Posted by: Betsy Devany | May 26, 2015

Jane Yolen’s Picture Book Boot Camp

CEaHyEsUsAA95AFIn March 2014, I had the pleasure of attending Jane Yolen’s first Picture Book Boot Camp. The retreat had been announced in the fall of 2013, right after my husband lost his job. Something told me this was a once in a lifetime experience, and when I approached my husband about the opportunity to spend four days at Jane Yolen’s house for a picture book master class, he encouraged me to apply. “We’ll make it work somehow,” he said. Two months later, as my husband found employment, I was accepted into PBBC. For a short PBBC slide show follow this link.

First, many thanks for joining me today, Jane, and congratulations! With dates in place for PBBC #3, you are now accepting applications from either traditionally published authors or authors under contract with a (traditional) publisher. Having attended your first-ever PBBC, I know what your future attendees can look forward to: four days of master classes, award-worthy meals, inspired presentations from respected people in our industry, a trip to the Eric Carle Museum, an owl excursion, and the opportunity to work at the famous desk where you wrote Owl Moon. In addition, you were always available to answer questions outside of your talks, and welcomed each of us into the fold.

When you first developed PBBC did you foresee it growing beyond the first camp?

There was always the hope, but one never knows about the extent of the participant pool, the cost factor, the travel factor, and the dozens of other possible workshops going on at approximately the same time.

What did you learn from the first PBBC and were any changes put forth as a result?

We learned a bit about pacing, about having bought too much wine (who knew!), and had a harsh reminder that sometimes there’s an owl, and sometimes there is not!

What are your long-term goals for PBBC?

Once or twice a year until the participants wear out or we do.

What do you hope your campers take away from the experience?

I want them to feel renewed in their joy of writing, in their commitment to publishing the best possible work, and to have found new work-arounds for things that have annoyed/bothered/frustrated them. Also I hope that at least some of the mss. workshopped get taken in this ever-increasingly difficult publishing world. I want them to realize that any manuscript can be improved, that a rejection merely means the wrong editor has seen it, and that publishing runs in cycles, troughs, and waves.

What is your personal favorite part of PBBC?

Heidi’s food and the manuscripts that I can salvage, save, or lift to the next level. And the friends/colleagues for life we have made.

The food is fabulous at PBBC, thanks to your talented daughter and author Heidi Stemple. How about a CBCWH (Cooking Boot Camp with Heidi)? I will be the first to sign up!

You will have to ask her that!

As a former boot camper, I love the supportive and encouraging community that grew out of our PBBC #1 experience. Did you foresee this happening?

Yes, because I have taught workshops before.

Many writers would love to be under your wings for a few days, absorbing your wealth of knowledge and experience, but are not eligible to apply. Is there any advice you might offer to these writers?

The minute you get a traditional publishing contract for a book, send us an email and ask for an application.

Have any of your former boot campers gone on to publish one of their PBBC manuscripts?

We already have a couple who are in the process of signing new mss. with top publishers. I am not totally clear whether these were ones we workshopped (I believe at least one is) or whether they are simply new mss. that were already in progress.

Moving forward, do you hope to maintain two PBBCs per year, and do you have ideas for any other kinds of writing retreats?

NOPE. I have my own writing to do as well.

Thank you again, Jane, for stopping by to answer questions. For those interested in receiving an application to PBBC#3 (September 10-13, 2015) or if you have additional questions about Jane’s boot camp, email Heidi at heidieys@gmail.com.

Jane Yolen is the beloved author of over 350 children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and the immensely popular How Do Dinosaurs . . . ? series. Jane is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century. Her books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.

 

 

 

Posted by: Betsy Devany | January 24, 2015

Experience of a Lifetime

DSC09357I am a firm believer in once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, which is why I didn’t hesitate to apply for Emma Dryden’s weeklong workshop, held in July 2014. Yes, I adore Martha’s Vineyard, but add Emma Dryden to the experience? I was in.

This year, veteran children’s book editor and publishing consultant, Emma D. Dryden returns to the Noepe Center for Literary Arts to, once again, teach The Art and Craft of Children’s Book Writing. Emma, who is smart, funny, and so approachable, brings along her expertise and her undying passion for children’s literature. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and it set a tone for the unforgettable week. The balance between workshops in the morning, and free time in the afternoon, to write or explore the island’s beauty, was perfect. Our group of twelve attendees quickly fell into helping each other: Reading, critiquing, bonding over our love of children’s literature.

