Would You Read It Wednesday – The 33rd Pitch – And A Tour Update!

Oh.  My.  Goodness!

Apparently, Phyllis realized that April Fools Day was sneaking up on her, so she decided to ramp up the visit speed.  My head is spinning!  In the two days since I last posted, she has popped up all over the place and you won’t want to miss any of her adventures or the truly awesome posts by her hosts even if it makes your head spin too!

I’m just going to make you a little list so it will be convenient 🙂

Phyllis Arrived In Maine to visit with Heather N. and her family.  More to come…

Phyllis Visited The Standing Stones at Avebury in the UK with Rebecca… and her 7 children! (These are 2 separate and different links, and the second one has video reviews by Rebecca’s adorable, British-accented kids!)

Phyllis with Rebecca’s clan at Avebury, UK

Phyllis Arrived In New Zealand to stay with Diane.

Phyllis Toured Auckland With Diane.

Phyllis in New Zealand!

Phyllis Visited The Dixon Kids in Clovis, CA.

Phyllis Visited Knoxville, TN with Donna.

Phyllis sits in with The Rowing Man 🙂

Phyllis Visited With Mrs. Kistler and the ’49ers in San Antonio, TX before heading out on her School World Tour – next stop Washington!

Phyllis enjoys recess with The ’49ers!

and last but not least, Phyllis Hangs Out In Windsor, Ontario (with Catherine) and Phyllis Visits With Heather B in Washington! (posts going up today!)

AND, if that wasn’t enough to make you dizzy, she is currently headed for Vermont, another location in Washington, Australia, and Birmingham UK, AND we are still waiting for her to show up in Italy… apparently she either took an undisclosed side trip or a very long nap somewhere… we’re hoping she’ll emerge at some point!

That was in the last 2 days!  Hence the head spinning!

Anyone else ready for a nap?  At least it’s Wednesday and we have chocolate 🙂

Now then, onto our Would You Read It!

Today’s pitch comes to us from Terri, who has been an elementary school nurse as well as a pediatric/neonatal nurse for over 34 years and is currently working on acquiring and revamping an old ambulance to bring on school visits so kids can learn what equipment is in an ambulance and what happens when paramedics arrive.  It just so happens to go along with her book ideas.

Working Title:  First Aide For First Grade
Age/Genre: PB
The Pitch:  Mrs Fox is teaching first aide to the class. Charlie doesn’t want to listen but his best friend is listening with both ears and it is a good thing. After the lesson, the boys run to the playground to play. Zip, Zap, Zing….and Ouch. Who will help Charlie when he is hurt at recess?

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Terri improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)
Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  Go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Terri is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!
And I am going to try to catch up with that globe-trotting groundhog… after my nap 🙂

Phyllis’s World Tour Begins! And Oh Susanna – What Is An "Editorial" Agent?

Holy high and dry, Batman!

Phyllis has been sighted in the Mojave Desert!!!

It’s true!  She made the first stop on her World Tour (really, something as incredible as a World Tour has to be capitalized :)) at Kirsten’s house.  Kirsten and her family gave Phyllis a warm welcome and showed her a truly amazing time, including some important firsts for her:

First Time Piloting An F-117 Night Hawk

As you can see, this picture was taken after she had successfully landed the plane.  That Phyllis is a born pilot 🙂

First Time In A Joshua Tree

Actually, it was the first time she had even SEEN a Joshua Tree.  This picture was taken after she climbed down because furry brown groundhogs don’t show up well against furry brown bark.  But in case you didn’t know, groundhogs are members of the squirrel family and they can climb!

For a detailed post on Phyllis’s first stop in California, hop on over to Kirsten’s blog.  (For those of you ahead of me in time zone, or any other early birds, if the link doesn’t work right away it’s because Kirsten is 3 hours behind me and her post may not be up yet, and I won’t have a post-specific link until later today – but I will update the link, I promise!)

