward Howe wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and Martin Luther King wrote his "I Have a Dream" speech.

If you're willing and able to spend some money, I'd recommend visiting the International Spy Museum ($20.95/adult, $15.95/senior, $14.95/under 12 and free/under 6) and the Newseum ($21.95/adult, $17.95/senior, $12.95/under 19 and free/under 6). For an amazing art museum, stop by the National Museum of Women in the Arts ($10/adult, $8/senior, and free/under 19) or the Corcoran Gallery of Art ($10/adult, $8/senior, and free/under 12). If you're looking for a presidential experience, try President Lincoln's Cottage ($15/adult, $5/under 13 and free/under 6) or George Washington's Mount Vernon ($17/adult, $16/senior, $8/under 12 and free/under 6). Be sure to ask about student and active-duty military discounts to see if you qualify--and be sure to bring your ID! These are all either privately owned and operated or funded through generous financial grants and trusts, so they have not been affected by the government shutdown

Washington, DC, is so much more than a city shut down by politicians who can't seem to get along. There's no reason for you to miss anything this city has to offer.