I’m In Texas Today…Well, Almost!

Hello dear friends!

Author Melissa Stoller invited me to her blog today and I hope you’ll pop over there and join the chat as she asks me THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT STORIES, CREATIVITY, AND CONNECTION.

And guess what? Leave a comment on her blog and you might win a picture book critique from yours truly.

Hope to see you there!!

Please don’t forget that the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge post will go live on March 2…that is only FOUR DAYS AWAY…have you sharpened your pencils?

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#50PreciousWordsforKids – Where Kids Become the Storytellers

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Last month, I hosted a challenge for writers. I invited them to create a story for children in 50 words or less. #50PreciousWords drew hundreds of participants. What amazed me was the incredible creativity that was unleashed by the restrictive word limit.

MAGIC HAPPENS WHEN YOU MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT!

One of the participants told me that she and her six-year old daughter had an amazing bonding experience. Seeing her mom writing, the little girl wanted to write a story also. And she did. And her mom shared it with me.

DINOSAUR SNOW by Bethany (age 6)

It snowed a lot through the day. Pteranodon and her sister Teethless were bored. Pteranodon said, “I planned to go outside and it’s almost time for lunch. Oh it’s 11:00. Let’s go wake Mom and Dad.” “You’re right,” said Teethless. So they did. And then they ate lunch.

Then my eight-year old grandson spent a day with me and he wanted to write one, too.

LOCKED OUT by Jeremy (age 8)

One evening, when me and my mom got home from school, we tried to unlock our door. We heard a snap. Our house key broke! We went to our neighbors for help. They said, “Get a ladder and climb into a window.” We followed their advice. Unlocked the door. Home!

Those two stories got me excited! I’m a retired kindergarten teacher. My debut picture book will launch next year. My book for parents and teachers, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, recommends 100 picture books and provides hundered of activities to extend the reading experience. I’ve always been on a mission to help kids become lovers of books and reading. What a thrill if I could encourage them to become their own storytellers!

I decided to create a writing challenge for children!

An ALL-INCLUSIVE INTERNATIONAL ONE!

#50PreciousWordsforKids will coincide with Children’s Book Week, May 1-7. Every child in grades K-6 is invited to participate. Teachers will have each child write a story of 50 words or less…then the teacher and/or class will choose one story to submit. Parents who homeschool their children can submit one story per child.

Here are the guidelines.

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I’m asking all of you who have connections with elementary schools or homeschooling families in any state and any country to please spread the word. Last month, I contacted the Children’s Book Council and they agree – it’s a perfect activity for Children’s Book Week.

The challenge runs May 1-7 and the stories need to be emailed to me: viviankirkfield@gmail.com by 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, May 7th. I’ll post those stories on Thursday, May 11th. Teachers and parents will receive a certificate that can be copied and personalized with the name of each child who participated. And there will be seven mini-Skype author classroom visits randomly awarded—one per grade.

I’m grateful to talented artist Vicky Fang who designed the perfect logo. And to Deborah Weed, Jennifer Petersen, and my daughter, Caroline, who all helped put the flyer together. It takes a village.

And it takes a village to help kids stretch and grow their imaginations.

I’m excited to read all of their precious words.

Will Write for Cookies: Peter McCleery + Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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PETER MCCLEERY

Because my picture book was slated to pub in 2017, I was lucky enough to become part of a great group of 2017 debut picture book authors and illustrators. They’ve been truly lovely and haven’t kicked me out of the group, even though Sweet Dreams, Sarah was pushed back to 2018. Which is fine by me because it’s given me a chance to be part of the chain mail exchange of ARC’s and F&G’s. (ARC’s are Advanced Reading Copies. F&G’s are Folded and Gathered…the actual pages of the finished book before they are bound together). And it’s also given me a golden opportunity to connect with all of these talented creatives, review their books, and feature them on my blog.

Peter McCleery is the author of the hilarious Bob and Joss series of children’s books, Bob and Joss Get Lost! (available February 2017) and Bob and Joss Take a Hike! (coming in 2018). He lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Oregon where he occasionally gets lost. His favorite things include kids (and adults) who laugh. He’s also written for Highlights magazine and for grown-ups on the McSweeney’s humor website.