Phyllis is now on her way to Texas, where I hear Natalie has wonderful things in store for her visit.  We will keep you posted.  And by gum, I’d better get that extra tab up top pretty durn soon! *scribbles on very long to-do list!*

After all that excitement, you can probably barely concentrate on regular life, but let’s give it a try.  Most likely some chocolate would help, even though it’s not Wednesday 🙂

Today’s Oh Susanna question comes to us from Penny.  She says:

“When I have searched the internet in search of agents, some sites point out that some agents are more editorial than others.  What exactly does this mean?  Will an agent actually make specific changes to your manuscript or will they give general feedback and have you make the changes?”

This question is both easy and hard to answer.

From the easy side:  Yes.  To both.

Some agents are quite “editorial”.  They read a MS and give very specific suggestions for change and improvement.  I’m sure it is up to the author to actually make those changes, but they are quite specifically suggested in some cases, and the understanding is that without the changes the agent won’t send the MS out.

Other agents are not editorial at all.  They read a MS and say, “Yes, I’ll send it out,” or “No, this one doesn’t work for me,” end of conversation.

Still other agents fall somewhere in the middle.  They may give a broader, less specific suggestion, for example, “Change the beginning,” or, “It needs more emotional tension,” or “Give me a better idea of who exactly Jenny is” but they don’t give you suggestions as to how to achieve that, or any kind of specific details.

The harder side of the question is how to find out how “editorial” an agent is when you’re looking and thinking about submitting to them, and what kind of agent/amount of editorializing works best for you, which you may not know until you’ve gotten a little further in to the publishing process.

Some writers want a lot of hand-holding.  They like agents who will give them a lot of very specific feedback.  Other writers can’t bear to have someone else monkeying so much with their work.  (Still others would never dream of having an agent at all, but that is a whole nother issue!)

Finding the right agent is about so many things – personality, taste, and amount of editorializing being some of the key questions you need to address.  It’s especially difficult because it’s possible that the only agent offers you get might be from people whose style doesn’t match yours.  Then you have to think long and hard about what you really want.

For my part, I do have an agent.  (As you can see in my sidebar – Liza Voges of Eden Street Lit :))  She has a lot of experience, an encyclopedic knowledge of the publishing world, and a keen sense for what works and what doesn’t.  I would rank her somewhere in between on the editorializing scale.  If I send her a MS she thinks she can’t sell, she’ll just say so.  If it doesn’t work, she won’t waste my time or hers trying to force the issue.  If I send her a MS she thinks is really strong, she sends it out.  If I send her one where she feels there’s potential but I haven’t pulled it off right, she’ll give me a general comment like, “Try to write it more from the baby’s POV” or “The end is too abrupt.”  Then it’s up to me to figure out how to make changes that will make the MS work for her.  Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t.

No matter who your agent is, though, they won’t (and shouldn’t) do your job for you.  It is up to you to give them only your very best work.  Too many half-baked, sloppy MSS will find you looking for a new agent.

I know a number of people who read this blog have agents.  It would be wonderful if you would share your thoughts and experiences in the comments for readers to learn from!  If you can share your agent’s name and how “editorial” she/he is, I’m sure that would be very helpful to people starting their search!
Others of you, what would you look for?  Would you prefer a lot of editorializing or a little?

Would You Read It Wednesday – The 30th Pitch… And Some Awards… And A Journey!

Well, boys and girls, I am just chock full of news today!  I hope you’ve got your chocolate-covered Wheaties close by!

