May 2018 My First Reading Club Subscription Box Review!

This month I did the May 2018 My First Reading Club unboxing and review on my YouTube channel (Maranda’s Toys & Books), so I figured I would post the video here in case anyone wanted to see which children’s books I got this month for only $9.99 plus S&H! This box is always SUCH a great deal! Definitely recommended for families!

 

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New Video about My New Children’s Book Release!

Hi everyone! I am excited to share my newest children’s middle grade book release with you all! I have been working on this book for a while now and am definitely proud of the results! “Creepy, Funny & Just Plain Weird: Stories and poems for kids” is goofy, funny and a little bit gross and creepy at times too! It is sure to appeal to kids, even reluctant readers! Make sure you check out my short vlog video about the new book:

If you would like to get a copy of this book for yourself or your kids, you can find the paperback version for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $6.99. There is also a Kindle ebook version available for $2.99! If you do read it or get it for your kids, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Goodreads or even just reaching out to tell me personally what you thought of it!

A New Look & What I’ve Been Up To Lately

“I’ve Seen Better Days” ink & colored pencil on paper. Pretty much how I’m feeling today.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably notice things look a bit different. I figured it was about time to change things up and try a new design. I hope you like it! Here are a few other things I have been up to lately:

  • Visiting the ER with my husband and then trying to be a good nurse while he recovers from another back injury. I never realize how much he does on a daily basis until I have to do it instead! That is one reason why I didn’t do any YouTube vlog videos this week, just too much else going on.
  • Getting ready to participate in the upcoming Dayton Book Expo this Saturday. I hope I get to meet lots of eager readers and share my books!
  • Reading way too much Foo Fighters fanfiction.
  • Brushing up on my art history, particularly the abstract expressionism movement. Looking at awesome art by other people always inspires me to create my own!
  • Figuring out Tumblr (which seems a lot like Pinterest to me). Feel free to follow me on there if you want!
  • Selling some artworks (woot woot), including the one pictured above which I just finished yesterday!
  • Trying to figure out how teachers are expected to pay back outrageous student loans on the pay they get!
  • Munching on Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts, which are delicious!
  • Dreaming about how cool it would be to be a medical examiner (if I could get past the smells).

Calling all young artists!

One of my own recent works of art. Can't wait to see what your kids come up with!

One of my own recent works of art. Can’t wait to see what your kids come up with!

Do you know an aspiring artist between the ages of 7 and 14 years old who would love to have their artwork featured in a published ebook? If so, this message is for you! I am putting together an upcoming ebook containing artistic advice, inspiration and creative tips for kids and I want YOUR young artist to be involved! All you have to do is submit a picture of your little artist’s favorite masterpiece, along with a quote from your child about art. The quote from your child can say anything as long as it is related to art or creativity. Here are a few suggestions for things your child might include in their quote:

  • Advice for other young artists
  • A personal story about art and how it has affected your life
  • Information about your favorite art/artists
  • Why you love art
  • How you come up with creative ideas

Once you have your child’s artwork and quote, email them to me at Shojobeatgirl@live.com with “Kid Art Entry” in the subject line . Please include your child’s name as you want it to appear in the ebook and your child’s age. I hope to use all of the artwork I receive, but if I receive an enormous amount of entries I may have to choose to feature only some of the young artists in the ebook. I will email back all of the young artists who are selected to be included in the book to let them know. I will also email all of the featured artists when the ebook is published so they can check it out and share it with their family and friends! Please submit all entries on or before June 20, 2013. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!

Tips for teaching poetry writing to kids and teens

Along with all the author visits and book signings I do, I also spend some of my time teaching poetry and other writing forms to kids and teens. I often have teachers express to me how hard they find it to teach poetry (or any kind of writing) to the kids in their classroom, so I figured I would offer a few tips that I have found work for me when it comes to getting kids excited about writing in general and poetry in particular.

*First off, allow kids freedom with poetry writing, especially when they are first starting out. Free verse tends to be the most accessible and least intimidating form to begin with. If you try to force your students to rhyme or follow a form, you will quickly have a room of frustrated kids.

*Show your kids how much variety there really is in the poetry world. For many children their experience with poetry is limited to nursery rhymes and Dr. Suess. Make your classroom a poetry-friendly zone. Hang up posters with different kinds of poems on them, stock your bookshelves with an assortment of kid-friendly poetry books and make sure you include great examples of poetry in your curriculum throughout the year.

*Read your students poems that were written by kids their age. Before a child will feel confident that they can write poetry, they need to know that other kids their age have been successful with poetry writing and have even gotten published. A few great resources to find poems by kids and teens include the magazines Highlights for Children, Teen Ink and Stone Soup.

*Make it fun. Allow kids to play poetry games. One fun medium that has always seemed to be popular with kids and teens is magnetic poetry. If you have never played with magnetic poetry yourself, feel free to check out www.magneticpoetry.com to see what it is all about.

*Use prompts the kids will actually care about. The fastest way to lose your students’ interest is to give them boring, stuffy prompts. Don’t ask them to write an ode to spring or something predictable like that. Instead, ask them to write about bullies, pets, friends, dreams, things they love, things they hate, what makes them angry, etc. Just because kids are young doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings and emotions every bit as strong as adults do.

*Make your class a safe, constructive review zone. Encourage kids to share their poems with the class so that they can receive feedback, but make sure all the kids know that only kind, helpful comments are allowed. No teasing, jeering or laughing at a fellow student’s work (unless the poem is meant to be funny of course).

