An Author’s Guide To Skype School Visits With Guest Iza Trapani!!!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Everyone!

I have a present for you!

It’s not green.  And it’s not Irish.  But it’s still a great present 🙂

Remember on Friday I promised a guest post on a very interesting topic?

Ta-da!

Allow me to introduce the multi-talented and delightful Iza Trapani!

Author/Illustrator Iza Trapani

Hi Iza!

Thank you so much for joining us today!

I personally am very interested in the topic of Skype school visits.  I think they’re a wonderful alternative to in-person visits for many schools, allowing authors and illustrators to visit classrooms without the expense associated with in-person visits.  Having never done one myself, I was curious to know the details of how one goes about it, and I thought you guys might like to know too!  So I asked Iza (who is a pro :)) to elucidate, and she very kindly did (VERY kindly because not only did I ask her for a guest post, it was on short notice!)

Take it away, Iza!

While an in-person school visit is always better, a Skype session is a nice alternative for schools  struggling with tight budgets and/or for schools wanting to invite an out-of-state author. Most authors charge travel expenses  in addition to their presentation fees, so it can get expensive. Skype visits are a convenient and affordable option. They are also great for authors and illustrators who are often up against deadlines.  Cutting out the travel leaves more time for the works in progress.

I’ve been doing skype visits for a couple of years now, and I’m glad to share my experience.


Getting Skype Visits

Advertising for Skype visits is no different than for in-person visits. On my website I have a link with information on my school visits. It includes a description of my presentation, a short video of me presenting to a class, my fees, list of my titles, short bio,  feedback on my presentations and more. When a school contacts me, I also have a school visit PDF that includes all the relevant info plus references. A few years ago we added a blurb that I am now available for Skype visits as well. When I started doing Skype, I sent out an e-mail announcement to all my school contacts, teacher friends, and fans. A few years ago I’d also sent out a flyer to numerous schools within a 50 mile radius. The flyer had a brief bio, description of my presentation and contact info. I am also listed in Arts in Ed directories in several counties. Mostly, the schools find me either via my website or by word of mouth. Because my writing and illustrations (especially) are so time consuming, I can not do too many school visits. But that is a personal choice. Some authors do lots of school visits and I am sure they promote much more aggressively than I do.



Setting up the Session

I set up right in my studio which has good, glare-free northern light and overhead track lights.  My laptop will rest on a small table. I’ll have a stool to sit on and my materials (illustration samples, books I’ll be using etc.) will be within reach on top of my flat file cabinets on the left. To my right will be an easel with an 18×24 pad on which I’ll do drawing demonstrations. Behind me, a low bookshelf will showcase some of my books face out. It makes a nice backdrop.

Before doing my first school visit I did a test with my sister (in Poland!)  to make sure the light was good, that the books behind me were well arranged and that the easel was at the right height. When I first started I was worried that the class wouldn’t see me well, but I soon learned that the image I see of me in the little window on the bottom right in Skype is what they are seeing. I can tilt the computer screen to adjust the view as needed.

Makeup? Attire?

One of the advantages of a Skype visit is that I don’t have to fuss over my appearance. First of all, it’s never a crystal clear image-at least not on my end. I rarely wear make-up but I  will wash my hair and wear a nice, casual top for the session. It doesn’t matter what’s on my bottom half- clown pants or a tutu- they won’t see it 🙂

Interruptions?

I turn off the phone and leave a note on the front door. If it’s UPS or FedEx, they can drop off in our front foyer.  My big Mastiff, Jambo, might stay in my husband’s shop- but I have had requests from some schools that the kids wanted to see my pets, so in those cases I will leave him with me. Part of the attraction of Skype is seeing the author at home.


 Technical Problems

Sometimes there are technical problems – usually no sound. So far, the problems  were on the school’s end and were quickly fixed. A quick test Skype with the teacher ahead of time is always a good idea. I also do a test Skype with a friend or relative beforehand.

Sound can be a bit problematic. When the children join me in singing there is a slight delay. Also, I don’t always hear the children when they ask me questions; the teachers usually have to repeat them, and I can hear the teachers just fine. They say they can hear me very clearly, so I am glad about that.