First off, I’d like to thank the lovely Rachel from Writing On The Wall for bestowing upon me not one, but TWO awesome awards which I have never received before:

The Sunshine Award – so pretty 🙂

AND

The Dream Launcher Award – so inspiring!
Of course there are a few questions that go along with the awards…
1. Favorite Color?  Blue
2. Favorite Animal? A tie between horses and dogs
3. Favorite Number? 9
4. Favorite (non-alcoholic) drink? I pretty much only drink water or seltzer… well, not counting coffee 🙂  But if we’re talking favorite, maybe iced tea (definitely sweetened) or orange peach mango juice!
5. Face Book or Twitter? Face Book!  I haven’t even tried Twitter – I find it very intimidating for some reason.
6. My Passion? Writing and my family (not necessarily in that order :))
7. Getting or Giving Presents?  Definitely giving!
8. Favorite Pattern?  Hmm… I don’t really do patterns… maybe something very simple and floral?
9. Favorite Day of the Week? I don’t know why, but I think maybe Tuesday.  How random is that? 🙂
10. Favorite Flower? Carnations – I love the smell!
And of course I’m supposed to pass these awards along… and I can NEVER choose who to pass them to because you are all so wonderful… so as usual I will sidestep by saying that if you like these awards and you follow my blog, you may have them because you’re all awesome 🙂  Consider them given 🙂
Moving right along, item 2 on today’s jam-packed agenda is Phyllis’s World Tour!
Yes, you heard me right.  There are those who have called her PHYLLIS THE INCREDIBLE INTERNATIONAL ROCK STAR (though I’m not naming any names :))
As we speak, 2 copies of April Fool, Phyllis are winging their way out – one to Florida, the other to California – to begin whirlwind tours of the USA.  Each person who receives the book will read it (sometimes to their kids or classrooms), blog about it, sign it, and pass it on to the next person.  In addition to the two copies making the rounds, lovely supporters in Canada, France, Italy and possibly even New Zealand will also be blogging about our April jester.  One special copy is going to Texas to begin a tour of US schools, and another special copy is going to Georgia to make the rounds of 2 fabulous literacy programs!  How much awesomeness can one month hold???
I will be adding a special tab up top on my blog so you can all follow Phyllis’s adventures with ease, and virtually visit all the fantastic places she’s going!  There will be blog links and, I’m really hoping, photos!!!  I’d also really like to have a map involved, but that is most probably beyond my technological skill, and my number one tech advisor has abandoned me to go to college…  so we’ll just have to see about that 🙂
And now, when you’re already so excited by receiving awards and hearing about Phyllis’s World Tour, I present you with today’s Would You Read It from the awesome Renee who can spout incredible poetry even whilst laid up sick in bed!
Renee is a full-time editor/writer for All About Learning Press for whom she co-authors early readers and blogs on grammar as her alter ego, the Chipmunk of Doom. A wife and mom to twin toddler boys, she lives in Italy where she runs around the countryside filming silly poetry videos for her blog No Water River. This is her first foray out of her poetic comfort zone and into the psychedelic world of prose PBs. Be gentle with her.

And here’s her pitch:
Working Title: Doris And The Scaredy Cats
Age/Genre: Fiction PB ages 4+
The Pitch:  Intrigued by the herd of petrified cats that show up at her door with their little suitcases, Doris is determined to un-petrify her furry new housemates — despite her family’s pleas to send them away before she ends up a scaredy cat, too. Doris will either calm the cats’ jitters or make her family’s fear come true — or neither.     
So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?
If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Renee improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However, I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)
Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  Go ahead and send your pitch for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Renee is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!
If you haven’t had a chance to vote on the February Pitch Pick, there’s still almost a day to go.  Click HERE and vote.
And that’s it.  I’m finally done.  And you probably all noticed that I way made up for last week’s succinctness 🙂

P.S.  One last thing I just realized, for any of you who were interested in Monday’s Oh Susanna question about leaving room for the illustrator.  Serendipitously, Janice Hardy blogged about this very topic yesterday and you can see her terrific post HERE.

Oh Susanna – Where To Go For Swag?

Wow!  How did it get to be Monday so fast?  The weekend just FLEW by!

