Chocolate Book Blog

12 07 2014

When I agreed to do this blog, I wondered how I could possibly combine books and chocolate. First of all, I LOVE way too many children’s books to choose favorites and second, I’m not a fan of chocolate. Now before you run in the opposite direction screaming at such sacrilege, perhaps I should explain.

choc house I used to be a total chocaholic in my early years. Then I got the ultimate job ever at age 16 – working in the Chocolate House at HersheyPark. After eating chocolate cake for breakfast, chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup topped with chocolate whipped cream for lunch, and following that with a chocolate milkshake and candy bars for my afternoon snack every day for months, I cured myself of my chocolate addiction.

But I never managed to cure myself of my book addiction. After I learned to read, I always had a book with me — a practice that grew into a 30-book-a-week habit from 4th grade on. I hid books in my desk at school and read while the teacher talked. I read with a flashlight under the covers at night. I read while my friends watched TV or played outside.

Of course, I grew up to become a librarian and later an author. So now in addition to reading, I’m also always writing. Or illustrating. Or spending time with other writers and illustrators, who share my passion for the written word. So choosing favorite books is even more difficult at this point in my life. So for every book I list here, there are hundreds or thousands of others I wish I could include. I went back to my childhood bookshelf to choose the books that had the most worn and dog-eared pages.

littleprincesspicturebook1I’m going to start with the book I reread most often: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved Sara Crewe’s journey from pampered rich girl to abused servant girl (a reverse rags-to-riches story).

I dreamed of being just like her — staying happy and cheerful even in the worst circumstances. In the end, Sara receives her reward when she’s rescued by her father’s partner and once again becomes a wealthy heiress. But no matter what occurred in her life, she remained a princess with a big heart. From her, I also learned the power of imagination.

 

Because one of Sara’s triumphs over the nasty headmistress was when she spoke fluent French to the language teacher, I chose a chocolate eclair to pair with the book.

eclair

wrinkle in timeMy second most-read book was Madeleine L’Engle‘s A Wrinkle in Time. It transported me to another time and place. I reread the whole series multiple times and dreamed of someday becoming a writer as skilled as L’Engle.

The whole trilogy intrigued me, but I have to say my favorite of the three was A Wind in the Door, when Meg had to fight for her brother’s life.

It was in this series that I was first introduced the Francis Thompson quote, “Thou canst not stir a flower / Without troubling a star.” That made me appreciate the vastness of the universe and the interconnectedness of all life. I realized the impact even tiny acts of kindness can have on the world around me, and to this day, I can’t pull weeds without feeling a vast sadness. I’d rather have an overgrown garden than remove a plant, any plant — even a weed.

Because this trilogy deserves something out-of-this-world, I chose a Milky Way.

1280px-Milky-Way-Bars-USUK-Split

Moving back to very early childhood, two Little Golden Books that were worn ragged were The Poky Little Puppy and The Color Kittens.

Poky puppyJanette Sebring Lowrey‘s Poky Little Puppy was a slowpoke, but rather than learning the lesson to be on time, I realized it was better to procrastinate because the poky puppy ended up with more desserts and freedom than his siblings who arrived home on time. That turned into a lifetime habit of procrastination, and although at times, it causes problems, most often I find procrastination has many benefits. So I can thank the Poky Puppy for that life lesson. And the illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren, who also illustrated The Shy Little Kitten, The Tawny, Scrawny Lion, many other Golden Books, instilled a deep desire to illustrate children’s books when I grew up.

 

Color_KittensThe Color Kittens, written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Alice Provensen and  Martin Provensen, introduced me to the world of mixing colors. I spent hours trying to accomplish the color mixing with my box of crayons. Back then I determined to master the intricacies of colors, a goal I’m still trying to achieve in my art classes.

Margaret Wise Brown also proved to be an inspiration in my picture book writing. Someday I hope to be as prolific as she was.

For childhood dreams and coziness, I think a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows puddling on top sipped in a rocker evokes the warmth and joy of these picture books.

cocoa

My list wouldn’t be complete without my favorite heroine, Pippi Longstocking. I thrilled to her adventures and travel and independence. In a time when so many girls were portrayed as gentle and mild-mannered, Astrid Lindgren‘s Pippi jumped off the page, did what she pleased without adult supervision, and lived life on her own terms.Pippi She said what she thought without fear of consequences.