My Presentation

My Skype presentations are the same as my in-person visits. I start off with a short intro, telling a little bit about me- how I was born in Poland and came to the U.S. when I was seven and went right into first grade not speaking any English, and then how my dream of making books for children came true. Then I sing/read one of my nursery rhyme books, and I’ll have the kids sing at least the first verse along with me. Then I will discuss the bookmaking process, talk a bit about getting ideas and turning them into stories, and then the many revisions that are needed. I will show samples of my storyboards, dummy sketches, color studies and final art. I will also show some of my rejected works- paintings I had started but wasn’t happy with. And I have some press sheets to show them so they can understand the printing process. After that I will do Q+A then go on to a drawing demonstration. I’ll choose a character from one of my books and have the kids think of some ideas of what the character could be doing and I will draw it for them. Then I’ll ask the kids to help me add details to the drawing and I will put them in. A typical scene might be a bear riding on a skateboard and juggling. For details they will ask me to put in the sun, birds, bunnies, flowers, ladybugs, etc. I love that! There are so many edgy books out there and it’s reassuring to me to know that kids are still charmed by the beauty and wonder of nature.


My books are ideal for preK to 1st grade, but I will also present to older kids. I will adjust my presentations- doing more singing and reading with the little ones and more bookmaking discussions with the older kids.

Fee

I charge $150 for a 45 minute to 1 hr session. My in-person visits are $250 per session plus travel expenses beyond 50 miles. I will do up to 4 presentations in one day. In both cases, the school will send me a check after the visit.

And that’s all there is to it! 🙂

Thank you, Susanna, for featuring me. I hope this info is helpful to your many wonderful readers!
Thank YOU, Iza!  I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say it was very interesting and enlightening!
Iza is the author and illustrator of 20 lovely picture books for children, including Itsy Bitsy Spider (a favorite in our house), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Bear Went Over The Mountain, Little Miss Muffet and many more. She is also the illustrator of 4 books written by other authors.
Teachers, you can learn all about Iza’s school visits here:
and everyone – teachers, parents, readers, writers, homeschoolers, librarians, kids etc. – you can find Iza around the web here:

www.izatrapani.com
http://izatrapani.com/blog
Like me on Facebook
Follow me on twitter

I hope you enjoyed learning about Skype visits (I know I did! :)) and if you have any questions, I think Iza will be happy to answer in the comments!

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone, and once again, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Chloe

I LOVE school visits.  Almost without fail, someone, at some point, makes me laugh!

Yesterday I visited with about 100 first graders.  They were a lively crew and we had tons of fun.

photo credit Pam Lawrence

Somewhere along in the proceedings, one alert audience member piped up with, “How old are you?” (a favorite question!)  “How old do you think I am?” I asked him.  Now, usually the answer to this question ranges from 20 to I-don’t-know, but this boy tipped his head to one side, considering, and then guessed – I kid you not! – “80?”

So apparently I look nearly twice my actual age 🙂

I think these kids thought 80 was a wild guess too 🙂
photo credit Pam Lawrence

I am so excited to share today’s book with you!  It is by one of my favorite author/illustrators and it was just released on Tuesday so it’s only 4 days old!  (Nowhere near 80 :))

If any of you have had the pleasure of reading Henry In Love, you will recognize young Chloe as the object of Henry’s affection and the recipient of the coveted blueberry muffin 🙂

Chloe
Written & Illustrated By: Peter McCarty
Balzer & Bray, May 15, 2012, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 2-8

Themes/Topics: family, imagination, love

Opening:  “Chloe loved the end of the day, when her whole family was together.  She called it family fun time.

Brief Synopsis:  Chloe has 10 older brothers and sisters and 10 younger brothers and sisters.  She loves being in the middle.  But one night Dad brings home a surprise – a new TV! – and Chloe finds that she is no longer in the middle as everyone gathers around the TV instead.  Luckily it doesn’t take Chloe long to get everyone back on the right track!

Links To Resources:  The Five Best Toys Of All Time (so funny that it’s worth it just to read :)) puts “Box” at number 2.  Give your kids any of the items on this list and watch their imaginations soar as they come up with innumerable ways to play with these simple things.  In this day and age of specialty toys and electronic gadgets, there is nothing better than letting your kids (or students) take a box and turn it into a rocket ship, a castle, or a fort, and themselves into astronauts, princesses, or cowboys!