DSC09183There were magical, takes-your-breath-away sunsets, the ones people gather on the beach to watch (and applaud for) every evening. There was the lone blue heron that swept gracefully into the harbor as the sun lazily welcomed a new day. There was my daily experience of padding through a sleepy Edgartown as dawn approached, past the street sweepers, relishing in the smell of fresh muffins baking at a nearby bookstore bakery. There were Emma’s writing prompts that ignited new stories within. And the evenings, in which we’d gather together as a group, preparing dinner, those were some of the  best moments.

If you do anything this year to advance your craft, or feed your writing soul, attend Emma’s workshop. You can register here, plus read more detailed information on what topics Emma will address: http://noepecenter.org/emma-d-dryden-the-art-and-craft-of-childrens-book-writing-july-5-11-2015/
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I left the experience with so much more than I’d hoped for. Renewed confidence, new and nurturing relationships, and lasting memories, that still feed my creative spirit today. For a brief slideshow of some highlights from our week on this beautiful island, follow this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60PFQsjqk0k

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Posted by: Betsy Devany | November 4, 2014

Baking Day at Grandma’s Is a Winner in More Ways Than One

BlogPrize Baking Day at Grandma’s is a picture book bundled in love, warmth, and thoughtfulness. At its core, it speaks to a family (grandma and her grand cubs) spending quality time together. Not only is Anika Denise’s text a pitch-perfect rhyme—and one that makes you want to clap along (and bake a cake) with the charming bears—Christopher Denise’s illustrations are enchanting. The cover, with light streaming in through the kitchen window, immediately pulls you into the scene. You want to join the bear family, stir batter, sip hot cocoa on a snowy day, and dance to an old-fashioned record player while chocolate cake bakes, all in the company of a loving and adoring grandma bear, who happens to be modeled after Anika’s grandmother Rose. This is the highlight for me, and why Baking Day at Grandma’s is quickly becoming a favorite with my grandkids. The book even includes a recipe for Grandma Rose’s chocolate cake!

baking-day-interior-copyright-christopher-denise-2014I get emotional over heartfelt picture books, and Baking Day at Grandma’s is one of those books. It’s a perfect text-to-illustration match. The singsong rhythm of Anika’s words, coupled with bears that take on humanlike qualities in their movement and expressions, make this a picture book winner. A true talent of NYT’s bestselling illustrator Christopher Denise is how he brings woodland animals to life. They almost feel real. Clearly, these bears adore each other, and the artwork of their hellos and goodbyes is especially heartwarming. To learn more about how Baking Day at Grandma’s evolved, watch this endearing book trailer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZTRFELt9-0 Anika also offers a little Activity Kit on her website. Download for free here: http://www.anikadenise.com/free-goodies/

Anika&Chris_StudioShot_The Providence Journal recently featured Anika and Christopher in a lovely must-read article.  Learn more about this talented duo by clicking on the link. http://www.providencejournal.com/writers/gail-ciampa/20141001-charming-book-by-barrington-couple-has-its-heart-in-the-kitchen.ece

 

Baking with the kiddosAs someone who works at an old-fashioned toy store, I see a lot of grandparents. Too often, they arrive at Mystic’s Toy Soldier clutching detailed Christmas or Hanukkah lists, the I-only-want-this-specific-electronic-toy/game kind of list. I see the frustration and stress that comes along with this. Ultimately, we have lost the true meaning of holidays. Long lists of electronic games only encourage further isolation, and that is not what kids need. They need one-on-one attention. They need the TV off, electronic devices put away in drawers, and they need present adults without a cell phone at the ready. Children need to bake cakes and dance in the kitchen with their grandmas, or with their mothers, their fathers, and their grandfathers. With the support and encouragement of loved ones, children also need to know they can make a difference in this world by doing things for others. In Baking Day at Grandma’s, the bear cubs wrap up individual pieces of cake to give away as gifts. They do get to lick batter off the wooden spoon, which is always been my favorite part of cake baking.