Pippi taught me to challenge authority and to never fear being myself, even if it meant standing out from the crowd. From her striped stockings to her wild red braids, Pippi demonstrated what it meant to be true to yourself.

In keeping with her tropical environment, I paired Pippi with my favorite coconut treat, an Almond Joy. And the fact that it contains nuts makes it a perfect match for Pippi’s zany nuttiness.

1280px-Almond-joy-broken

 

 

 

So who do you have to thank for all this chocolaty goodness? Eileen Moynihan of Childhood Books asked me to participate in this Chocolate Book Blog started by Karen Hall. You can read Eileen‘s and Karen‘s Chocolate Book Blogs by clicking on their names. The next person who’s handed the baton has to write a blog post naming 6 of their favourite books and linking one kind of chocolate to each book. Luckily for me, I found a chocolate lover in Monette Pangan, who’ll be bringing you more mouthwatering books and chocolate next Saturday.

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Leaps of Imagination: Fact, Fiction, & Fantasy!

4 06 2010

If you live near Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia, you might want to check out the cool conference that area has planned for children’s/YA writers sponsored by the regional SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) on July 17 & 18, 2010.

They have a fabulous lineup of speakers and breakout sessions for authors and illustrators at all stages of their craft–from beginners to the multi-published. Read on for a tentative schedule, then click here for more details, a brochure, and a downloadable registration form.

Saturday, July 17, 2010 

8:00 – 8:50 AM   Registration/Breakfast Snacks/Book Sales/Raffle Tickets/Making Friends
8:50 – 9:00 AM   Introductions & Welcome
9:00 – 9:50 AM   Stephen Fraser—“Leaping into Action: How an Agent Sells Your Book”
9:55–10:45 AM  Michelle Poploff and Edie Hemingway—“Partners In Imagination: The Author/Editor Revision Process”
10:45-11:00 AM  Break / Book Sales
11:00 – 11:50 AM  Morning Breakout Sessions
  • Marc Aronson—“Trends in Nonfiction”
  • Bonnie J. Doerr—“Writing the Eco-Mystery Novel / Balancing Entertainment with Education”
  • Carolyn Reeder—“Look Before You Leap”
  • Amie Rose Rotruck—“Building a Fantasy World”
  • 12:00 – 12:50 PM  Lunch / Networking / Book Sales and Signing
    1:00 – 1:50 PM Keynote Speaker, Margaret Peterson Haddix— “Along for the Ride: Taking Readers Where Your Imagination Takes You”
    2:00 – 2:50 PM   Afternoon Breakout Sessions
  • Editor/Agent Panel—Michelle Poploff, Louise May, Michelle Corpora, Stephen Fraser
  • Elana Roth (agent)—“The Great Query Caper”
  • Kelley Cunningham and Karen Nelson—“Illustrators’ First Look”—See registration page for details
  • 2:50 – 3:10 PM   Cookie Break/Book Sales and Signing/Networking
    3:10 – 4:00 PM   Marc Aronson—“The Truth Is… A Question”
    4:00 – 4:50 PM   “Steps in the Write Direction: A Panel Discussion on Writing Programs”
    4:50 – 5:00 PM   First Day Wrap-up and Raffle

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    7:45 – 8:15 AM   (Optional) Regional Chat Session in Dining Room
    7:45 – 8:20 AM  Registration/Breakfast Snacks/Book Sales
    8:20 – 8:30 AM   Welcome
    8:30 – 9:20 AM   Elana Roth—“The Scoop on High Concept”
    9:25 – 10:15 AM  Carolyn Crimi—“Baking Chocolate Cake: All the Ingredients You Need To Make Your Picture Book Delicious”
    10:15 – 10:30 AM  Break / Book Sales
    10:30 – 11:20 AM  Morning Breakout Sessions
    •  Teresa Crumpton—“Where Self-Editing and Revision Collide—For Stronger Prose”
    • Mary Bowman-Kruhm and Wendie Old—“Leap into Blogging and Social Media! (Will There Be Time to Write?)”
    • Donny Bailey Seagraves—“Finding Fiction In Our Own Backyards: Creating Home-grown Characters and Imaginary Setting Inspired by Real Life”
    • Karen Nelson—“Taking Your Imagination to the Marketplace” (for illustrators)
    11:30 – 12:30 PM  Lunch / Networking / Book Sales and Signing
    12:30 – 1:20 PM  Keynote Speaker, Joyce McDonald—“The Transformative Power of Fiction: How Real-life Stories Inform and Shape Our Own”
    1:20 – 2:10 PM   Louise May—“Creating Books Featuring Diversity: How Do I Leap In?”
    2:10 – 2:30 PM   Cookie Break / Last Book Sales
    2:30 – 3:20 PM   Debra Hess and Kelley Cunningham— “Imagination Is Just The Beginning”
    3:20 – 4:00 PM   “First Page” Panel
    4:00 – 4:15 PM   Raffles and Farewell