Why I Like This Book:  First of all, is it even possible to look at this art without feeling happy?  There is such exuberance in these bunnies, each with his or her own special details!  I think it’s something about the ears 🙂  But I also love the story.  I love that the rest of the family initially succumbs to the lure of the new TV, but Chloe and baby Bridget have no use for it.  Instead, they discover the bubble wrap in the box, and pretty soon the other kids are losing interest in the TV and coming over to Pop! Bip! Pap!  Next thing you know, they’ve found an entertaining use for the box, putting on their own TV show.  The message that family fun time can be family fun time without a TV is refreshing 🙂  I won’t give away the very last page, but it’s a hoot and you should get a copy of the book and see it for yourself! 🙂

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Before we all head off to read all the other PPBs, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the Birthday Contest is just hours away!!!  (I’m feeling a mite panicky, actually, because I don’t yet have a sample entry prepared.  I thought I had an idea, but it didn’t pan out.  In the midst of this hectic week, I haven’t had time to work on a new one, so I’m seriously down to the wire and not hopeful for anything brilliant!)

Anyhoo, even though Saturday is not a usual posting day, please come on over tomorrow to start the Birthday Contest fun.  The link list will be up so that as people’s entries are ready they can put in their post specific links or, if you want to enter and don’t have your own blog, you can copy and paste your entry in the comment section.  That post will stay up until midnight Tuesday night (no new post Monday) so everyone can add their links and come back and read everyone else’s.  It will be a party 🙂  (Just make sure you’re linking on Saturday’s Birthday Contest post.  I don’t want anyone to get confused and link on PPBF – we’ll miss it!)

If you have any questions because I’m not being clear in my current fog of fatigue, please email or ask in the comments! 🙂

PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific links to today’s link list so we can all come visit!

Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow, and starting in on reading what I’m sure will be fantastic contest entries!  Happy Weekend, Everyone!

Would You Read It Wednesday – The 40th Pitch and Book’s Journey

Happy Wednesday, amigos!

I am eyebrow deep in a week of school visits and having tons of fun!

This is the week I get to participate in what I consider to be one of the best programs for kids there is.  It’s called Book’s Journey, and it is the brainchild of Pat Sexton who is a passionate advocate of Arts in Education.  I think every school should do this, so I’m hoping if I tell you all about it, maybe the word will get out and some other schools will give it a try 🙂

Here’s what the kids get to do:

The program is for 4th grade (although I think it could easily be done with 5th or 6th grade too.)

They begin with visits from an author, an illustrator, and an author/illustrator who talk about the creative spark (basically where they get their ideas from) and show and tell a little bit about how they work.

Then each child is given a notebook/journal to draft his or her story in.  Over the next two weeks or so, the kids work on their stories in selected class periods and as much as they want on their own.

Then I come in right at the point where they’re all getting stuck and aren’t sure what to do 🙂  We talk about the elements of story – what things you need to make a story work – character, setting, problem/goal etc. – and what you can do to get your story going again if it has stalled out.

A week after my visit, a professional editor comes in to help them edit their stories.

This is followed by a book cover designer who teaches them basics of making an attention-grabbing cover.

Finally a marketing specialist comes in and talks to them about various ways to market books.

Illustrations are created on separate pages so they can be easily put into the finished book, which will be handmade by each child.

They finish the whole spring project with a book fair to which parents and all the rest of the students in the school are invited.  Each book is displayed for everyone to view and read.

Doesn’t that just sound amazing?  I wish my school had had a program like that when I was in 4th grade (or ever!)!  I think it’s such a valuable experience for the kids to get that much hands-on learning from professionals in the field of writing and publishing, and to have the opportunity to create and display their own work.  They come away from the experience feeling that writing and illustrating are possibilities, not just pipe dreams, and that has to be a boost to their creative spirits.

So please, go forth and spread the word! 🙂

Now then, grab a donut!  It’s time for everybody’s favorite Wednesday feature, Would You Read It!

This week’s pitch comes to us from Jarm, a freelance writer for Women & Children.  She has been published three times in Thriving Family Magazine.  Her passion is to make the Bible and history come alive for children.  Feel free to check out her blog.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title:  Waiting For An Idea
Age/Genre:  PB (ages 6-11)
The Pitch:  Jerry is waiting for an idea to come.  He walks his dog, swings in his backyard, and even goes inside for milk and cookies. hoping to coax one into his head.  But, alas, it’s not until he opens Aunt Polly’s gift that an idea… well… an avalanche of ideas, spill forth!

