Friday, December 30, 2011

Perfect Picture Books: There's Just Something About a Boy

Here's an entry into Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books series.

There's Just something About a Boy
Written by Jenny Lee Sulpizio and Illustrated by Peg Lozier.
Ajoyin Publication Inc., 2011

Suitable for: Ages 2 and up

Theme/Topic: Family, Mother-Son relationship

Recalling the moment, that special day
Your tiny image took my breath away.
A precious baby with nothing to hide
My sweet, little son nestled inside.
There's just something about a boy ...

Brief Synopsis: From birth to adulthood, a mother shares the special moments in her son's life that make it clear "There's just something about a boy" and about a mother-son bond.

Link to resources: There are lots of resources about mother and son activities on the Internet. The story offers some hints on mother-son activities. A mother and son can create a scrapbook or journal about their daily adventures big and small. Mother and son can create a baby book to include milestones, pictures and memorable events.

Why I chose this book:  The story is very touching and sweet. A bonus: Lots of humor in the illustrations. Jenny shared ideas here in November. This is her second book. The first is Mommy Whispers. In October, Jenny talked about her publication journey over at Marcy Kennedy and Lisa Hall-Wilson's Girls With Pens blog during their self-publishing week.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Perfect Picture Books: Read With Me Bible

Here's another entry into Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book series. 

I'm sharing this picture book today, because on Sunday I'll be celebrating Christmas with my family. While sometimes I have a difficult time expressing my faith — I'm not so good at Bible studies nor specific verses. 

Thankfully, as a Christian you don't have to be perfect. I'm glad because I recently helped another mother ignite Baby Jesus' birthday cake on fire. I had to own that inferno and laugh a bit too. Plus, this is experience speaking:  Don't light those tiny wax candles too early — the frosting will burn. 

I know I'm digressing, but this book is a way for my family to remember the reason for the Christmas season. 

I understand this book doesn't appeal to everyone, but I believe it can be used for personal family time, a home-school program or an illustrated way to learn about different faiths.

Read With Me Bible — An NirV Bible Storybook with Illustrations by Dennis Jones
Zonderkidz, 2000. This illustrated storybook uses scripture from the Holy Bible the New International Reader's Version.

Suitable for: Ages 4 to 8

Theme/Topic: Religion, Christmas

Opening: I skipped to the story of Jesus' birth —Luke 2
Caesar Augustus required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. All went to their own towns to be listed.  
Joseph went to Bethlehem, the town of David. He went there with Mary. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby.
Brief Synopsis: The illustrated Bible includes both Old and New Testament stories. The book includes an extensive index and a glossary of "words you should know."

Resources: I found a Christmas Bible Quiz to test your knowledge.  This site has several resources for talking about the story and doing activities with your children. Families may want to compare the story in different versions of the Bible. This online resource: has more than 30 versions of the Bible in English, as of this posting.

Why I chose this book: With its illustrations, this storybook is a good way to introduce Bible stories including Jesus' birth. 

I hope you have a wonderful celebration this week. Merry Christmas! 

Like many, I'm taking a break for a few days. I'll be back next Friday with another Perfect Picture Book.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday: 2011

I'm grateful for a fun and productive 2011.

Looking back, we took lots of trips — New Mexico, Iowa, Idaho, Wyoming (if you count the overnight stays on the way to Idaho), South Dakota and Georgia twice.

We are more involved in our church. My favorite activity is seeing an elderly friend with dementia. For the 30 minutes Enzo visits, it helps us all. She becomes a grandma again. Enzo gets to be around an older person, because all his grandparents live in other states. The visits remind me to be present and enjoy the moment.

I joined a Mothers of Preschoolers group. I met more people in my neighborhood.

My Hubby survived Enzo's first birthday where I created multiple monkey cupcakes, two monkey shaped cakes and cake bites. We had more treats than people. He also survived a 50th wedding anniversary party including planning, the event and shipping the couple off on an Alaskan cruise. Oh, and I turned 40 in the middle of all the May mayhem.

Here's a recap of some of my writing activities:

  • An essay I wrote about my dog Eddie in 2010 was published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul Book My Dog's Life. 
  • I had no luck finding a home for other personal essays this year. I wrote 10 and submitted them to publications and contests. While these pieces were not published, each made me sit down and write. Who knows there may be a revision and re-submission in my future?
  • I took a short online course on personal essays. I attended part of a writer's conference.
  • I wrote two picture books. Well, one had about six complete rewrites.
  • I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and attended a picture book retreat.
  • I participated in the Story A Day in May Challenge. I wrote micro-stories. This helped me fine tune a few thoughts about my Memoir-in-Progress.
  • The Picture Book Idea Month Challenge kept me on my toes in November. I'm enjoying the Perfect Picture Book posts on Fridays. 
  • I wrote four stories for blog challenges. While just for fun, these entries made me focus on content,  rules and deadlines. 
  • I participated in the Writer's Platform-Building Campaign. I connected with writers through blogs, Twitter and Facebook personal and group connections.
  • I found several writing groups. After attending several meetings, I made decisions on which ones helped and which ones didn't. 
  • I wrote this blog to myself in January, because no one read it or followed it for many weeks. I wrote every day then gradually found a schedule. (You'll see some older posts from 2009 and 2010 from previous blog attempts.)
  • I found bloggy friends. They eventually found me.
I've been writing and revising my 2012 goals for a while — a note here and a deadline there. I'll share those on Jan. 2. 