    General Session Blurbs (in order of presentation)

    “Leaping into Action: How an Agent Sells Your Book” –Stephen Fraser

    Discussing the simple principle, which an agent uses to sell your book, agent Stephen Fraser of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency talks about some recent sales, how and why they sold, how to succeed in today’seconomy, and how to be your best creative self.

    “Partners In Imagination: The Author/Editor Revision Process”—Michelle Poploff and Edith Hemingway

    You’ve revised and polished before submitting, but what happens after your manuscript is accepted? More revision! Michelle Poploff, V.P. and Executive Editor of Delacorte Press, and author Edith Hemingway will discuss working together to make a book the best it can be.

    “Along for the Ride: Taking Readers Where Your Imagination Takes You”—Margaret Peterson Haddix

    So you’ve dreamed up an incredible plot and/or extraordinary characters and/or a fascinating setting. How do you make your readers understand and fall in love with your story, too? And how do you fill in parts of the story that your imagination is still a little vague about?

    “The Truth Is…A Question”—Marc Aronson

    My books center on questions that I, or an expert with whom I collaborate, want to investigate. Formulating the right questions, figuring out how to answer them, and then bringing the results to young readers require many leaps of the imagination. My session will show the risks that writing non-fiction requires.

    “The Scoop on High-Concept”—Elana Roth

    We keep hearing agents say they’re on the look-out for this mysterious beast called the high-concept project. But what is it? Is it just the simple Hollywood pitch? Also, if there’s high-concept, does that mean there’s low-concept? And does high-concept have to mean low-quality? In this talk, Elana will demystify this term and give you the scoop on why these high-concept books are so appealing in the market.

    “Baking Chocolate Cake: All the ingredients You Need to Make Your Picture Book Delicious”—Carolyn Crimi

    Picture books should be as enjoyable and as memorable as that perfect slice of chocolate cake. So why does yours taste more like broccoli? Carolyn Crimi will help you learn to mix, sift, and blend your picture book batter until it’s the perfect consistency. No cooking experience necessary!

    “The Transformative Power of Fiction: How Real-life Stories Inform and Shape Our Own”—Joyce McDonald

    When our inspiration comes from the news media, the reason we are drawn to these real-life stories isn’t always evident at first.  Sometimes these stories haunt us until we finally confront them through narrative.  We write to understand, and in the act of writing, we often arrive at unexpected places and surprising truths.  In this session, I will talk about the tragic facts that informed my novels, Swallowing Stones and Shades of Simon Gray, and how I transformed them into fiction.

    “CREATING BOOKS FEATURING DIVERSITY: HOW DO I LEAP IN?”—Louise May 3, 2010

    Is it okay to write and/or illustrate across cultures? Do I need to be of the same background as the characters in my story? Do books featuring people of color have to be nonfiction or historical fiction? Is there a place for realistic fiction? What about fun and fantasy in books focusing on diversity? These questions and more pertaining to creating diverse stories for all of today’s young readers will be answered, from the point of view of Lee & Low Books, one of the country’s premier publishers of children’s books “about everyone~for everyone.”

    “Imagination Is Just The Beginning”—Debra Hess and Kelley Cunningham

    This joint presentation by Highlights Editor, Debra Hess, and Highlights High Five Art Director, Kelley Cunningham, will discuss the practical realities of putting together a magazine—what they actually do on a day-to-day basis and how it all works.

    Breakout Sessions (in order of presentation)

    “Current Trends in Nonfiction”—Marc Aronson

    Marc Aronson will talk about trends in writing nonfiction—what is currently selling and traditional NF voice vs. creative or narrative NF voice, leaving plenty of time for Q & A.

    ”Writing the Eco-Mystery Novel / Balancing Entertainment with Education”—Bonnie J. Doerr

    Follow the unique writing journey of combining environmental science with fiction.  Topics covered include choice of location, inspiration, plot development, research, observation of endangered species, interaction with natural environment, character development, and teaching without preaching.

