Winner of “Show Me How!” Giveaway

And the winner is…

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Congratulations, Liz!

Thanks to all for participating. And for those who did not win a copy of the book and who still would like one, you can order “Show Me How!” from Vivian Kirkfield’s website.

Well, my daughter’s summer holidays start on Friday, so I am going to be slowing down the blogging for the next couple of months. Hopefully, I will still be able to post every couple of weeks though. I wish you a safe, happy, and healthy summer.

“Show me How!” Book Review and Giveaway

I really wish that I had the book “Show me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking” by Vivian Kirkfield when my daughter was younger. The book is divided up into six chapters, outlining several appropriate picture books for different subjects, such as “valuing strengths and qualities” and “feeling appreciated, loved, and accepted.” Each recommended picture book is accompanied by a craft and a recipe.
Vivian generously provided a free copy for me to review. Even better, she has generously provided a free signed copy to one of my lucky readers. But more on that at the end of the post.
It was a rainy day on Sunday, so I decided to test the book out. Although my daughter is now eight years old, and the book is recommended for ages 2-5, I still decided to use her as a guinea pig. But here’s the thing: although my daughter reads chapter books, she still loves it when I read picture books to her. Many people say that picture books are for every age, and I am one of those people who agrees. (Note: The crowd of authors went wild when Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane Press announced at the SCBWI conference I recently attended that they would be taking off the age limits on their picture books.)

Anyway, I decided to start with the book “Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day” by Jamie Lee Curtis, which is included in the section “expressing feelings”. My daughter did not know that we were going to be starting with this book, but she came down the stairs already dressed for it: wearing a bandana on her arm and carrying a balloon. (OK, the balloon was in her mouth.) When she heard that’s what we were going to be reading, and that I thought she was already dressed appropriately, she spent some more time being silly, putting the bandana on the balloon and so on.
Finally we snuggled up to read–or in this case listen–to the book. Now here’s the only slight glitch with the recommended picture books in “Show me How!”. Some of them are older and harder to get. But most of them are available in some form or another, e.g., the library might have it in audio or video format. Snuggling up with your child while someone else reads is also a very satisfying experience.
The book generated little discussion afterwards except for my daughter saying that she felt tired and crabby. I didn’t really see that, but perhaps the crafting and cooking afterwards made her feel better. I know that crafting and cooking always pulls me out of a blue funk.

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We made the sherbet (strawberry instead of blueberry) and then froze it. It was very simple to do.
While it was freezing, we worked on the craft. Confession time: we have never decorated a dress-up storage box. See, I told you I could have used a book like “Show me How!”.

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Does it look like it’s a banana box anymore?

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This craft was definitely a lot of fun.
The sherbert was frozen by the time we finished our craft. Result? Delicious! My daughter’s review: “This is a good way to eat your strawberries. And a delicious one. And this recipe is very simple.”

Now these activities are meant to be done one per day, but I knew that I probably would not have time on another day to review more of the book, so we moved on to another picture book. This time I read “Franklin in the Dark” by Paulette Bourgeois from the section “Acknowledging and Coping with Fears”. I borrowed a 25th anniversary edition from the library. The book is still very relevant today despite its age.
“Franklin in the Dark” generated a rather lengthy discussion. We talked about my daughter’s fears: the dark like Franklin, riding a bike (or more specifically falling off one), roller coasters…Then she wanted to know some of my fears. Definitely roller coasters. Next we talked about the animals that we would be afraid to meet in the wild. Crocodiles for both of us. Finally she showed off some of her knowledge about one of the world’s most dangerous sea creatures: the blue ringed octopus. (Don’t let the fact that it’s only 8” fool you.)
Books that generate lots of discussion are always welcome in our house. Certainly what your child wants to talk about will be different.

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Anyway, we eventually decided to make the trail mix. I had let my daughter pick out what she wanted to include in the trail mix when we went grocery shopping earlier.
Alas, time ran out and we never did get to the accompanying craft, but my daughter was open to doing it another day.
And we will definitely be reading some of the other picture books such as “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed” by Mercer Mayer and doing the accompanying activities.
We really enjoyed our afternoon exploring Vivian’s book. And I think that you will enjoy exploring her book too. So I am giving away a signed copy to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post telling me why you want the book. My lovely assistant (aka my daughter) will draw a name out of a hat on Tuesday June 23, 2015. You have until noon (EST) that day to enter. I will announce the winner on Wednesday June 24. Good luck!