So, what's on your thankful list for 2011?

Monday, December 19, 2011

'Twas the Flight Before Christmas

Oh, I love Christmas tree decorations.
Imagine my panic when Susanna Leonard Hill decided her holiday contest would be a rhyming challenge like Clement C. Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. She kindly provided an out: "... if the idea of rhyme strikes fear and loathing in your heart, you may write a prose version instead ... "

If you make it to the end, I have a note.

Here's my entry:

'Twas the Flight Before Christmas
By Stacy S. Jensen

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the space
I pack, check and fret as we ready to fly to Grandma’s place.  
Did I complete the things on my long, long list?
Mail cards. Wrap gifts … I fear something is missed.

I double check each bag as Hubby carries them to the car.
Then I see Henry, our toddler, through the door ajar.
I shoo him away and consider all the things we’ll need,
As other moms gave kid travel advice for me to heed.

As visions of spit ups and diaper blowouts float through my head,
Henry grabs a carry-on bag with clothes and books to be read.
I think of Hubby as I pack one with pants and size 15 shoes,
So he has clothes, if the airline chooses his checked bag to lose.

With luggage ready to go, I carry Henry to bed.
He refuses to go night-night and his PJs are shed.
Hubby arrives to re-dress and rock Henry to sleep.
Minutes later exhausted Hubby and I fall in a big heap.

The trip to the airport was quick for an early Christmas flight.
At security, we put our stuff in trays as Henry clings tight.
He doesn’t like the buzzers and noises at the screening station.
TSA officers pat us down and send us to our gate location.

Hubby taps his watch pointing out our three-hour wait.
I smile unfazed by the time, as I hate being late.
Henry stares at a soldier and a girl’s neon tights.
He wanders over to the windows to check out the sights.

Hubby runs over to buy bottled water from an airport store.
As I guard Henry, a stroller, a car seat and bags galore.
When the announcement is made for an early boarding call,
We leap up with a cheer to line up against the wall.

At the plane’s door with Hubby, attendants and me right there,  
Henry walks across the threshold hugging his brown bear.
I scoop him up in the narrow aisle, so I can quickly find our seat.
We stow bags above our head and stuff Henry’s things at our feet.

All buckled in tight with trays upright, it becomes clear,
Hubby has second thoughts and doesn’t want to be here.
Ah, this is what I forgot:  Hubby doesn’t like to fly
I pat his leg and silently pray nothing goes awry.

Our plane takes off with us crammed in seats 26B and C,
When Hubby sees Santa by the window with a list on his knee.
Santa laughs with a twinkle in his eye and adjusts his light.
“No worries,” he says. “We’ll fly away and have a good flight.”

So, here's my note: 

I tried.

On Sunday, the local Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators group had a critique and holiday gathering. I took a version of this entry with brownies. I received kind feedback. The main one: Get the rhythm to match the original 'Twas the Night Before Christmas poem.

I pulled out my Poem Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry book and found a specific reference to the meter  — the anapest, which has a rising foot. The dust jacket says the book is for ages 9-13. I believe the book is in Greek, because I can't understand it. I'm stuck on how to fix the meter.

I changed my point of view, names and cleaned up a few lines. Thanks ladies at the Colorado Springs SCWBI meeting for the input, especially Debbie.

So, I ask: What's a good resource to study meter? I need an aha meter moment.

To enter the contest, post your story on your blog or in the comments section of Susanna's blog between today and Dec. 22.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thank You Mr. Bill — Wrap It Up

I learned about the Wrap It Up - Blogfest through Leigh Covington. She planned to celebrate her birthday (Happy Birthday Leigh!) with a blog hop, but decided to join the one by David Powers King and J.A. Bennett — both are reaching 500 followers and wanted to celebrate.