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 Jarm 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.  There are openings in August, so you have time to polish 🙂 for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Jarm is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!
And I am off to another day of school visiting 🙂

Skype Author Visits?

It’s August 15, which means here in New York school hasn’t started yet but it will soon.

With the start of the new school year comes a new opportunity for school visits, one of my favorite parts of being a children’s author.

Thus far, I have always visited in person.  I get to meet the kids face-to-face, hear their laughter and excited comments, let them pat Phyllis 🙂

But school budgets, as always, are being cut further and further.  Fewer and fewer schools have the resources to pay authors to visit – especially lesser known authors like me.  And this means fewer kids get the chance to meet authors and illustrators and see that these are paths that are open to them in their lives.

But before you get too depressed over the state of affairs, there’s a new solution – Skype!

It’s free.  Anyone can download and use it.  And many authors and schools are now doing visits by Skype.

I am terrified eager to give it a try!  (Because as you all know, I am so gifted with technology!)

As I see it, here are the pros:
1. Skype is free.  Any library or classroom with a computer can access it.
2. An author can visit any school or library regardless of distance – no travel fees, no overnights away from home, etc.
3. Most authors will do a 15 minute visit for free provided the school gives the student participants the chance to buy the author’s books and encourages them to do so.  A longer visit may cost up to $300, but that’s still significantly less than an actual visit.
4. The author can do the visit right from home.

…and here are the cons:
1. It’s harder to visit a large number of children at once because you’re limited by the computer screen.  But this might actually be a pro in disguise because smaller groups mean more interaction per child.
2. The author (and the teacher/librarian on the other end) has to be technologically savvy enough to make Skype work 🙂  (And there’s the chance, in bad weather, that you might lose your internet connection.)
3. There’s a bit of juggling involved to get the viewing angles right – the author shouldn’t look as though she’s talking to the floor 🙂  This may require skill in architecture or engineering (or at least balancing things) to get your computer in the right position relative to you.
4. Some background shows up, which means the author has to find a clean uncluttered space in her house that looks as though she has in fact vacuumed the dog hair in the last millennium 🙂

One thing I don’t know, since I haven’t done this yet, is whether the interaction still feels the same.  Do the kids get as much out of a virtual visit as they do from an actual one, or do they end up feeling like they’re watching TV?  What do you think?

Teachers and other writers, I am very interested in your thoughts on Skype visits!  Have you done them?  How have they worked?  What do you see as pros and cons?  Please share!

Three Tidbits of Interest

Today’s post is a bit of a smorgasbord – a few rather unrelated items but all (to my mind :)) worth mentioning.

First, for any of you who read last week’s post The Wonderful World of Kid Lit, here is a very articulate, thoughtful rebuttal of the Wall Street Journal article mentioned therein which you might find interesting: Deeper Understanding: The Dark Is Rising, from Shelf Awareness, Enlightenment for the Book Trade.  Let me know what you think of Jennifer Brown’s article!

Second, I had a great visit at Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook, NY to celebrate Not Yet, Rose winning the Mom’s Choice Award.  Two large groups from three local preschools came to hear the story (about 100 children all together!)  They were a terrific audience.

Phyllis is trying to convince
the kids that Not Yet, Rose
is about her – because she
looks EXACTLY like Rose!

Unbeknownst to me, one of the adults in the back was videoing with her phone.  Quel horreur!!!  Although watching and listening to myself give a presentation was quite horrifying and made me want to go hide in the closet with a burlap sack over my head, I have been told I should edit the video and put it on my website so that interested teachers/schools can see a sample of a presentation.  What do you think?  Should I do it?

Finally, when I went to shut my computer down Friday night, I discovered a google alert in my inbox for Can’t Sleep Without Sheep.  Following the link, I was amazed and honored to see that Can’t Sleep has been nominated for the Alabama Camellia Children’s Choice Award (the state children’s choice for Alabama!!! click on the 2011-2012 NEW list to see.)  It’s up against some much better known books, so I don’t know if it has a chance of winning, but it was SO nice to be nominated!  Thank you to every child in Alabama who voted for Can’t Sleep!!!  Ava and Woolliam and I appreciate it 🙂

Books Journey

I went to a very good, highly regarded all girls private school (back in ancient times) but two things they never did were bring in authors or teach us much about the creative writing process.  (My father also feels they neglected geography, but that’s another story…)

I thought authors were akin to gods – certainly not real people – and to me, a life of writing didn’t seem like an option.  Journalism, OK – but not creative writing.  People from my school became doctors, lawyers, and senators.  Those that became stay-at-home moms tried not to attract too much attention because with an education like ours you were supposed to be out there doing something with it (as if using it to raise happy, well-adjusted, good kids isn’t important… but that’s also another story!)