CT_Bk_FairAnika and Christopher Denise are some of the nicest people I know. And this weekend, at the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair, you can meet both of them! In addition to giving a joint presentation, Anika and Chris will also be signing copies of their collaborated books, which include Pigs Love Potatoes, and Bella and Stella Come Home. I could go on and on about why I love these books, too. In addition, Christopher has illustrated a multitude of books by other authors, including Rosemary Wells, and Brian Jacques.

If you are unable to attend this weekend’s Connecticut Book Fair, you can still get a signed copy by contacting Barrington Books, a fabulous independent bookstore in the town where Anika and Christopher live.

Want to win a signed copy of Baking Day at Grandma’s? To enter the drawing, please comment on this post and share your favorite memory of quality time with either your grandchildren or your grandmother. The drawing will be held on Tuesday, November 11. In addition to a signed copy of Baking Day at Grandma’s, the winner will also receive eight baking day gift tags!

SONY DSCAnika&Chris Credit Corey GrayhorsePhotograhy

Posted by: Betsy Devany | October 26, 2014

Maddi’s Fridge

MaddisFridge9781936261291A few months ago, an online promotion for Maddi’s Fridge caught my attention. Lois Brandt’s new picture book, illustrated by Vin Vogel, seemed exactly the kind of story I wanted to share with elementary kids, with my grandchildren, and also with our local libraries. As a weekly volunteer in a second-grade classroom, I read a picture book of my choice following snack time. I see firsthand how picture books are effectively used with second graders. The kids study characterization, plot, motive, and then compare their own feelings and experiences to a story. Yes, seven- and eight-year-olds need picture books, longer picture books, even though they read independently by this age.

So I commented on the post, then added the title to my ongoing list of books coming out that I wanted to read/buy.

A month later, I received an email: Congratulations! You have won a copy of Maddi’s Fridge! I’d forgotten that I’d even entered. When the picture book arrived at my house, I was compelled to blog about it.

stinky fish 2While this is an issue book, Lois weaves a non-didactic story, with emphasis on story. She cleverly introduces Maddi and Sofia as two close friends before leading us to what drives the plot: Maddi’s home situation. Maddi is a confident and exuberant child, skilled at climbing walls, while the empathic Sofia struggles with climbing, with Maddi always encouraging Sofia to try harder. The status of Maddi’s refrigerator—it’s empty except for milk she is saving for her brother—is introduced in an organic way. Not only does this story effectively address childhood hunger, it touches on friendship, secrets, and how a child struggles with choosing which secrets need to be shared with an adult, Sofia’s mother in this case. Though at first, Sofia attempts to help (feed) Maddi without revealing her secret in ways that are both touching and funny. The humor element is this kind of story is vital, and Lois is adept at understanding how serious subjects must be infused with sprinkles of humor. Vin Vogel’s illustrations support this to a fully satisfying end. At the story’s close, there are suggestions for kids to “ . . . help friends who have empty refrigerators.”

cecelia_buildVin Vogel’s illustrations are charming. I especially love the background neighborhood, depicted at different times during the day. Overall, the reader feels a sense of family nestled within a cultural community that supports an indie bookstore, a yoga studio, and a small-town grocery store, all set against the backdrop of the city. Vin’s own neighborhood, shown in the photograph, inspired Maddi and Sofia’s world. 

Published by Flashlight Press, Maddi’s Fridge is an important and memorable picture book. The more children exposed to this story, the better off our world could be. With the  back-of-the-book suggestions on how to make a difference, my hope is that Maddi’s Fridge will  empower children (and adults) to actively aid in the fight against childhood hunger. 10% of the profits are being donated to help fight the cause. 

 

Posted by: Betsy Devany | July 27, 2014

A Writer’s Distractions

DSC01067When I struggle with putting words

to the page,

I step outside,

breathe in fresh air,

then search

for tiny miracles.

In truth, distractions

of the extraordinary.

 

 

Yet, tiny miracles always bring me back

to the place I’m avoiding.

 

Bug in Daylily3I, too, want to silently dive deep,

explore a daylily (or an untold story)

unnoticed,

except for the curious human

with her camera,

avoiding her writing.

 

 

But isn’t that where magic happens?

Where the best of stories

are born?

Even if fear both propels us forward

and holds us back?

 

DSC01261And then I find myself in awe of tadpoles,

having ventured for too long

and too far from the house,

on this path of distraction.

Tadpoles, which have never much interested me,

but now do.

Which invites a flood of questions,

questions about my characters,

and this story I am compelled to write.