Peter…we are so darned excited to have you here…I’ve truly enjoyed your debut picture book…as well as the wonderful post you did for the Picture the Books blog. I urge you all to read this…Peter did a survey and interviewed some of the debut authors…it’s an inside peek into why they wrote what they wrote on the dedication page.

Dear friends, I want to remind you that if you leave a comment below, you’ll be entered into the giveaway of a copy of Peter’s debut picture book, BOB AND JOSS GET LOST which I reviewed yesterday on Perfect Picture Book Friday.

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And now we are going to get an inside peek into the who, what, where, when, and why of Peter McCleery.

ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

 PETER:

I was a big fan of Babar and had a bunch of those books growing up, which I still have. I remember being easily engrossed by Brunhoff’s fanciful illustrations. I could just pop open a page and become immersed in the scene. I especially loved the unique architecture of Celesteville and the how each animal had their own type of building that perfectly suited them.  When I got older I sort of skipped typical middle-grade and YA novels and read a lot of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. What’s funny is that none of that style is apparent in my writing now!

ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

PETER:  

How to be patient. When I first started writing I thought I could crank out great stories and be done. It doesn’t really work that way. I learned to slow down and take my time with a manuscript. (Some might say too slow.) Even if I write a draft really fast I will let it sit and steep like a good tea. Sometimes a solution or a new idea will pop in my head during this “downtime.” It’s important to make space for that to happen. The hard part is balancing that notion with actually getting things done.

Or all of that might be an excuse to procrastinate.

ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook?

PETER:

I work in a bunch of different places. Sometimes at home or in my local coffee shops.

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Although recently, to help increase my production (see answer above), I started renting a small office. It’s a very basic space in a medical/health office building. Gray carpet, white walls, etc…It’s me and a bunch of orthodontists and physical therapists! It’s funny to be doing creative work in such an uncreative space. We’ll see if it works!

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ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

PETER:

I find that mid-day is my most productive time.  Early on I tried working at night after the kids went to bed but I realized that my brain was fried and writing was a struggle. Being a stay-at-home dad allows me to write during the day when my kids are in school and in between errands or their activities.

ME: Why do you write for children?

PETER:

This is such an interesting question! I think a big part of it is that I feel very comfortable with that age audience.  They take easily to the absurd. They don’t quite know what the “rules” are yet. Every time they read a book they are learning, “this is what a book is. This is how a book works.” I want to leave them with the impression that books can be fun and weird and full of clever delights.

ME: Peter, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, librarians might want to hear.

PETER:

I think some of the best writers are the ones most connected to kids’ sensibilities. Whether it’s humor, light or dark emotions, understanding relationships, etc., they get how kids think, how they see the world. Sure, adults should like and appreciate what you do (after all they are the ones making the purchase), but first and foremost the thing you are making should connect with kids.

I always try to imagine myself in front of a bunch of 6-year-olds (or whatever age range I’m writing for) with just my manuscript. It’s a scary thought, right? And it should be. Kids have no patience for the dull, the flat or the self-indulgent. Then I ask, can I honestly say this will hold their attention? Are there parts that would make me hesitant to present in front of them? If so, why?

Thank you so very much, Peter! This was amazing. I love that you suggest we connect with young kids if we are going to write stories they will love…it’s obvious that your connection with them is super strong!

And for all of you who want to find out more about Peter and his books, you can find him at http://www.petermccleery.com and at Twitter @pmccleery.

Okay friends…you know what they say…it’s not over until the cookie recipe is shared!

PETER:

 This cookie recipe is an old family traditional recipe. My mom makes them every holiday and so did her mother. While it’s a Greek recipe, my grandparents actually immigrated from Albania but there is a lot of cultural overlap. It’s not a very sweet cookie, in fact they taste best at breakfast with tea or coffee. The sesame seeds seem like an odd choice for a cookie but it works. Perfect for dipping!

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My goodness…this is amazing! I love the way they look, Peter! And I’ll bet they taste even better. Not sure that the heavy cream, 4 cups of sugar, cup of butter and 12 eggs are quite what the doctor ordered…but hey, writers need nourishment…and eggs are very nutritious, right?