Anyway, the point is, I visit a lot of public schools whose reputations probably can’t hold a candle to my alma mater, but they do invite authors and illustrators and put a lot more effort into showing kids first hand that the creative life is an option.

One local school in particular has been running a terrific program for 4 or 5 years now.  They call it Books Journey, and it’s a program for fourth graders.  It is kicked off by local authors and illustrators (and we are lucky – there are a lot of us in the Hudson Valley!) coming in to talk about their creative process and the creative spark – how they generate ideas.

The kids are then each given a journal, and during dedicated class time, they begin writing their own books.  After a couple of weeks, I come in – and that’s what I’m doing today and tomorrow!  My job is to help them keep going after the initial spark has worn off and they are stuck.  We talk about characters, setting, obstacles, raising the stakes, crafting a satisfying ending etc., and how to keep going when you’re not sure what to do.

The kids then go back and finish their stories.  Then the school has a couple of professional editors come in and talk about editing, followed by a book cover designer who teaches the kids about the importance of cover design.  Finally, they have a marketing specialist come in and teach them about how professional authors market their books.

At the very end, they have a book fair, where all 100 or so of the books are on display for students, teachers and parents to look at.

It’s an amazing program, one I wish more schools could do.  It does take a lot of organization, but it is so worthwhile for the kids.  You should see how proud they are of their finished books!

So today and tomorrow, I’m off to teach fourth graders.  Wish me luck and good communications skills so I can be really helpful to them – who knows?  A future great novelist may be among them 🙂

Do you know of schools who do a particularly good job of teaching writing?  What do they do?

School Visits

I love visiting schools.  Sharing my stories with the kids I write them for is a privilege.  Letting them see that authors are regular people, and encouraging them to pursue their own creativity in whatever form it may take, hopefully helps them believe that they, too, can be authors, illustrators, sculptors, musicians, or whatever their hearts desire.

For me it’s been a work in progress, though.  I am not, by nature, the kind of person who wants to draw attention to herself, or who feels like she has any right standing up before a roomful of people and trying to impart anything.  I don’t know about you, but the first time I had to face a roomful of kindergartners I was TERRIFIED!  You think I’m joking?  Uh-uh!  I was so nervous my teeth were literally chattering.  I had to clench my jaw to keep them still, and even that was uphill work.  And let me tell you, it’s pretty hard to talk normally with your jaw clenched 🙂

Eight years and uncountable school visits later, it has gotten easier.  I still shake when I have to address adults (and I’ve got 2 of those gigs coming up the first week of April!) but I have reached a point where I truly enjoy visiting with kids.

I have discovered that there is a fine line between having them really engaged and all-out mayhem, and that line is a tricky one to walk with large groups of 5 and 6 year olds!  But I love that they are so enthusiastic that they all want to chime in.  There isn’t much that’s more fun for an author than having 60 kindergartners laughing so hard they’re practically rolling on the floor (well, in some cases they actually are rolling on the floor!) or unabashedly joining in on an April Fools song they’ve never heard before but are perfectly willing to sing along with.  I wish I had a recording of them from Wednesday!

I try my best to make school visits fun and interactive for kids.  I remember being in a classroom when I was little.  There’s not much that’s more boring than having someone talk AT you.  So I have Phyllis and Woolliam/Baab – my puppets – who can always be counted on to be more entertaining than I am 🙂  I ask the kids a lot of questions so they get a chance to talk.  I make up songs related to the stories (songs that are always performed by the puppets – not me!) and encourage the kids to join in.  I show them the various steps to an idea becoming a picture book, tailoring the amount of detail to the age and interest of the audience.  I wish I could draw.  I think illustrators have a big leg up on authors because they can create something in front of the crowd.  The kids think they are magic!  But alas, for me a stick figure is about as artistic as I get.

But I am always open to new ideas.  I know there are other authors who read this blog, as well as teachers and parents.  What do you do on school visits?  Or what do you think would be fun and entertaining for the 4-8 year old crowd?

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 🙂

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 🙂