 

DSC01328So I leave my critical self outside

so she can enjoy

what the world has to offer.

Perhaps, she will find solace

in the company of a frog.

 

 

DSC05657Or take the time to wonder

at how beautiful

a gorilla’s feet are,

while I slip away unnoticed

before she follows me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Betsy Devany | June 20, 2014

The Importance of Being Present

SONY DSC“Red moon,” he said,

his two-year-old hand reaching for mine

in the dark. 

As urgently as my granddaughter

grabbed my arm, earlier that day. 

 

For her, it was the return

of the hummingbirds.

 

 

SONY DSCShe’d spotted a female

resting on a high branch,

a potential mate preening

his feathers nearby.

Our clothesline, his stage.

 

 

SONY DSCThen . . . a flash

of iridescent red,

high-pitched squeaks,

beating wings that

skirted our hair.

Breathlessness

as abandoned homework

 

 

                                            danced

                                                                                 on a breeze.

 

SONY DSCWe chased it, laughing.

 

If not for children

reminding us to be present,

how many miracles of life

would be overlooked?

 

The insect in a daylily.

 

Shadows in the woods.

 

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The beauty of a half-dead 

Japanese maple tree

clinging to life.

Its unfurling apple-peel like leaves

shimmering in the sun.

 

Do our heads always need to be down?

Our brains wired and ready

for instant response

to Facebook notifications,

e-mails, texts, twitter updates?

 

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Look. Up.

Find beauty.

Give a child your full,

undivided attention.

 

 

 

 

And so we set aside homework

to wonder at hummingbirds.

Delayed bedtime

to gaze at a brilliant full moon,

 

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shrouded in a milky

red-and-blue veil.

 

“Look, Grandma!” he said,

his small hand swallowed

in mine.

                                                                                           

Clouds shifted; the moon disappeared.

 

SONY DSCBut not the moment.

The moment of just

being.

 

He ran down the driveway.

“Moon is gone! GONE!”

 

 

I raced after him,

swept him into my arms,

guided his tiny arm toward the sky.

“Watch and wait,” I whispered.

 

Together, we silently anticipated–

not a ding or a chirp or a tweet

but the reappearance

of an unreachable golden ball

nestled in the night sky.

A ball my grandson called “Red Moon.”

 

Yes, we need to be brave

in our writing,

but we must also seek the courage

to be present.

Posted by: Betsy Devany | May 23, 2014

My Writing Process

ImageToday I join the blog tour where writers and authors answer questions about their writing process. Author Rebecca Colby preceded me. Please check out her writing process here: www.rebeccacolbybooks.com/2014/04/writing-process-blog-tour/

What am I working on now?

My present focus is on eight-year-old E. B. Louise, who is determined to save her shredding and too-small elephant slippers given to her by her recently deceased Grandma Hubble. E. B. Louise is precocious and always getting into trouble, which makes her utterly delicious and intoxicating to be around. Especially when you add her bestie, Melvin Fitch, who returns from his summer vacation at Alien World greener than E. B. Louise’s lawn. I work with second graders on a weekly basis and absolutely adore their age group. Oh, that E. B. Louise and her antics! Revising this lower middle grade lets me spend my mornings laughing out loud before I return to my second young adult in free verse, which has a darker and more serious tone, with a plot that gives me chills.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Paying no attention to market trends, I write what I am called to write, what speaks to my heart. If a voice leads to less-explored topics like early-onset Alzheimer’s, stealing, and secrets that turn families upside down, I’m not afraid to go there. I’m also not afraid to push the limits if I wholeheartedly believe that a certain plot point or a particular dialogue exchange is honest to what truly happens in children’s lives.

Why do I write what I do?

As for picture books, I adore them, I always have. And I love the challenge of writing a heartfelt and funny story in under 700 words. In terms of novels, once a voice comes to me—whether in a whisper, a single line of dialogue, or sometimes a scene in which I see the unfamiliar character doing something and wonder why—I have to follow them. For the most part, I write character-driven contemporary fiction.

How does your writing process work?

Because I live a full life—I work at an old-fashioned toy store part-time, regularly watch my two grandkids, volunteer weekly in my granddaughter’s second-grade classroom, and I am an avid photographer—I’ve learned to set aside time in each day to write. As writers, we must do this. Nearly three years ago, right after my father died, I made a vow to become an early riser for the sake of my writing. And now, on most days, I welcome the sun from my writing room where I am head down, butt in chair, giving free rein to Sleepy Mind. This is when my creative juices flow best. Overall, I write up to four hours per day, some days more than that.

