Friday, February 27, 2009

Publication News: Blogging About Careers Lesson

Just dropping in to announce the publication of a Grades 6–8 lesson I recently wrote for a humongo database of research-based, educator-vetted lesson plans called ReadWriteThink.

RWT was created jointly by the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association of Teachers of English (NCTE), and it has been online since 2002. As my fellow children's writers out there know, both of these organizations play important roles in getting good books into kids' hands. (Never mind the many other crucial ways they support educators and students.)

I've written eight lessons for RWT over the last couple of years, with a batch of three publishing this spring. The one that went live today is called "Exploring Careers Using the Internet." Kids research various occupations and then post their findings to a classroom blog (powered by Blogger, of course), which they then promote to a larger audience. I hope any kids that work with the project have fun with it!

On a promotional note that truly has nothing to do with my work (really, my contributions to the site are a mere droplet in the bucket): I can't recommend the RWT site itself highly enough — it contains thousands of ready-to-use lesson plans that busy reading and language arts teachers can download (for free) and adapt to their classroom needs. So, if you're an educator that has stumbled across this blog, I say "Get thee to RWT."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Four Down, Two to Go

I passed the halfway point yesterday in my "Six Books in Six Weeks" marathon. That felt good. Still does today, in fact.

It helps that the books share a global theme — that makes both the research and writing processes more efficient. It is wearing, though, to finish a manuscript one day (last night in this case) and then get right down to business on the next installment at wake-up. But the switching-gears part takes a minute no matter what kind of work you do.

I spent the first half of today on administrative tasks like invoicing, filing, stacking the library books I need to return (making sure to remove ALL Post-its so I don't get another mean warning!), and tending my embarrassingly overgrown email garden. It required very little quality thinking yet yielded a bonus sense of accomplishment.

And now, with lunch out of the way and no further ado to be had, on to Book 5 I go!

Monday, February 16, 2009

BIC Monday!

Today is just one of those days it's HARD to sit at the desk and write. I like what I do and how/where I get to do it. Most mornings, I feel settled and ready to go. But I had a ridiculously fitful, freaky-nightmare-fueled Sunday night, and the effects have carried over. I'm blaming my new pillow.

I have a Tuesday deadline, so I will persist and prevail. Happily, that manuscript is on track, though, even as I struggle to kick into gear this Monday morn.

Nothing to do but keep the butt in the chair and press on.

Monday, February 09, 2009

28 Days Later in Full Swing

If you haven't yet surfed over to the Brown Bookshelf's month-long 28 Days Later — a Black History Month celebration of children's literature — go today.

Each day in February, the site is unveiling a new interview with an author or illustrator whose work you should get to know. Guests include industry vets, award winners, and up-and-comers (examples: Sharon Draper, Julius Lester, Zetta Elliott, Floyd Cooper, and London Ladd). All are offering thoughts about creative inspiration, insights into the publication process, and fascinating variations on the theme of "How I Got Started Creating Books for Kids."

Today's interviewee is Coretta Scott King Award winner Pat Cummings. She talks about the importance of childhood reading habits; inspirations for her current book Harvey Moon, Museum Boy; and the representation of people of color in children's books.

Click on over now to learn from Cummings and catch up on any 28 Days Later interviews you've missed so far. Then be sure to bookmark the site so you can click-and-read every day for the rest of the month!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Grammy Tie-In

Um, hello? What does this have to do with writing or freelancing or children's publishing?

Very little.

Except that I'm rooting for the only nominated music/artists I played in my office this past year: Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

I'd say that 92 percent of the time I can't work with music playing. My brain is wired to engage with it too fully, so out of necessity Quiet is my preferred background for writing and editing.

But, the other 7 percent of the time (no, wait, 8 percent; see? I'm cranking the tunes right now!) — when I need some tuneful inspiration, manufactured calm/pep, a thinking break, or soundtrack for doing administrative tasks — I fire up some music.

Raising Sand has been a regular office buddy. It's so rich and creative, with — I think — a beautiful literary bent. So I hope it wins album of the year and also for the gorgeous "Please Read the Letter," which, incidentally, would be a perfect theme song for a YA novel idea I've outlined and hope to start writing sometime this year.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Walking My Writer's Path

I'll be honest here. The idea for this post came straight from the title of a recent entry on one of my favorite freelancing blogs "Act As If." I didn't even click through to read the post (bad! although I will, for sure, as soon as I publish this), but seeing the headline was inspiration enough. It gave me the swift-elbow-to-the-side I needed today.

I've been subscribing to the "act as if" principle for years now. I even keep a laminated printout discussing its merits in the back of my planner — yikes, it's dated August 21, 2000 — and, no joke, I print the saying in the footer of my homemade planner pages.

You've probably come across the simple premise behind the saying many times:

Your actions determine your reality.

So if you want to see your work (or anything in life) turn out a certain way, you need to act as if it will . . . or, act as if it already has.

Now, this does not mean that you should ignore reality. I can't act like I'm going to become a painter and !poof! become a painter. I have no painting talent and no painterly ambitions. But, I can act as if I can make a living as a writer. So act as if I do. I can act as if I'm in control of how my writing career shapes up. And so on. My behavior gets results.

Of course we all have days. Days in which we forget to act as if, forget to follow our best path. And I had one of those days yesterday. Nothing went wrong, exactly. It was a regular workday, with calls and correspondence and steady progress on my current manuscript. But in a weak, out-of-left-field moment, I almost signed up for a project of a type I've done many times in the past but had firmly decided I'd no longer do from 2009 onward. It just doesn't fit in with my goals any longer. Working on it would only make me step off my path — and for a couple of precious months at least.

Lucky for me, I slept on the offer. Even luckier, when I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to worry about it ('cause I knew I was flirting with a YES), I recalled having seen that "Act As If" blog title yesterday but failing to click through to the post.

That was all it took to shake the good sense back into me and remember why I bother to chart a course, to ever act as if. At the first hint of a reasonable hour this morning, I said no thank you to the writing work I didn't want. The sky stayed in place. The client wished me well and happily moved on.

As I sit at my desk this afternoon, I like the sense of calm I feel. It comes from knowing that NOT taking that gig has freed up a block of time I can fill with work that supports my pursuit of the "as ifs" that really interest me. Work that keeps me walking my path. And, naturally, the more work like that I do, the more work like that I will do. Until I move my mark again.

As. If.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Juicy Advice

Tip of the day:

Resist the urge to lunch on grapefruit at your desk.

It might be a good idea to down some citrus as you try to pretend you didn't eat quite so many cheesy-dippy Super Bowl snacks. But don't do so at your desk hoping to save time as you cruise along toward Tuesday's — or any day's — writing deadline. It won't work.

Don't believe me? Just go ahead and see if you can actually type . . . or read . . . or even surf while stabbing and slurping your way through a plump, juicy Ruby Red. If you're like me, you may even lose a little precious writing time to the clean-up. Keyboards, monitors, and manuscript stacks don't dig the juice!