    “Look Before You Leap”—Carolyn Reeder

    Historical fiction is much more than a story set in the past. Explore why it’s important to know the history before imagining the fiction, discover ways of bringing the past to life for your readers, and pick up some tips on making your characters authentic.

    “Building a Fantasy World”—Amie Rose Rotruck

    What color is the sky?  Who’s the king/president/dictator?  What’s the most common tree?  How does the food taste?  Good fantasy is not only about a good plot and interesting characters, but a fully-realized world.  Even if you’re writing urban fantasy set in your own neighborhood, you still have some work to do to make your fantasy world believable.  We’ll look at some examples of well-created worlds, discuss how to find inspiration for your world, and do some world-brainstorming.

    The Great Query Caper”—Elana Roth

    Querying an agent is often the first step to breaking into today’s market, but even if you’ve written a novel, these brief letters of introduction can be intimidating. Elana will lead participants in a real-time simulation of her slush pile experience, followed with a group critique of those very real query letters she has received and reveal why they worked—or didn’t work—for her.  Please note this is not a pitch session but a chance to learn how an agent thinks and how you can stand out in the crowd.

    “Leap into Blogging and Social Media! (Will There Be Time to Write?)”—Mary Bowman-Kruhm and Wendie Old

    Award-winning, multi-published authors Wendie Old and Mary Bowman-Kruhm discuss two free blogging platforms (WordPress and Blogger) and strike a glancing blow at other social media.  Bring a laptop or pen and paper and you’ll leave the session with a start on your own blog and basic information about social media.

    “Where Self-Editing and Revision Collide—For Stronger Prose”—Teresa Crumpton

     

    This fast-paced session is for all writers of fiction from beginner to multiply published professional. Together, we will work through a structured method, which blends general self-editing with deeper revision. Based on a series of strategic worksheets, in a half-session we’ll work through a Structure Analysis Worksheet and demonstrate its power. In the second half, we’ll use a basic Self-Edit Worksheet and note its benefits. Please bring a story or novel (yours or a published one) to work with. Handouts will be provided.

    Finding Fiction in Our Own Backyards: Creating Home-grown Characters and Imaginary Settings Inspired by Real Life”—Donny Bailey Seagraves

    How do you take a real-life event and turn it into a fictional story? A local family tragedy inspired me to write the middle-grade novel that became my first published book, Gone From These Woods. In this hands-on workshop, we will walk through the real place that became my book’s fictional world and we’ll meet some of the people who morphed into the characters there. Can you make the journey from your real-life event to fictional story? Bring pen and paper and I’ll show you how.

    “Taking Your Imagination to the Marketplace”—Karen Nelson

    This session for illustrators will focus on the inner workings of a publishing company, art department and the role of the art director.  Learn about marketing tools, approaches that work, and case histories, leaving time for Q & A.





    How Do You Deal with Rejection?

    31 08 2009

    I’m looking for suggestions from fellow writers on ways they deal with rejection. Post your helpful hints or healing therapies, special potions, or magic formulas at Romance Writers on the Journey for a chance to win prizes.

    Here’s the address:
    http://romancewritersonthejourney.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/meet-debut-author-laurie-j-edwards/

    Come on, even those of you who are mega-successes have rejection stories to share. Eating a whole gallon of ice cream? Bawling in the shower? Throwing darts at the editor or agents picture? Pounding a hole in your office wall? Or perhaps something more constructive (unless you’d already been planning to enlarge your office by knocking down a wall).

    Calling a supportive crit group member?? Running 10 miles on a treadmill? (Hmm, just think how svelte that would make me.) Spending a session on your psychaitrist’s couch?

    One of the crit groups I belonged to rewarded members with a candy bar for every rejection they received, and every year, we had a rejection party and gave out prizes for the cruelest rejection, the nicest rejection, the funniest, etc. And the person who had gotten the most rejection letters won the grand prize. In another group, we ritually burned our rejection letters in a bonfire while chanting, “I am an excellent writer and I deserve to be published.”

    Okay, so I admit it. I hang out with wackos. At least I haven’t danced naked under a full moon while chanting curses against editors…yet. Hmmm, think my crit group would go for that one?

    So pop on over to Romance Writers on the Journey and share your rejection stories. If you don’t have a solution, then just share your most painful rejection. We’ll all sympathize, which is bound to help.