Yesterday seems to have been an unusually quiet day on the internet (by which I mean I was so busy doing laundry that I was barely on my computer and hence missed whatever might have been going on :))  But seriously, I dragged Donna out for an interview and I’m not sure anyone besides Catherine, Alison and Vivian even saw it!  (Ouch for Donna! 😦 )  The extreme quietness has caused me to doubt my new policy of posting interviews on the third Sunday of the month… Perhaps it is a bad plan.  I shall have to re-examine it….  Or maybe Disqus was having issues… or maybe y’all weren’t interested in the topic under discussion…  Feel free to share below.  In any case, if you didn’t get to see Donna’s interview, please go HERE.  I think you might find some useful information, and if you have any questions, please post them to the comments of her interview post and we’ll see what we can do about getting you answers 🙂

In other news, I’m pretty excited because April Fool, Phyllis! will be available in the Scholastic SeeSaw Book Club for March!  It is titled The April Fool Treasure Hunt and has a blue cover instead of pink, but the story inside is the same.  And for real fun, it comes on CD!!!  I haven’t gotten to hear it yet – I hope it’s good 🙂

Since I haven’t gotten my copies yet, I had to swipe this cover picture off the Scholastic site 🙂

Oh, and apropos of nothing, I’m being featured on Kimberly Dana’s blog – The Blog Zone – today if anyone is interested…

Now onto today’s real business: the Oh Susanna question!  This is a good one, and I will be very interested to hear what all of you have to contribute on the topic!

Saba asks, “I’m looking to have some swag made for my blog and website.  Do you know of any companies that make stickers and bookmarks?”

Well, Saba, as a matter of fact I do!  And I’m sure our readers have experience with many more and will hopefully share what has worked well for them!

The main sites I have used are VistaPrint, GotPrint, and Zazzle.  I have made magnets, bookmarks, stickers, mugs, and pencils.  (The pencils were from another site…  Oriental Trading Company.)  What’s really great about all these sites is that you can google coupons for them and usually find a way to get a discount.

I am not artistically inclined and I have no knowledge whatsoever of how to use PhotoShopElements or Adobe Illustrator or any of those design-oriented programs.  For this reason, I have found Zazzle to be the easiest site to work with for anything involving art.  You can upload photos or scans straight out of your iPhoto file or wherever you keep your photos (as long as you have the rights or permission) and plop them right onto whatever you’re making – magnets, stickers, t-shirts, mugs, keychains, etc.  Zazzle has a lot of choices of things to make.

VistaPrint I have used for business cards and magnets.  They are pretty user-friendly too.

GotPrint is what I used for bookmarks, but I had to have help.  My daughter created the bookmark image I wanted on PhotoShopElements and uploaded it to GotPrint.  I could not have done that myself because all I know how to do is open PhotoShop Elements – I have no idea what to do next 🙂  This does not make for interesting bookmarks 🙂  Bookmarks are the thing I’ve struggled most with.  I have not found a really easy-to-work-with site that allows you to design your own without themed templates you don’t want.  Anyone with advice on this topic, please share!!!!!

The pencils are a little tricky because you can only go to 30 characters usually, and usually only one line of print.  So you have to choose your book title or your website or your name – you can’t fit them all.

I am always looking for easy-to-use sites for this kind of thing.  Also for good ideas of what to make.  Like I said, I personally have found Zazzle the easiest to work with, and they have a lot of product choices.  I might try tote bags soon 🙂

Now, all you faithful and helpful readers, what kinds of swag have you made?  What sites do you use?  What do you recommend for Saba?  Please share!

A Few Words About Postcards…

So it turns out marketing is a hotter topic than I realized.  People are pretty interested.

In response to a question about postcards, I promised to post pictures of my most recent ones, so here they are:

Here’s the front of the April Fool, Phyllis postcard…
… and here’s the back

I really like how Jeff was able to put the Punxsutawney Phyllis cover on the front, since April Fool is a sequel.

And here’s the front of the Can’t Sleep Without Sheep postcard…
… and here’s the back.

(It’s hard to see that the back of the Can’t Sleep postcard does actually extend to the right so there’s room for the address and stamp, but it’s there!)