A first draft of a novel can take up to three months, while I write picture books fairly quickly. Though I play with the story’s concept and characters for weeks in my mind. I see pictures, like screen shots, and jot those down. The real writing follows after I’ve let the fresh manuscript simmer for a while and then hunker down for revision. Revising is, hands down, my favorite part of writing.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Please visit my author friends who will share their writing process in the next week or so.

SONY DSCDebbie LaCroix is the author of “It’s Almost Time.” We met at Jane Yolen’s Picture Book Boot Camp in March. Debbie is a book addict. She loves to read, write and even sells children’s books for Usborne Books and More. She is a Mom to 2 boys, and loves jumping into her imagination. She is currently searching for an agent. Please visit Debbie at: www.littledebbiewrites.wordpress.com

 

 

A_Denise_Author_PhotoAnika Denise is the author of PIGS LOVE POTATOES and BELLA AND STELLA COME HOME, both of which were illustrated by her husband, Christopher Denise. Her forthcoming titles include BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA’S (Philomel, August, 2014/ also illustrated by Chris) and MONSTER TRUCKS! (Harper Children’s, 2016/ illustrated by Nate Wragg.) She lives with her husband and three daughters in Barrington, Rhode Island. Learn more about Anika’s books at her author website www.anikadenise.com, and blog http://thelittlecrookedcottage.blogspot.com.

 

 

 

Posted by: Betsy Devany | February 12, 2014

Children’s Literature Inspires Compassion for Animals

DSC00474A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old granddaughter and I were taking a walk when we came upon a bush filled with red berries.  A handmade sign swung from a branch: “Please do not pick berries. The birds need them for winter food. Thanks!” Ava read the words to me, and then continued to read a not-so-nice note someone had scribbled on the bottom by a person who clearly didn’t care about birds.

“Grandma, why would someone say something so mean about birds?” she asked.

How does one tell a seven-year-old child that not every person is kind in this world?

While Ava tried to wrap her head around the not-so-nice words, and the fact that someone had written them, I reminded her about the individual who took the time to make the red sign, and then carefully secured it to the bush with twine. “That’s what matters,” I told her.

“Yes,” she said, picking up trash from the road and putting it in her pocket. “And when we get back to your house, we’ll put out extra bird seed.”

SONY DSCWe continued on our way, Ava quiet in her thoughts, unlike her usual chatty self. And when she asked me to tell her a story as we walked by the reservoir, I began to recite the story of a girl who found two lost dogs in her grandmother’s yard.

“Grandma, that was me,” she said, spying a Dunkin Donuts bag near the base of a tree. She picked it up to use as a portable trash bag.

“Yes, I know that was you, and I love that story.”

“Okay, you can tell it again.” She gathered more litter. It was then that I realized what she doing. In her own way, Ava was balancing the not-so-nice note by cleaning up after others. “This way the birds won’t eat any of this trash and get sick. Like those dogs were when we found them.”

Two years ago, a couple of elderly dogs just appeared on our porch. They were wet and hungry, and Ava squealed when she saw them. “It’s like Because of Winn-Dixie!” she said. “And we have to save them, Grandma. Kate DiCamillo would want us to save them.”

SONY DSCAva had seen the movie, and we were reading the middle grade novel aloud. And before I could say “yes,” Ava was filling bowls with water, and gathering food for the starving dogs. After calling nearby vets and having no luck identifying the lost dogs, I called animal control, who couldn’t come to our home for 2-3 hours.

“Ava, how are we going to keep them from running off for 2-3 hours?” The yellow lab, while elderly, had a lot of spunk, especially after having eaten two servings of kibble offered by Ava.

“Grandma, I am an Animal Whisperer. Don’t you know that by now?” And then Ava proceeded to whisper to these two lost dogs. Softly. Lovingly. She chanted that she would watch over them until we could find their homes, and she then nearly cried when she noticed the black dog’s infected ears. She’d been tenderly brushing them with our dog’s brush.

“Will they be okay?” she kept asking me.