Here's my entry:
Dear Mr. Bill, 
Thank you. Thank you. I don't know how Santa knew. My new toy wasn't in my letter and I never asked for it. I never dreamed of asking for such a cool thing.
I rolled my cars over and under it. I cooked food in my plastic pots and pans on it. I built a wall with my blocks around it. 
I pushed my baby sister around the floor in it. I stuffed my Blue Bear, Cow Bunny and dog in it. Mom searched for 10 minutes calling my name — downstairs, upstairs and across the living room — as I hid in it. 
I kicked my balls — one, two and three — into it. I grabbed my blanket, prairie dog and lovey and took a nap in it. Dad shook his head and said something about my toy kitchen, when he joined me inside it. Santa has great taste, because I use it all the time. I will play with it every day.
I love my box! 
P.S. Dad doesn't believe an elf would be named Bill. He said your name would be Jingles. I showed him the paper you left in my box, which had your name Bill printed on it. Well, it had Receipt on there, too, but I told my dad Elf Receipt would be a silly name. Elf Bill makes more sense. Please tell Santa I said thank you, thank you. I loved my surprise. My box is my favorite Christmas present. See you next year.
About my entry: I'll let you decide whether the note is to a fictional or real person. It's in the form of a 253-word Thank You note. I didn't value Thank You notes in my late teens/early 20s. Once I embraced them, well, it changed everything. I love writing Thank You notes. They are handwritten hugs. 

There is still time to enter the contest today. Have a great weekend!

The rules:
Write a piece of flash fiction, poem, or song (300 words or less) for someone you know (real or imaginary). It may be in any genre, but it must have a holiday theme (real or fictional). Post it on your blog anytime between now and when the linky closes. You will then give it to that someone, sometime before the new year.

Give it in the form of an email, on fancy stationary, or laser-etched onto a solid gold plate. Your choice. Telling us who you're giving it to is optional. 

Every eligible entry will qualify for a chance to win one of a few special gifts. The linky will close at 11:59 PM, Friday the 16th (MST). J.A., Leigh, and David will then read, debate, and decide on five winners for the following:

1st: An Amazon Gift Card for $15
2nd: "Champaginer Challenges 2011" and "Totally Clich├ęd" E-books
3rd: A 5-page critique from David Powers King
4th: A 5-page critique from J. A. Bennett
5th: A 5-page critique from Leigh Covington

Judging will be based on the effectiveness and quality of your writing. There is no point system, no popularity votes, and you do not have to follow (the organizers) to participate.

Perfect Picture Books: Time for Bed

Here's another entry into Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book series. 

We eat. I mean read this one a lot at our house.

Written by Mem Fox and Illustrated by Jane Dyer
Red Wagon Books Harcourt Inc., 1993

Suitable for:  Ages 1 to 3

Theme/Topic: Bedtime, Rhyme

Opening: It's time for bed, little mouse, little mouse, 
Darkness is falling all over the house.

For writers, read how Mem Fox developed the idea for this book. She was preparing a workshop and came up with the first lines — then completed a first draft in one evening. 

Brief Synopsis: (from back cover) Day is done. Darkness is falling everywhere, and little ones are getting sleepy. This gentle book, with its rhythmic verse and peaceful, loving illustrations, will lull toddlers whether it's bedtime, nap time, or simply time for a snuggle. 

Link to resources: Here is a lesson plan for grades pre-K-5. A few quick tips include having children list rhyming words and have children rewrite the story using other animals and their babies. 

This site offers different ways to discuss the book through the vocabulary used in the book to the things the children do to get ready for bed. Here is an author study unit plan about Mem Fox.

Why I chose this book: I enjoy Mem Fox's wonderful rhyme in this book. Sometimes the "rhythmic verse and peaceful, loving illustrations" soothe me more than my son at the end of a long day. I don't like the snakes in the book, so I sometimes skip over those pages.

Please visit Susanna Leonard Hill to see the books and resources recommended by other writers.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Beth Vogt

Do you know who Beth Vogt is? She's a talented writer. I've been following her for a while at her blog In Others' Words.

When I moved to Colorado Springs, I heard about her through the director of a local writer's group. I never quite understood her name. All the other ladies nodded knowingly, if Beth's name was mentioned. I made a mental note to look up this author and editor.

Then one day, I ran across a post at the My Book Therapy blog — A Sure-Fire cure for Writer's Block That blogger's name sounded familiar. I liked her tips. Her name while wearing her editor's cap — The Evil Editor (TEE).

In May, I saw a post on literary agent Rachelle Gardner's Facebook page. It included a picture of Rachelle and her client Beth Vogt with a link to Beth's post about a new book contract. I read the post: Burnout & Hearing Voices: Why This is a Good Thing. And, here's where my "Oh, this is Beth Vogt" moment arrived.

See, Beth writes nonfiction, but got burned out. She began writing fiction. The conversation between Beth and her husband in the post is very funny. She began writing a novel — "Just for fun. No one will ever see it." She embraced change, worked on her craft and inked a book deal. Wish You Were Here, a contemporary romance, will be published in May.