I am so lucky to have talented illustrators to work with!  The basic information on the postcards is just the book cover, a review or two, website, and school visit information.

I hope that helps answer the questions about the postcards.  These two were both made on Vista Print (not by me! – one by Mike Wohnoutka and the other by Jeff Ebbeler – I’m still learning how to upload templates to Vista Print…) but I’ve also heard good things about GotPrint and I personally have used Zazzle a number of times because it’s so easy to work with for the non-computer savvy such as yours truly 🙂

In answer to another question about supplemental materials, I have made a lot of them myself – the classroom guides to the early books, madlibs, library activities, word searches etc., but my wonderful illustrators have been terrific abut making coloring and activity pages to go along with the books – fun things that teachers can use in school, or that parents can download for fun at home.  They are all on the School Visit page of my website, along with the new fancy classroom guides for April Fool, Phyllis! (and coming soon for Can’t Sleep Without Sheep.)  I just asked Jeff, Nicole, and Mike for what I wanted, and they put their own creative spin on it.  Then we can all post the activities on our websites.

I hope that answers some of the questions, but please feel free to ask more, and also share things that have worked for you!

Hi-ho, Hi-ho, It’s Off To School We Go

Today’s post will be short and sweet (I know, hard to believe coming from me) but seriously, I’m already out of time!

Last year, when I asked what you called taking a groundhog, a sheep, a hamster, an airplane pilot, a freight train engineer, a construction foreman, a taxi driver, and a couple of unruly boys on a school visit, a friend said, “It’s a Phyllistravaganza!” – which seemed just about right.

So today the Phyllistravaganza and I (really, we’re kind of like a traveling circus) are headed to a big school visit where we will be seeing upwards of 200 kids.  We’re just a little nervous, truth be told, because Phyllis is still struggling to come up with a truly great and memorable April Fools Day song to sing.  We like to go with familiar tunes and put in our own special brand of words, but this one is a toughie.  Luckily we still have driving time, and the car might inspire us if Phyllis can manage to focus instead of waving to passersby and making funny faces.

If anyone has any brilliant ideas, we’re open to suggestion at this point.  You have one hour 🙂  But we’ll take suggestions after that, too, in case we have to make due today and come up with something better for next week when we’re doing it again.

Wish us luck!

Why Writing Is Fun :)

Today is all about gratitude, and some of the things that make writing fun 🙂

Anyone who is a writer will tell you writing is hard work.  You put in long hours with no guarantee that anyone besides you will ever read the words you struggled to get just right.  Hopefully you’re not in it for the money, because in children’s publishing it will probably be a while before you can quit your day job.  But if you’re lucky, your stories will go out into the world and you’ll have some moments like these.

Today I want to share three things that have happened in the last three weeks that make all the long hours and at least some of the rejection letters worthwhile 🙂

1.  A librarian in California whom I have never met, wrote me this note about Can’t Sleep Without Sheep and sent these pictures:

I finally got to share your beautiful book with the kids and they loved it. Thanks so much for the link to the coloring pages. I took pictures of some of the kids having fun coloring them and thought I would share them with you. Thanks so much and I can’t wait to read more of your writing in the future.

Wasn’t it so nice of her to take the time to write this note and send pictures?

2.  A mom who bought Can’t Sleep Without Sheep took time out of her busy schedule to send me this note:

I have not in recent memory had my daughter beg for a book more and laugh harder than she did with this book. The chickens that make such a concerted effort to scale the fence and very comically fail makes her laugh so hard that her 5 year old little face turns bright red and she actually tears up. I was forced to re-read that page 4 times tonight. 

There is really nothing better than ability to make a child happy; maybe only making MY child happy :-).  Thank you

Knowing they liked it makes me happy!