I know we all join together to thank Peter for his insights…and his wonderful recipe!

I hope your weekend is sprinkled with joy. And I hope you are all getting ready for #50PreciousWords…Challenge post goes live on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Thursday, March 2.

Picture Book Review and Activity: BOB AND JOSS GET LOST + Giveaway

Hello dear friends!

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday…so you know we are going to have a super picture book to review. Actually, it is one of the brand-new 2017 debut picture books. And the author, Peter McCleery, will be our guest on tomorrow’s Will Write for Cookies.

But as is often the case, we need to make a few announcements first.

  1. The ReFoReMo Challenge will be getting underway on February 27…you can still  find out more about it and register here. ReFoReMo is an excellent way to earmark a month to read LOTS of picture books that you can use as mentor texts. Thanks to Carrie Charlie Brown and Kirsti Call for all of their work in organizing this for the kid lit community. I’m honored to have been asked to contribute the blog post for March 21.
  2. Last week we offered a copy of MR. FUZZBUSTER KNOWS HE’S THE FAVORITE. And the winner is…

SHERRI JONES RIVERS

Congrats, Sherri…I’ll be in touch and we will get a copy of the book to you.

3. And this weekend, we are giving away a copy of today’s wonderful picture book, BOB AND JOSS GET LOST. So please don’t forget to leave a comment below.

4. A dear friend, Michelle Eastman, is on a mission to put books in the hands of children in this country who have none. With the help of the VNS of Iowa, MARCHing Books to Kids will allow incarcerated parents to record their voices reading a book…then the VNS will send the book AND the recording to the child. What a positive impact this can make for children who are separated from a parent! The book you send might make all the difference in that child’s life. Any book is welcome…but can you imagine how special it would be for these kids to get books actually SIGNED by the author or illustrator?

5. And last, but definitely not least, I hope you are all thinking about your #50PreciousWords. Contest opens March 2. I JUST finished mine…after all, it wouldn’t be fair to expect you to write a story in just 50 words or less if I didn’t give it a try. I know you will laugh when you read it…hopefully because it is funny…and not because it is hopeless.

And now, thank you for your patience…it’s time for our #PPBF review.

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Bob and Joss Get Lost

Written by Peter McCleery

Illustrated by Vin Vogel

Publisher: HarperCollins (2017)

Ages: Preschool – Grade 3

Themes:

Friendship, ingenuity

Synopsis:

From Amazon:

Perfect for fans of I’m Bored, Bob and Joss Get Lost! is a hilarious story about two friends who get shipwrecked on what may or may not be a deserted island.

“I’m bored,” Bob said, “Let’s do something.”

“Let’s take a boat trip,” said Joss.

“We will get lost,” said Bob.

We won’t get lost,” said Joss.

From debut author Peter McCleery and esteemed children’s book illustrator Vin Vogel comes a fun, comical escapade where two best friends get more excitement than they bargained for. Full of bold illustrations and clever one-liners, Bob and Joss Get Lost! is sure to have young readers laughing along.

Opening Lines:

“Bob was bored.”

Why I like this book:

  • This book is FUNNY and so darn REAL. The characters are funny. What happens to them is funny. But what I love most is that I could relate to these two friends…so different from each other…but so perfect for each other. I know many people who are just like Bob…no matter where they are or what they are doing, they are bored. And I think kids who hear this story will identify with McCleery’s characters.
  • The illustrations are perfect for the text…Vin Vogel captures the frustration of Bob…and the Zen-like acceptance of Joss. And his use of words as art packs a great punch for the story.
  • I read this with my 8-year old grandson and he LOVED it. When we finished, he took the book and read it through again, on his own.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

MAKE A MAP

 making-mapsPhoto courtesy: http://www.artistshelpingchildren.org

  1. Take a walk with your kids. Make a note of stores, parks, other landmarks.
  2. Draw a ‘picture’ of the area you traveled.
  3. More maps here: http://www.artistshelpingchildren.org/makemapstreasuremapscraftsideasdecorationskids.html

Look at a globe…identify the continents, bodies of water…have children find where they live, places they have visited.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends…and please come back tomorrow for:

Will Write for Cookies

With debut picture book author

PETER MCCLEERY