Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Seattle Event: Time to Sign Up!

Just getting in a final plug for the EFA-sponsored workshop at Seattle Pacific University this Saturday, December 1.

Saturday, December 1, 12:30-4:30 p.m.
Bertona 2 at Seattle Pacific University, 103 West Bertona, Seattle, WA

Knowing how to create a winning book proposal is an essential skill in today's competitive publishing marketplace, whether you're a writer hoping to hook an agent/publisher or an editor helping authors prepare submissions.

You will learn what publishers and agents are looking for and how to avoid the most common mistakes. You will also go in-depth to learn the basics of winning proposals, how to engage the reader with a great title, and what types of marketing information you MUST include.

For additional details and registration information, please visit EFA's Fall 2007 course catalog. Or you can call the EFA office toll-free at 866-929-5400.

We have a great group of participants all set to go, but there is room for more. If you're interested, follow the link above or call EFA today!

Please feel free to forward this notice to interested friends and

NPR Called

Technically, they emailed, but what's the diff?

The oh-so-briefly-exciting-to-me part of the anecdote is that they invited me, as an expert in Greek mythology, to comment on a story update they're doing for the next episode of Weekend America. I assume they got to me by finding my 1999 middle-grade book Tales of Greek Mythology and then following the trail to my author site.

I immediately laughed, and hard, at the notion of actually agreeing to be interviewed "as" an expert on the body of Greek mythology and the most common misconceptions about the gods. I believe my exact reaction to the topic was, "Huh? What?" And 2–3 minutes of furious Googling just to learn something relevant got me nowhere. (You try it. I dare you.) So I had to decline. Would have been fun, though.

Now, thinking back to late 1997/early 1998, when I was writing the book: Could I have discussed the differences among the various classic versions of the 5 myths I retold? Sure thing, and at length! And could I now (hint, hint) speak as an expert about retelling classic works for targeted reading/interest/age levels while maintaining original elements of story, and even voice — or about any number of writing-, editing-, reading-, and freelancing-related topics? You betcha!

I am waiting by the phone NOW.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Tidbits

Some info I collected while researching my book Pilgrims in America (Rourke, 2007) last year:

In October 1621, the 50 Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts, celebrated their settlement and a successful autumn harvest with a 3-day "feast of thanksgiving." There are only two known eyewitness accounts of that celebration.

The Pilgrims invited 90 Wampanoag Indians, who gifted their hosts with fish, clams, oysters, lobsters, deer, and wild turkeys. The Pilgrim provided foods such as ducks, geese, wild berries, cabbage, corn, beets, radishes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, and turnips.

Contrary to popular myth, the Pilgrims did not hold a similar feast the next year. Thanksgiving would not become an official national holiday for another 242 years. During the interim, several U.S. presidents, including George Washington in 1777, declared one-time national Thanksgiving celebrations. New York introduced an annual statewide holiday in 1817. And Abraham Lincoln used his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation to assign a permanent holiday to the last Thursday in November. He likely chose that date to correspond with the Pilgrims' November 21, 1620, landing at Cape Cod. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a time-frame change to the fourth Thursday in November to give people and businesses more time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Congress approved the change in 1941, and we've observed the holiday then ever since.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Spy Site Upgrades

Both of my Web sites need makeovers. I built them in 2003, and I'm sure my failure to renovate in the years since violates every principle of good Web sense. My author site still looks decent in Internet Explorer, but it looks awful in Firefox and Safari. Because my editorial services site sports (yeah, it wishes!) a cleaner, more basic look, it's not as wonky looking in the latter two browsers — but it does not display as the push-button template intends.

I can think of many more reasons why it's past time for me to explore other options. For example, the page-per-book format is no longer right for my author site. Too unwieldy. And the editorial site needs a different vibe, I think.

I'm looking at new hosts, different sitebuilder options, switching to blog-only platforms, and the possibility of — gasp! — paying someone to help. I am interested in this part of my business; but I often find it hard to take time away from the work that results in a reasonably quick payoff (read: "Check's in the mail!") to give it the attention it deserves.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Computer, New Me!

Does that sound too . . . too? Sorry. (Not really.) It's Saturday — hmmm, already afternoon, I see — and I am voluntarily sitting at my desk. This is big for me right now. Firstly, I've been recovering from a surgery and so haven't spent time in my office for a while. I've been back to part-time work for 2 weeks, but before the new machine arrived, I was working on a laptop from bed. Sometimes the couch. To put that in context, I had 5 external abdominal incisions and a couple of internal slices, so part of my recovery has involved regaining my ability to sit upright for good long stretches, whether I want to eat at the dinner table, ride in a car, or prop myself up in front of my desk. (Wouldn't want anyone to think the working-from-bed-thing was just par for a freelancer's cushy course.)

Secondly, I took the plunge and bought a new iMac. I've been setting it up since Wednesday, my first day "back in the office." Still at it, but so far, so good. Nothing like a new toy to rev up a girl's interest in getting back to work. I'm hoping to realize the full productivity potential that having an up-to-date machine will surely bring. I have lots more room to house files/apps (and, let's be real, music), a bigger monitor (I sprang for the 24-incher!), the ability to use a current browser, and wireless communication between the iMac and my still-kicking iBook . . . plus I can easily fit the wireless, small-footprint keyboard and mouse on the smallish keyboard tray attached to my desk.

The keyboard is one of the bigger "whews" to me, believe it or not. It will go a long way toward allowing me to comfortably use my deskptop/office the way I want to. (I like my laptop, but I do prefer to do most of my work in my designated workspace.) I used to use a Datadesk TrackBoard because it fit my tray and worked great for me ergonomically. It happily coexisted for a time with my old G3 before presenting a few minor problems that I lived with. But when I last upgraded my desktop (in 2002 to a 2001 G4), the keyboard was no longer compatible, and neither was the updated Trackboard I bought. Tons of ridiculous glitches. But I kept going back to it every now and then (or begrudgingly working more and more on my laptop) because my right hand would hurt from mousing up high on the desk instead of at the keyboard tray level. I learned all the tricks for stopping the Trackboard's annoying problems, but several weeks ago — after I'd foolishly hooked it up again (my bad judgment, but I took a chance knowing I wanted to upgrade the computer soon) — my G4 suffered a major meltdown just after the Trackboard did. While I was on deadline, natch.

But all that is in the past! Luckily, I keep good backups, and now all necessary items from my G4 live on the iMac. I'm writing this surrounded by all 3 computers, and by Monday I expect to be back down to 1 on the desk with a laptop in the wings. Yay!

November "Hooked on Reading"

My November 2007 review column went live a couple of days ago. As always, this month's picks include classic titles and newer releases that I think are perfect for feeding a childhood reading habit:
  • The Poky Little Puppy by Janet Sebring Lowrey (picture book for prereaders)
  • The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord (picture book for ages 4–8)
  • No Talking by Andrew Clements (novel for ages 8+)
  • Niagra Falls, Or Does It? by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver (humorous novel for ages 8–10; great for reluctant readers)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

News: Biography Review in Children's Bookwatch

My latest release, Benjamin Franklin, is part of ABDO Publishing's brand-new Essential Lives series. I'm pleased to say that the November 2007 issue of Children's Bookwatch gave it a nice review in which they say it is "enthusiastically recommended for classroom use and school or public library collections." Here's hoping many school AND public librarians take note!

You can read the full review here (scroll down to the Biography Shelf) and purchase it from Amazon here.

Now . . . it looks like I need to go do the "Share your own customer image" thing on Amazon so people can see the cover. So many educational publishers list their books with online booksellers without providing cover images. That makes zero sense to me!