I hope you have found these tips to be useful. Feel free to let me know what works for you and what doesn’t. You can contact me at Shojobeatgirl@live.com if you have any comments or questions, or you can simply leave a comment below. Also, feel free to contact me if you are interested in having me visit your library, class or school!

My first elementary school author visit!!!

Today was my first official elementary school author visit.  I must admit I was sweating this one big time.  I kept worrying that I would get in front of everyone and just bomb it.  I am a nervous public speaker anyway, so I was terrified by the thought of getting up in front of people I don’t even know and talking about my new picture book, “Ode to Icky”.  Certain thoughts kept whirling around in my head:  What if no one likes my book?  What if I got up in front of them all and couldn’t think of anything else to say besides “um”?  And worst of all, what if I made such a bad impression that they never invited me back?

Now I can say with a big sigh of relief that I was honestly worried for NOTHING!!!  The author visit went great today!  I spoke to three different classrooms, and all three seemed absolutely enthralled by me and the book.  Both teachers and students told me they “loved my book”, and I even overheard one kid going around telling all his friends what an “awesome, funny book” I had written.  By the time I left I had kids asking me to autograph their homework, their arms and just about any other surface they could provide!  It made me feel like royalty!

By the time it was over I had learned a few things.

1.  I underestimated how much kids really love to talk to authors.  I thought most kids thought books were kind of boring and would think the same about the authors who write them.  Boy was I wrong!

2.  Kids ask really funny, amusing questions, but they also occasionally come up with an insight that I didn’t even have about my book.  The things they notice are amazing.  For instance, I really had never noticed that the illustrator had drawn the characters without tongues, but one kid sure did and wanted to know why they didn’t have tongues.

3.  I worry way too much about the small stuff, like making sure I have the perfect pen to sign my books with or wearing just the right outfit.  But my audience doesn’t really care too much about those things, they just want some attention from someone that they feel they can look up to.  It makes me so proud to know that I am someone they consider worth emulating!

 

Interview with Children’s Picture Book Author Carol Gordon Ekster

Carol Gordon Ekster is a writer who uses her creative abilities to discuss real world problems with kids.  From divorce to cleaning up a messy room, Carol finds fun, entertaining ways for kids to deal with the issues in their lives.  Ready to learn more?  Then on to the interview!

Q: When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author? What made you want to choose this career path?

A: My desire to write surprised me.  It seemed to come out of nowhere.  I worked with children on their writing as a 4th grade teacher for 35 years. I had writing workshops and conferenced with each child individually to give them feedback on their work.  When I started writing, I certainly had empathy for my students.  Getting feedback, at first, was not easy.

Writing just came to me one day on the beach when I was fifty years old.  I needed to write.  I went to the car and got post-its and a pen and started my first story.  Until then, I had always found writing a difficult skill.  It is difficult…lots of skills are needed to do it well.

I stepped into the life of a writer, joining SCBWI, becoming passionate about the craft, reading many books on writing and joining critique groups.  I stuck to my new path and never looked back.  It was wonderful to be able to share my journey of becoming an author as well as the writing process with my classes. Now that I’m retired,  it is the writing that allows me to continue communicating with children.

Q: Who are some of the authors that greatly influenced your writing style? What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

A: I believe I have my own writing style, but I’ve read so many books and respect and admire countless authors of children’s books and adult books. I found picture books to enhance all areas of the curriculum when I taught.  I usually read a few a day to my students…so I was preparing myself for becoming a writer.  I knew what I liked…beautiful language and a story well told.  When I was a kid, I loved Nancy Drew books best of all.  Now I rarely read mysteries.

Q: Did you have a hard time getting your first book published?

A: My first book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008, was published about two years after I started sending it out, and less than two years after I started writing.  It was bought by the 12th publisher I sent it to.  That was the 20th manuscript I had written.  My second book, which is expected out this fall, Ruth The Sleuth and The Messy Room, sold the 16th time I sent it out.  It was the 30th story I had written.  I also sold the 24th manuscript I wrote to a magazine.  The second time I sent that out, I got a request for a rewrite.  Then the publisher said they were interested in the rewrite, but they ended up changing offices and staff, and I never received a contract.  So after about 20 other tries to get it published as a book, I decided I just wanted the story shared with children and accepted that it was time to let it go as a magazine piece.  I try to stay focused on working on my craft and enjoying the submitting process, and if something sells, well that’s a bonus.  Sometimes, I still get disappointed when I get a rejection, but mostly I prepare to send it out again to another publisher.

Q: Assuming that you write for children or young adults, what made you decide to write for those age groups? Do you still feel connected to your “inner child”?

A: I definitely feel connected to my inner child, but I believe it’s the teacher in me that pushes me to write for children.

Q: What are some of your hobbies, other than writing?

A: I love doing yoga, aerobics,  and going bike riding.  I love to vacation and be with family. And of course, I love to read.  I always have a book on CD that I’m listening to in the car, and one near my bed.  I also enjoy cooking healthy meals.  When I taught, I spent a lot of time looking for new teaching ideas and web sites to use with my students.

Q: Do you have any sage advice for new authors who are just entering the field?

A: Most importantly, writers must persevere and not get disheartened.  Continue working on your craft and submitting your work.  You must belong to writing groups or have other writers give you feedback.  We do not write alone.

Q: Do you hold any other jobs outside of your writing? If so, do you find that this helps your writing or gets in the way?

A: Being retired now allows me the time I need to write and promote my books.

Q: If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

A: Carolyn Keene, because she made me love reading and understand the power of a good book.

Q: Do you have any other information you would like to share, such as a website, author page, awards won, etc.?

A: www.carolgordonekster.com