Image 2“Yes,” I said, over and over, until the Dog Warden finally arrived at our house. Every day after that, Ava and I talked about the dogs, whether they’d found their homes and gotten medicine for their ailments. Three weeks later, I ran into the Dog Warden at the grocery store, who confirmed that the dogs were reunited with their owners, who had just moved from Minneapolis, Kate DiCamillo’s state. The dogs had been trying to find their old house. “You and your granddaughter saved them,” she said.

It is moments like this that I feel hope. Hope in the face of strangers defacing signs made by people who care about the smallest creatures on this earth. Hope that springs forth in a young child because she read a book in which another young girl was kind to a lost dog. A dog name Winn-Dixie.

Children learn compassion from reading books, and then go to help lost dogs, care for birds, and assist the smallest of creatures, as well as show compassion to other people. They, like myself,  are forever affected by stories such as The One and Only Ivan and Home of the Brave, both written by Katherine Applegate, and The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. As a young child, I loved The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and I watched the Birdman of Alcatraz multiple times. In terms of empathy, Ava’s favorite picture books include How to Heal a Broken Wing and “Let’s Get a Pup!” Said Kate, both by Bob Graham. When the family arrives to pick up Rosy, the old dog at the shelter, I never fail to burst into tears. Ava now finds this humorous and says, “Grandma, do you have to cry every time?” And then we read another favorite, Mr. Hacker by James Stevenson, a heartfelt story filled with empathy and humor.

SONY DSCWhen Kate DiCamillo spoke at the NJSCBWI conference nearly two years ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with our newly named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014–2015. Ava had drawn a picture for Kate, and sent me with photos of the dogs, we had rescued. I had Kate sign The Magician’s Elephant for my father, a book I had planned to give to him, not expecting he would pass before he could read it. And upon seeing the photos of Ava with the dogs, Kate asked if she could keep them.

Kate, like so many wonderful authors, inspire me every day. They inspire me to keep pushing myself for the children, who are the hope of our future and the most precious gifts on our earth.

I would love to hear your favorite books that are sage examples of empathy toward animals, while I have by no means mentioned all of my favorites in this post.

Lastly, I was honored to be a guest this week over at The Writing Barn. Here is the link to my post on revision, inspired by a house wren family. Rejecting Rejection with author Betsy Devany – Writing Barn

Posted by: Betsy Devany | December 2, 2013

PiBoIdMo 2013 Comes to an End

SONY DSCPiBoIdMo has come to an end. Which leads to withdrawal. It also leads to realizing one’s strengths and weaknesses, some of which I learned during PiBoIdMo 2013.

1. I can come up with picture book ideas under pressure, while also tending to a middle grade revision.

2. I should not pretend to know what I am doing when trying to baste a turkey on Thanksgiving.

3. The twenty-three-month-old grandson is better equipped to handle Norman the gorilla.

4. I need to volunteer for more hours at the elementary school because the place is ripe with ideas, except when I’ve been asked to read the final chapter of Charlotte’s Web aloud and get emotional. Which also turns a second grade classroom silent, and instantly ceases snack time shenanigans. Twenty-two sets of eyes lock on you, the One Who is Trying Not To Cry when Wilbur says how much he misses Charlotte. This led to a discussion about good writing, and how good writing evokes emotion.

SONY DSC5. I now have a lot of work to do and a number of manuscripts to develop. Thirty-six picture book ideas, to be exact. A dozen show strong promise. I am excited to explore them further.

When I checked in with Norman to see how many picture book ideas he came up with during the month, he handed me his list, every title oddly familiar in a middle grade/young adult kind of way.

Norman, Lost and Found

With a Name Like Norman

The One and Only Norman

Love That Norman

The Absolute Value of Norman

The Thing About Norman

Eleanor & Norman

The Higher Power of Norman

The Year of the Gorilla

One For the Norman’s

See You at Norman’s

Each Little Gorilla that Sings

SONY DSC“Norman, ” I said. “Gorillas do not sing. And is this why my novels are no longer in alphabetical order?”

Norman said I needed to ask his publicist.

“What publicist?”

“That boy wearing the headset, who interviewed me last week. I am too busy to talk, someone in this house needs to stuff the turkey with herbs.”

Which brings me to number two on my list.