In many ways, reading that post alerted me to my own bend in the road. I had read several blog posts about memoirs that were discouraging. As the deadline approached for a picture book retreat, I decided to go for it. Take time. Write something different. Take a break. Refresh.

I enjoy Beth's blog posts, so I recently checked out her book: Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35 at the library. I wish I had had this book when I was pregnant at 38 in Del Rio, Texas with a limited network. There was no one with a Mommy-Come-Lately life experience around me.

Beth's story and those throughout the book reminded me that I am not alone. With the book fresh on my mind, I shared a few thoughts with another mother at church on Sunday. She knew about Baby Changes Everything, but didn't feel like it fit her. I encouraged her to take another look. I learned a lot through Beth's story.

And all this, months later, reminds me that I need to convert my memoir-in-progress into a completed manuscript. I hope my unexpected life experience — not about parenthood, but as a caregiver — might be helpful to someone in a similar situation or to someone just trying to live in this world.

I'm grateful Beth wrote Baby Changes Everything and look forward to her novel debut in May. Please check out her blog — it's encouraging, funny and thoughtful.

Have you ever read a blog post that hit close to home or changed the way you do something?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Extra! No more capcha for me

After my post on Monday, I made a few changes.
  • No more capcha — I removed the capcha function on comments. Several commenters mentioned their dislike for it in the post. We'll see if my fear of spammers is warranted or not. I think I unchecked the correct box in Blogger to achieve this. 
  • Filters on my inbox — I added three filters to my gmail inbox. I'm beginning with a few to see 1) If I'm doing it correctly and 2) How this works for me. I created one filter specifically to deal with the blog I cannot unsubscribe to through regular channels. The email will go directly to my trash. We'll see if this solves my problem. 
  • A button adjustment — I moved the button to subscribe to posts via readers or Atom feeds up higher on the page. 
I also decided to make this my last Wednesday post. I really like writing three posts a week. I've been doing four recently with the Perfect Picture Book series on Fridays. So, I'll post on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. I may randomly show up on another day, but I don't want to abuse your time. I've been writing down my goals for 2012 and it's best to commit to three posts. 

Are you ready to leave a comment to see if the dreaded capcha function is there or not? 

If the capcha has successfully been removed, you win the joy of commenting without a capcha. 

If the capcha is there, you win the opportunity to tell me about it. 

Or, you can just tell how lame I am if I think that's winning. I guess I need to revisit Laura Barnes' post about marketing a contest and see how Julie Hedlund is implementing those tips. A writer's work is never done.

Extra! Extra!: I saw this post The Art of Unsubscribing from Alexis Grant — The Traveling Writer this morning after I posted my thoughts. Alexis provides a link on creating filters for your inbox. I'm reading this to see how to improve mine.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are you easy?

The sign says one thing. The trail says another. 
I look at this blog sometimes and wonder: Am I easy? You know easy to follow.

After participating in the Picture Book Idea Month Challenge, I found myself introduced to a number of new writers. I also found myself frustrated when I couldn't easily subscribe to a blog.

Here are a few observations:

  • While I prefer to subscribe to posts via email, not everyone does. I struggle with a cluttered inbox, but it's the easiest way for me to subscribe. Offer several options. In Blogger, I know you can offer email, RSS feeds and Google Friend Connect options. You can also connect through Facebook with networked blogs. I haven't figured out how to add this. I also haven't figured out how to streamline my subscription options with little buttons despite great tips from writer Lynda R. Young. Sounds like another goal for 2012.
  • Let me know when you post, because it might determine how I subscribe to your posts. If you post daily, I may choose the weekly email option from WordPress or use the Google Reader to follow along on my Kindle Fire app. 
  • What time do you publish your posts? It may seem silly, but think about it — when do you read blog posts in the morning or afternoon. I tend to read in the morning, so I schedule posts to publish at 12:01 a.m. Mountain Standard Time. So, I'm two hours behind my East Coast friends. I think it's early enough, because I often wake up to several comments on posting days.
  • If you have a WordPress blog, but maintain a Blogger profile — make sure it is up to date. I click through Blogger profiles and sometimes I can't find your blog. Two recent scenarios: Your author website doesn't have a blog tab that I can easily find or your Blogger profile has your old Blogger blog, but doesn't offer a link to your WordPress site. Blogger allows you to add a website in your profile. Add your WordPress site and hide the Blogger blogs no longer in use. 
  • Sign in and comment with the correct profile. Nina Badzin recently asked me why I used my Twitter account when commenting on blogs. I don't have an active Wordpress blog, so I took a shortcut and signed in with my Twitter profile. Nina's question made me think. I even quizzed Laura Barnes on the topic. I "social media" searched — is that what you call it instead of soul searching? With Laura's help, I figured out a way to comment on a WordPress blog with my email, name and Blog URL — so with one click people are at my blog. 
  • Is there a way to unsubscribe to your posts? With the email feed from my Blogger account, there is an unsubscribe option at the bottom of the email. I subscribed to one blog months ago and cannot figure out how to unsubscribe. It's a WordPress blog and doesn't match any of my passwords. 
  • Is there a way to contact you through your website? I like it when I can email someone. If you don't want to post your email address, why not make it clear you respond to comments or via Twitter. Hey, you never know who might be trying to reach you. 
Do you have a tip or strategy to share about following blogs or a pet peeve? Maybe a tip for me to improve my blog's accessibility — I don't want to be like that sign I found at Mount Rushmore. I'm all ears.