3.  I visited a school last week and yesterday received a packet of letters – one of my absolute favorite things about school visits.  It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, it’s priceless, and I cherish the notes and pictures that young readers took time to send.  Here are a few of the letters about April Fool, Phyllis!:

He’s referring to Phyllis’s song 🙂
…and here’s his picture of me with my Phyllis puppet singing 🙂
Awesome handwriting, no? and I would love to do another book about Phyllis!
Someone who appreciates effort 🙂
A budding artist (with great taste in books :))
This is one of my favorites!  Short and sweet!  I think this is me, sitting in the chair, reading 🙂
Me, too!
So sweet!

So there you have it – the little things that make my days!  For me, knowing that even one child enjoyed one of my stories is what it’s all about.  (And you may all feel free to remind me of this the next time I’m fretting about rejection letters :))  Thanks for letting me share 🙂

Read Across America and A PRIZE!!!

I will not post contestants’ responses until all entries are in so that no one has an unfair advantage 🙂  But be assured if you posted your answers, I’ve got them!

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!  Not even one speck of rain, ice or snow (except for the thigh-deep stuff still on the ground) 🙂  So in celebration of this beautiful morning, Read Across America, and April Fool, Phyllis‘s Book Birthday yesterday (and because it is Wednesday and we all need a little fun to boost us toward the end of the week) I have decided to host a game/contest with a PRIZE!!!

Anyone who has hung around this blog for any length of time knows I can’t go very long without some kind of contest 🙂

So here it is:

Since it’s Read Across America week and we should all be encouraging kids to enjoy the delights of reading, I will post 25 first lines of well-known picture books.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the title and author of each book!

The prize?  (Well, I think it’s a prize!)  The winner will receive a personalized signed copy of April Fool, Phyllis (it is her book birthday after all) hot off the presses!

The rules are:
1.  You must be a follower of this blog.
2.  You must list all 25 titles and authors correctly.
3.  You must post your answer by 5 PM EST Sunday March 6 (see how nice I’m being – giving you more than the usual 2 days?)

I will announce the winner in Monday morning’s post, with plenty of time to mail the book before April Fool’s Day!

Happy Reading with your kids and happy writing your contest answers everyone!  Good luck and have fun!

Here are the first lines:

1.  This is Olivia.
2.  When I leave home to walk to school, Dad always says to me, “Marco, keep your eyelids up and see what you can see.”
3.  The day Helen gave Martha dog her alphabet soup, something unusual happened.
4.  Chester Raccoon stood at the edge of the forest and cried.
5.  This is the house.  The house on East 88th Street.
6.  The big hand of the clock is at 12.
7.  One day Little Sal went with her mother to Blueberry Hill to pick blueberries.
8.  I’m Emily Elizabeth, and I have a dog.
9.  Ava had a hard time falling asleep.
10.  Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country.
11.  In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
12.  Once upon a time there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter.
13.  Lilly loved school.
14.  Harry was a white dog with black spots who liked everything, except… getting a bath.
15.  The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him “WILD THING” and Max said, “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” so he was sent to bed without eating anything.
16.  One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.
17.  Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young duck named Ping.
18.  Chug, chug, chug.  Puff, puff, puff.  Ding-dong, ding-dong.
19.  Farmer Brown has a problem.
20.  In the great forest a little elephant is born.
21.  Little Nutbrown Hare, who was going to bed, held on tight to Big Nutbrown Hare’s very long ears.
22.  In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.
23.  Once there was a tree… and she loved a little boy.
24.  Once upon a time there was a very old man and a very old woman.
25.  One Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed.

P.S.  I discovered this was surprisingly hard to make difficult!  So many first lines include the character’s name, which totally gives it away!  Next time, I think I’ll try last lines!  But at the very least, this will hopefully give you all a list of great books to read with your young friends… 🙂

I will not post contestants’ responses until all entries are in so that no one has an unfair advantage 🙂  But be assured if you posted your answers, I’ve got them!

Oh, What A Morning!!!

Yeah.

So you all know I was headed to the Big Apple yesterday for an author visit with my niece’s school. Such a simple thing, really.  I do school visits all the time.