For any of you who read my pre-PiBoIdMo postPre-PiBo Day 4: Betsy Devany’s PiBoIdMo Success Story (plus prizes!), two years ago, I was fired from making our Thanksgiving meal. This year, I decided to be brave, with the help of my husband. We brined the turkey ahead of time and then put it in the oven. After a few hours, the bird needed a little help. “I think we have to use the juice in the pan to baste the turkey. Yes, that’s it!” I said. And then I realized I had no idea where the baster was. My husband found it and handed it to me. He left the room to mind the outside grill, which had our ‘back-up’ turkey. I opened the oven door, reached in with the baster and burned the edge of a finger. I slammed the oven door shut, put ice on the now-red spot, and gathered strength to try again.

“I’m going back in,” I called.

He did not hear me.

I put on an oven mitt and picked up the baster. “I can do this, I can do this,” I chanted.

I lifted the foil, sucked up a tube of juice and squirted the turkey. I did it again, and then . . .

The bulb part of the baster pulled away from the tube, which lurched into the oven and dropped to the floor of the very hot oven.

“The Thanksgiving Curse!” I shouted. “Fire, fire!”

My husband was sitting on our back porch, reading the Black Friday ads, with a fire roaring in our fireplace.

“FIRE!”

He turned toward the kitchen window and waved at me. “Yes, come outside. Isn’t the fire nice?”

“The oven! The baster is melting. Hurry!”

I will say that the baster was not easily retrieved, and required a number of attempts to free it from the oven, at which point it was a charred and melted blob.

But in the end the turkey was moist and delicious, and I did not burn our house down.

Another vote is on the table in regards to how I may or may not be involved with next year’s Thanksgiving meal. I know how I will be voting.

Thank you, Tara Lazar, for another fabulous PiBoIdMo experience. I wish all the participants success as they shape their ideas into marketable stories. I look forward to reading each and every one.

Posted by: Betsy Devany | November 8, 2013

PiBoIdMo Week One with Norman the Gorilla

SONY DSCAt the end of week #1 of PiBoIdMo, I’ve successfully met this week’s goal: eight new ideas, three of which continue to feed the muse. My weekly volunteer session in my granddaughter’s second-class yesterday bumped my idea count from five to eight, thanks to one-on-one sessions in the hallway. The project I was helping the kids with was hysterical. Thank you, students, for making me laugh!

But when I checked in with Norman, he seemed a bit discouraged. So I asked how his writing challenge was coming.

“I loaned my car to Beverly and Beauregard Bunny. They have more ideas than I could come up with. I got off the StuWriStoMo hill. Everyone passed me.”

“What is StuWriStoMo?” I asked.

SONY DSC“Stuffs Write Stories Month. We have our own Stuffsbook page. I read Beverly’s post.” Norman groaned. “Beverly came up with 413 1/2 ideas.”

“You’re not competing with the bunnies,” I said.

“Beauregard wrote 93 picture book manuscripts this week. He stars in all of them. Pig and Elephant are way ahead, too. Pig is illustrating Elephant’s ideas as they come.”

“Have you written down any new ideas?”

“One,” said Norman. “It’s called I WANT MY BANANA BACK. Beauregard Bunny steals my banana. So I ask around to see if anyone has seen it. No one has. And they’re too busy to help me look because they’re eating banana bread. Made from MY BANANA!  And then I find Beauregard Bunny selling suspicious-smelling cookies at his bakery. By the end of the book, the bakery is shutdown.”

SONY DSC“What happens to Beauregard Bunny?”

“Why are you asking?” said Norman.

“Because this sounds like plagiarism.”

“No, it doesn’t. There are no hats in my story. Please do not ask me any more questions. I would not eat a bunny.”

“Okay, well I expect you’ll be hearing from Jon Klassen soon.”

“Great! I’ll tell my agent at Bossy Frog Literary that Klassen will write a blurb for the book jacket. Agent Bossy Frog #2 calls my manuscript ‘fresh’. He’s preparing to submit it to fifty-seven editors. By the end of next week we’ll have an auction.”

I put aside the much-needed discussion on How to Choose a Good Agent, and headed to my writing room to find a book on craft. I carried it outside to Norman, who was making a How to Spend My Advance for I WANT MY BANANA BACK list.

SONY DSCWhile Norman spent the afternoon reading, I still have concerns.

His #2 idea is called MAKE WAY FOR GORILLAS.

Have a great and inspiring week, everyone!

 

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