Blog Tour for Julie's A Troop is a Group of Monkeys:
If you haven't voted for Julie Hedlund's A Troop is a Group of Monkeys story in the MeeGenius Author Challenge please consider stopping by and giving it a Facebook like. Here's her post on the story: The Story Behind the Story: My MeeGenius Entry.

Julie is running a contest to help round up more likes for her story. Please spread the word. Julie works very hard on her stories and provides a wonderful blog Write Up My Life.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Perfect Picture Books: Cowboy Bunnies

I'm joining in Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Cowboy Bunnies — 
Written by Christine Loomis and Illustrated by Ora Eitan,
G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 1997

Suitable for: Ages 2 and up

Theme/Topics: Rhyme, Southwestern

Cowboy bunnies
Wake up early
Ride their ponies
Hurly burly

Brief Synopsis:  The cowboy bunnies do their chores around the ranch from sunup to until they have some fun before bedtime.

Link to resources: While trying to find resources for this book, I found everything from preschool with classes named "cowboy bunnies" to materials about the Easter bunny to cowboys.  Here's a variety of activities for different age levels involving cowboys. This Utah Education Network has a page of materials on What Does a Cowboy Do? I found lots of coloring pages too for cowboys, cowgirls and bunnies.

Why I chose this book:  I love books with a ranch southwestern theme. This one is perfect. It's fun for me to read and Enzo enjoys it too. The illustrations are unique. I even read the fine print — "The art was done in gouache on plywood panels." 
Enzo held the book for me to take a picture.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thankful Thursday: @imaginationsoup

Melissa Taylor has her bowl full of Imagination Soup

This is why I like her blog — directly from her about page:
I blog several times a week on topics I feel are interesting to you and important to me – especially about reading and writing, book recommendations, education and learning issues, imaginative play, and products that make learning fun.

Her Twitter bio @ImaginationSoup
mom, playful learning blogger, freelance writer, teacher, book editor, CO delegate for  2011,, literacy advocate

I've enjoyed roaming around her site and reading her blog posts.

  • Gift guides — We celebrate Christmas at my house and I've been interested in a series of posts she has had about possible gift ideas. I liked this one on Creativity Gift Guide: Play, Art, Music and Nature Gifts for Kids. 
  • A Mom — Melissa wrote this post Me Time and a Wish for You at the end of November. As a former caregiver of my late spouse, I learned a few lessons about taking a break. This post shares a valuable lesson about "me time." And, it made me grateful that her friends did this for her.
  • Books and words — This  Word Collection Jars activity could be used with any number of the books. Melissa provides a list some favorite word books too.
  • I enjoy looking at the tabs for reading, writing, science & math, books & toys, preschool and elementary to see what posts I've missed in the past. This link   Funny Books for 8-year-old boys has several helpful suggestions. 
I think there are tons of fun activities on Imagination Soup for writers, parents and grandparents. It's been helpful to me as both a mom and a writer. 

I'm also thankful for Jennifer E. McFadden, who recently presented me with the Liebster Award. I'm grateful for her friendship over the last year. She is a busy writer and mom. She won NaNoWriMo this year. Her blog is Epic Tales. She has a children's book Rusty My Playful Cat and writes fantasy and science fiction novels. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Kindle Fire - Am I using this right?

I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas.

Here's my Kindle Fire. I like the red case, because it's easy to find inside a black or brown purse.
Since it was an early gift, I'm still in the test drive phase. 

We chose the Fire for several reasons:

  • Ereader — I wanted an easier way to read digital books. While, I've enjoyed having access to digital only titles, I found it uncomfortable to read on the desktop Kindle program or the Kindle app on the iPhone. 
  • Price — The Fire is less expensive than an iPad. It's not fair to compare the two products. They are different. 
  • Color — While not an iPad, it has several features like the color touch screen that make it seem more picture-book friendly than the first generation Kindles. 
  • Apps — I'm still sorting through the app store to find tools to maximize the Fire's potential. I found a free Google reader app, so I can see all the blogs I subscribe to through Google. I rarely look at the reader on my computer. So, the Fire has re-introduced me to several blogs. 
  • Documents — I can add PDFs and document files to the Kindle. I had to read the instructions online a couple of times, so I can send copies of my work in progress or an ebook in a PDF to my Fire.
  • Music, movies and photos — The Fire allows you to watch movies and listen to music. I haven't tried this yet. I'm too busy reading and sending documents to my new tablet. 
  • Email — I can easily check email from the Fire, as long as I have wifi service. 