My plan was foolproof: put my youngest daughter on the school bus, run back to the house, grab my school visit stuff, be guilt-tripped by my faithful writing buddies (who I was about to leave home alone for many hours with only a couple visits from Grammy and Grandpa to relieve boredom and calls of nature) and head to the city with plenty of time.

faithful writing buddies

You’ve probably already guessed that’s not quite what happened…!

(This is the moment when you should make sure you have a fresh cup of coffee and a little something yumptious, because I confess this post runs a little long…:))

Have I mentioned that our house is 6/10 of a mile from the bus stop, around a number of curves that make it impossible for me and the bus driver to see each other until the last minute?  This has been the situation for 13 years of bus riding, so as a result I ALWAYS call the bus when we’re not taking it so the bus driver doesn’t waste time waiting.  In return, I hope that the bus driver will give us an extra moment – the benefit of the doubt, if you will – if we happen not to be there when she pulls up.

Since I work from home, most days it doesn’t matter more than a little wasted gas if something goes awry with the bus.

Yesterday being a day when I really needed my daughter to ride the bus, I made sure we arrived at the stop on time.

No bus.

(I would like to supply a photo of the empty bus-less icy road in the the driving rain here, but not knowing I was at the front end of an epic morning, I didn’t have my camera with me :))

Well, I consoled myself, the weather is dreadful – freezing rain, icy roads – maybe she’s just taking her time.

One minute.  Two minutes.  Five minutes went by.  No bus.

Now, normally I have my cell phone with me so I can call the bus depot if there’s a question.  But yesterday, knowing I would be away from home for many hours, I wanted to make sure it was fully charged.  Hence, when I grew panicky at the five minute late mark, I groped in my pocket for my cell phone only to discover I’d left it charging on the kitchen counter 6/10 of a mile away around a number of curves…

So we waited a little more.

Six minutes.  Seven minutes.  Ten minutes.  No bus.

Now I knew I was in deep doo-doo (pardon my French!)

Back up the icy road, around the curves, 6/10 of a mile to our house.  Up the icy steps at breakneck speed. Speed dial the bus depot.  “What happened to the bus?” I asked with that very attractive high panicky pitch to my voice.

“Let’s see,” the depot master said bemusedly.

The long and the short of it was – substitute driver arrived early, didn’t read the running sheet saying call the house if we weren’t at the stop, didn’t wait until anything close to our time, and LEFT WITHOUT US!!!

DEEP doo-doo.

So instead of my calm, foolproof plan, I raced around like a deranged chicken, grabbing my stuff, shoving it in the car, racing through a quick email to my niece’s school warning them I would most probably be late, and heading off up the icy road to my daughter’s school – which, incidentally, is in the opposite direction from the city.

About 3 miles into the 13 mile drive, we got behind a sanding truck, driving down the middle of the road, spewing salt and sand in all directions over the icy surface.  There could be no passing.  We drove a maximum of 15 mph for the remaining 10 miles while I watched the minutes tick by on the dashboard clock and tried to remain calm… not very successfully I might add.  My poor daughter…

At last she was safely at school and I could head for the city.  I was now leaving nearly 45 minutes later than I had planned to from a distance that was half an hour further away.  And the roads were still icy.  And it was still a driving downpour.  Not great conditions for making time!  (And nobody better bring up the speeding ticket incident… (s)…!)

icy…

…then rain slick roads…
…followed by traffic jam number one…
…and traffic jam number two….

And I didn’t even take pictures of traffic jam number three because by that time I was far too panicky!  (Although, if anyone asks, I was certainly not driving and taking pictures at the same time!)  And we won’t even mention the two cups of coffee I had in lieu of breakfast that began demanding to be acknowledged about 45 minutes into the trip!