There are plenty of negative reviews of the Kindle around the Internet. A major complaint seems to be that the Fire is not an iPad. Apparently, some people were thinking they were buying an iPad-like product for $300 less. 

  • I learned about a privacy issue through the negative reviews. I can't figure out how you allow or disallow a user access to material. So,  a kid reading a picture book will have access to a thriller, suspense novel you are reading with more adult topics. 
  • If you need something on the Fire, make sure it is downloaded to the device prior to leaving wifi service. If you don't have wifi, you might not be able to retrieve your book or PDF. Downloading from the "cloud" — the off device storage — is simple (just a a quick tap of the book cover). 
  • Not all my books appeared on my Kindle or in my Kindle Cloud. So, I had to search the iPhone Kindle and the computer Kindle to track down one book. It took a few extra steps, but I "delivered" it to the Fire. 
  • The function to navigate from a page in a book to the "homepage" seems a bit jumpy. 
  • I've used the note app a few times and haven't figured out how to turn off the "auto correct" function. I don't like it and need a better app for writing notes, ideas, etc. 

I'll figure all this out eventually. 

Do you have a Kindle — want to share a tip or shortcut you discovered or an unexpected way you use the ereader?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Frack — A problem that has little to do with writing

I live in Colorado Springs. It's a sprawling town with the beautiful Pikes Peak towering over us and a city park aptly named Garden of the Gods.

I've written before about the trials we had finding a house when we moved here. Despite our efforts to check into our subdivision when we purchased, the sprawling master planned community filed bankruptcy the day before our moving truck arrived or three days after we closed on our home.

Over the summer, 18,000 acres of the development were purchased by a Texas oil company. City officials are negotiating with the company in and out of court about the annexation agreement tied to the land. It is zoned for residential and commercial development.

I've been dealing with this issue for several months, but last week it hit me. You know in your gut like a realization that you can't do anything, no one will listen to you and others don't really care.

I am not a NIMBY — a Not in My Back Yard person. I swear. As a journalist, I reported on enough people, who were NIMBY's to know it makes no sense.

The technology to be used to extract oil and gas from the Niobrara Shale formation in Colorado Springs bothers me. I've studied the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process since July.

This video explain the process:

I have read reports from oil and gas associations, federal reports on fracking and news reports on the process. I have watched the documentary Gasland. I have read the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's response, which disputes some of the cases presented in Gasland. I watched Split Estates in horror. I have attended two county-sponsored oil and gas summits.

I am not a scientist, so I don't understand how a person's water is perfectly normal until fracking takes place nearby. The most common example is where methane gets released into the water system and a person can light their water on fire — from his or her faucet. Regulators say the methane isn't related to the oil and gas production. If it's naturally occurring methane, then it isn't ruled to be related to the drilling. However, most property owners contend the water was fine — without smell or flammable — prior to drilling.

Oil and gas officials will tell you there are no cases of water contamination related to fracking. I've heard them say this at meetings and heard it on documentaries. They will tell you the cement casing and the pipe protect the groundwater supply that is a few hundred feet below the surface.

Most oversight for natural gas exploration is on the state level as federal legislators exempted natural gas from regulations like the Safe Drinking Water Act.

I use several techniques to track fracking trends:
  • I search material daily through Google Alerts on the topic. 
  • I post stories on a blog. 
  • I evaluate the source of the materials I find — I question affiliation, presentation and spin.
I worry at random about property values; the quality of the neighborhood in a few years; whether we will be able to open our windows in the summer or not; and whether Colorado's environment is a good choice for our family. I know that last one sounds a little surreal. We moved to a master planned community, not a master planned oil field.

Of course, I don't worry a lot. Last Wednesday, I wrote "deep sigh" when I sent a Tweet to Robyn, who kindly shared a guest post here. I was dealing with an unexpected meeting on the oil and gas issue. I wrote a letter to city council members and then went about my day — there was no time to find a babysitter and well, Enzo deserved a regular day.

This whole fracking business is a tough one for lots of communities. I consume oil and natural gas products, so I understand the importance of reaching these oil and gas deposits. I wish it could be done differently.

You may already be familiar with fracking, as it's being used in 34 states in the U.S.

France banned the practice in June. In the United Kingdom this year, the country's first recorded earthquake was caused by fracking.

I never thought about checking into the practice until it arrived in my community. Have you?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Perfect Picture Books: Goodnight Moon

I'm joining in Susanna Leonard Hill'Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

You can see how Enzo likes to snack on his board book.
Goodnight Moon
Written by Margaret Wise Brown and Illustrated by Clement Hurd, Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. 1947

Suitable for: Ages newborn and up

Theme/Topics: Bedtime

In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of —

Brief Synopsis: A little bunny says goodnight to his room and his world before drifting off to sleep.

Link to Resources: Along with the Harper Collins one page activity sheet this link offers additional worksheets including matching games, rhyming words, coloring sheets and a "goodnight" activity with your child's room. At our house, we play the "hello" world game in the morning by naming objects in Enzo's room.

Why I chose this book: It's the first book I purchased for my son before he was born. I read it was a must for any child, so I purchased a copy. The genius of the book didn't strike me when I first picked it up during my pregnancy. After Enzo's arrival and multiple readings, I appreciate the simplicity of the words. I think it's a brilliant story. Oh, and "rookie parent tip:" Buy the board book version. The paperback version is no match for little, grabby hands or emerging teeth. Enzo received the board book version as a gift.

P.S. I don't know why I'm having some formatting issues with the blog this week. It looks fine. I hit publish and things change. I'll put on my technical hat and see if I can tinker with it over the weekend ... now how do I raise the lid on this thing to check the engine. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Picture Book Idea Month

I survived the Picture Book Idea Month challenge in November. 

Last week, I used this post to give a shout out to PiBoIdMo mama Tara Lazar.

Today, I wanted to share what I did over the 30-day challenge.

My stats: 
  • On index cards, I scribbled 55 ideas.
  • On my iPhone, I tapped out 153 ideas onto the yellow-looking notepad app.
  • In a random spiral notebook, four ideas are outlined.
Before anyone freaks out, let me explain. I wrote down every idea. 
  • If it popped into my head, I wrote down my thoughts. 
  • If I began writing and thought it could be a repeat idea, I ignored the thought. 
  • If I continued to write, I added a new angle or details. 
My love of six-word stories shows through in a few ideas as that's all I have. For others, I wrote until no more words fit on my index card. 

Some common themes involve dogs, family and rules — well, a child breaking rules mostly. The presence of several flag ideas indicates that November was a windy month. 

While I managed to meet my idea goal, I failed to finish reading and work my way through Ann Whitford Paul's book Writing Picture Books:  A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to PublicationA few excuses are involved with this one — the baby ate my homework. Well not exactly, but I'm sure Enzo would eat the book if given the opportunity. Several nonfiction titles I had on hold at the library arrived and I needed to read them, so I could pass them on to the next reader.

I also:
  • dabbled in some goal setting for 2012
  • wrote a first draft of a personal essay 
  • wrote a devotional for my church's Advent devotion book (My first one! Yikes!)
I was honored to have these wonderful ladies share their time and talent here. I'm grateful they wrote guest posts on picture books:
I still have a lot of work to do with my ideas — sorting, deleting, writing, thinking, deleting again, etc. I have to stay focused, because Julie Hedlund at Write Up My Life has a 12 x 12 in 2012 Picture Book Writing Challenge  — an effort to spur us on to write those ideas (or at least 12) into manuscripts. 

See I really need to read Ann Whitford Paul's book! 

Thanks again to Tara Lazar for organizing the challenge. If you missed a post during the challenge or need another dose of inspiration, visit her blog Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). I'm so thankful I participated in the challenge this year. 

So, how did your November writing challenge go or just with your writing in general?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Writing Picture Books is Not for Wimps!

Picture book and middle grades novel writer Robyn Campbell joins us today to talk about the tough business of picture books:

By Robyn Campbell

Stacy, thank you for this opportunity and a huge thanks for your month of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) posts.

Writing Picture Books is Not for Wimps!

            "Writing a picture book is like writing 'War and Peace' in Haiku." Mem Fox (Isn’t that cool?)

As I talked on the phone with a man (who is in publishing and shall remain nameless), he mentioned that anyone could write a ten page picture book. (He doesn’t understand that ten pages makes for a long picture book.) This man thinks it is the novel writers who flex their muscles daily. To say I was not amused is a definite understatement. I mean, I write novels too. But. I know that not everyone can write a picture book. Over these last few years I’ve met a lot of folks who think they can though. Have you ever told someone you write picture books and heard them answer with, “I’ve been meaning to sit down one afternoon and write one?”  *cringe*

Let’s face it. The majority of the population will never write a picture book. Never. And of those who do, most will not be published. I saved this onto my computer to look at every so often about a year ago. It reminds me of why I write and who I write for. If I didn’t love doing it, I definitely wouldn’t. It’s from the site of Elizabeth O. Dulemba:
  •  81% of the population feels they have a book inside them . . .
  •  20% would do a picture book, cookbook, etc.
  •  6 million have written a manuscript.
  •  6 million manuscripts are making the rounds.
  •  Out of every 10,000 children's books, 3 get published."
  •   - Jerrold Jenkins. 15 May 99.