I pulled into 90th street at 10:07, had to back up and squidge over to allow a cop car to back up past me, wasting precious moments.  On the next block, my first good luck of the day – a parking garage with vacancy!  I dashed in, grabbed my stuff, practically snatched the ticket from the parking attendant, and ran, literally ran flat out, through the driving rain to my niece’s school (although I had the foresight to tuck Phyllis and Woolliam and my other valuables under my jacket, since I did not have the foresight to grab my umbrella out of the back of the car :))

I dashed into the school, dripping wet, out of breath and, remarkably, only 12 minutes late, to find 4 first grade classes waiting patiently for me in the library.  No time to catch my breath or acknowledge that coffee – it was show time – for three straight groups in a row, from 10:12 – 11:50.

But what a beautiful library, and what a wonderful group of kids!  The morning drama was well worth it because after all that?  We had a good time 🙂

Of course, the copy of the book I had moved mountains to get in time for the visit so I could give it to my niece afterwards didn’t arrive.  (I read off the F&G, which was no easy task – as you know, F&Gs are unbound, so when you try to hold them up so everyone can see, they have a tendency to fall all over the floor.  This supplied much hilarity, however.  I explained to the third group that I had already dropped the F&G about 20 times, and halfway through reading to them, it fell once again, prompting a sharp tack in the back row to shout “21!”)

Anyway, after all the drama of getting there, the visit was such fun!

And guess what was waiting on my porch when I got home?

Confession – this photo was staged this morning; when I arrived home yesterday, the book was in a sodden brown cardboard wrapping in the rain 🙂

Picture Books In The Classroom

Get ready.  This is going to blow your whiskers back!

APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS! IS HERE!!!  Woo-hoo!  *Cheers and throws confetti with reckless abandon!*

(Although, I don’t actually have a copy yet… :))

AND, it gets even better!  The exceptionally knowledgeable and qualified Shannon Morgan has just completed Classroom Guides for April Fool, Phyllis! and they will be up on my website (for anyone who would like to download) hopefully by the end of today.  The timing couldn’t be better because, as of this weekend, the book is available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble and it should reach Indie bookstores of discerning taste this week 🙂 (Holiday House, publisher of April Fool, Phyllis!, markets primarily to schools and libraries, so not all bookstores will carry it… unless you ask :))

What need have I of a classroom guide? you may ask.  Well, if you’re not a teacher, a homeschooler, or possibly a daycare provider, you probably won’t have much use for it – unless you have a hamster who likes educational bedding.

But if you ARE a teacher, a homeschooler, or a day care provider, what could be more fun than using picture books as a source of learning in your classroom?  And how better to do that than with a handy dandy guide that gives you a whole slew of ideas and resources on how you can incorporate the story into language arts, social studies, science, math, art etc. for your specific grade level?  Including content standards!

Some books lend themselves to curricula more readily than others.  April Fool, Phyllis! should be one of them.  There aren’t that many picture books about April Fools’ Day, and it’s a fun holiday to explore with young readers.  In addition, it opens the gateway for discussions of weather, maps, and making maple syrup 🙂 among other things.

Not to toot the horn of my own book (er, or something along those lines) but the classroom guides are really awesome.  (I’m allowed to say that because I didn’t write them :))  I hope you’ll all check them out and pass the word along to any teachers you may know.  It’s like a gift – whole lessons already planned! – they may shower you with gratitude and offers to take you to dinner 🙂

For any of you who might be interested in creating classroom guides for your own picture (or other) books, I highly recommend Shannon!  She is a woman of many interests, so if you click on her link and see pictures of cute cats in cups, or recipes for amazing homemade bread, be assured you have not gone to the wrong place 🙂  Once the guides for April Fool, Phyllis! are up on my website, you’ll be able to see examples of her fine work.

And now, as if all this wasn’t exciting enough, Phyllis and I are off to the Big Apple – right this second! – to visit my niece’s school and perform the debut reading of April Fool, Phyllis! (from the F&G because, like I said, I don’t have an actual copy yet!)  There is a special surprise for my niece – the book is dedicated in part to her, because April First is her birthday 🙂

If we remember to take any pictures, I’ll share them tomorrow 🙂  Wish us luck!