 More tough news. A common misconception is that all published authors must be rich. So, is there money in it? The stats are as follows. In all the arts:
  • 3% make the 'big bucks' (these are the creators most people have heard of).
  • 12% make enough to live on (and boy is that relative).
  • 85% make under $10,000 to $12,000 a year.

This should show us that we are not in this to make gobs of money. *sob* We’re doing it because we love the little kiddies of the world and because we love to write. That’s it, period.

Yet most people feel they have a picture book inside them. Go ahead. Ask some folks you see at the grocery store or doctor’s office. You will soon discover that a lot of folks think our job is easy peasy.

So it’s PiBoIdMo! We’re reading all these excellent posts about ideas and coming up with about fifty new ones every day. *wink* We’re dreaming about our $50,000.00 advance on our next picture book that we’re going to write and how Nickelodeon will turn our book into the next big preschool cartoon.  And that’s more money. *slaps face* Sorry. I have this dream every day.  

I am going to ask you a very important question in a moment. But first, think back to the man I talked about at the beginning of this post. He said that everything you work for, every story you write, can be easily written by someone else. Not just someone else, anyone else. I don’t think he had the right to say this. If I told you who he was we could always go all ninja on him. *evil smile* But I won’t. What I will tell you is this. Never let anybody dis what you do. Just politely remind them that if they think they can write a picture book then that is what they should do. Do suggest they be prepared for a lot of criticism and a lot of rewrites. Tell them that writing picture books is not for wimps.

And now for that question: What are you going to do with all those ideas? 

Robyn Campbell writes picture books and middle grade novels. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her family and assorted farm creatures. When she is not writing down at the barn, she is sure to be found on one of her horses or taking an early morning run. Robyn believes boys need more books and has several of them stirring and whirling in her computer and in her head. You can find her blogging at Putting Pen To Paper.

Stacy here — So glad Robyn joined us today. You can also find her on Twitter @authorswrite.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday idea: Photo prompt for PiBoIdMo

Here's your final photo prompt for Picture Book Idea Month. I was thinking about my NaNoWriMo friends when I chose this one.

I hope the photos have been helpful. You'll find another prompt on Facebook too.

On Wednesday, picture book and middle grades novel writer Robyn Campbell from Putting Pen to Paper will visit to talk how writing picture books is not for wimps!

Good luck turning all those picture book ideas into stories.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Perfect Picture Books: The Twelve Days of Christmas in Colorado

I'm joining in Susanna Leonard Hill'Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Colorado
Written by Linda Ashman and Illustrated by Dawn Beacon, Sterling Children's Books, 2011

Suitable for: Ages 5 and up

Theme/Topics: Holiday, educational

Opening: The book begins with a letter to Sophie about her upcoming visit to Colorado from her "favorite cousin" Zach.

Brief Synopsis: From the dust jacket —
"Ready to greet you are 12 skiers swooshing, 11 horses prancing, 10 covered wagons, 9 woven baskets ... and much more from the Centennial State.
Zach is so excited about his cousin Sophie's visit to Colorado that he gives her one of these VERY unusual gifts on each of the twelve days of Christmas, and Sophie writes lively letters home to tell her mom and dad all about her trip. Lucky readers are in for a wild Christmas countdown!"

Link to resources: In addition to the information provided about Colorado through Sophie's letters to her parents, the book includes Colorado facts such as the state tree, bird and fossil as well as some famous Coloradans. Linda Ashman shares some thoughts about the book here.

This book is part of a series called Twelve Days of Christmas, State by State from Sterling Children's Books.

Why I chose this book: This is actually the second time I've chosen this book. When Julie Hedlund interviewed Linda on her blog recently, I raised my hand saying "Pick me! I want this book."

Why? I attended a picture book retreat Linda taught in July. She's great at rhyme and storytelling. Plus, I'm not a Colorado native, so I knew I would learn something. Christmas arrived early at my house when I received this book.

For now, Enzo and I are skipping the letters Sophie writes. They are packed with a lot of information and intended for an older audience. At 18 months, my son is amused by the shorter parts. He follows the gifts through the twelfth day without a problem.

This book will make a fun gift year round to other families, who are new to Colorado. You might be able to find one in the series focusing on your state.

If you get a book, please let me know if your state has a state fossil. I'm excited to know Colorado's fossil is the stegosaurus. This detail just makes me smile.