The Importance of Play to Creativity

Tara Lazar had a recent post where Deb Lund wrote about the importance of play to writers. Deb mentioned that we creatives often think that we don’t have enough time to play. Yet, play is so important! It is a fun post, and worth your while to read. Click here for the post.
So do you take time to play? I used to think that I had no time to play either, but lately I have found myself playing more often. And I have found myself with more ideas as a result.
On the same day of reading the Tara Lazar post, I read the latest 12X12 post featuring author Roxie Munro. Although I am not a huge fan of apps, I do really love Roxie’s maze books, so I ended up buying Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure. It did not disappoint. Immediately after purchasing it, I spent 1/2 hour playing on my iPad, discovering how to navigate her complex mazes. Truthfully, I was trying to see if my daughter would enjoy the app, but it is just as fun for an adult. This is definitely an app I will revisit.

Puddle play in my snazzy new black boots

Puddle play in my snazzy new black boots

That same day I had gone out to play in the rain. Yup, I got myself some shiny new black rain boots, and I tested them out. I have a recent string of stories that relate to rain, and I needed to make some observations to make them more realistic. But why not play at the same time?

Certainly books are part of my collage

Certainly books are part of my collage

I am also experiencing a lot of play in my “family journal jam” course. One day, my daughter and I did a collage on the theme “What makes me happy”. Amy Bowers, leader of the course, later mentioned that in one of her writing courses, one of the activities was for the students to collage the theme of their book. This is a great way of adding play too! Right now the other theme to my stories is socks. Collaging socks would certainly be fun. And so would collaging rain.
How do you play?

Ah-ha Moments at the SCBWI Conference

Despite getting off to a rough start–my first train was 1.5 hours late, and so I missed my connection–my weekend at the SCBWI Canada East conference was awesome!
This was my first SCBWI conference, and it was definitely worth my while to attend. I learned so much, made friends, and got some contacts.

Beautiful environment

Beautiful environment

I was thrilled to be able to sit in on the Crystal Kite award presentation (for 2014). Winning the Crystal Kite is special, because it is voted on by your peers. Helene Boudreau won for “I Dare You Not to Yawn”. I confess that I had never read it before, but I understood why the book won after she read it. It is fantastic! Helene told us that she would be watching us to see if we were yawning during her book reading. She also told us that during her research she discovered that 55% of people will yawn within 5 minutes of seeing someone else yawn. I am one of those 55%! As well, she mentioned that even reading about yawning can make you yawn. So…are you yawning yet? (And yes, I did yawn more than once during her book reading.)
Did you notice that she did a lot of research even though her book was a fiction book? I remember reading last year in this Kidlit Summer School post about doing research even if your book is fiction, because it will enhance your character.
Helene also talked about having Ah-ha moments. So I wanted to share with you three Ah-ha moments I had during Saturday’s conference.

I confess I am sitting at the back again. Maybe next year I'll move closer.

I confess I am sitting at the back again. Maybe next year I’ll move closer.

1. During her session of “Picture Book Voice” literary agent Heather Alexander talked about dialogue. Maybe you have heard the debate about the proper use of dialogue tags. Should you stick to just “said” or should you use other tags such as “whispered” or “yelled”? Heather was of the opinion that you should just use “said”. Why? She mentioned several reasons, including the fact that said would not need to be explained like a word such as retorted would, thus slowing a story down. As well, she said if you use a dialogue tag such as whispered, you are doing more telling instead of showing. A-ha, I thought. Now that I know more of the reasoning behind why to use said, I can know when or if I need to break the rule.
2. My second Ah-ha moment came during author Kari-Lynn Winters‘ session called “Getting Your Act Together”. Kari-Lynn mentioned that as soon as you get a book published, you are going to be on the stage, doing book talks. But instead of simply reading your book aloud, why not incorporate some dramatic techniques into your presentation? After all, you want to be invited back, right? Plus the more that you involve the kids, the more the kids will want to buy your book.
Kari-Lynn shared several dramatic techniques that you can use at an author visit. One is the “hot seat” where you put a student in a chair and ask him/her questions about your main character. You can also use this technique yourself when you are writing your character. Put yourself in the hot seat and see what answers you come up with about your own character.
During the session, I suddenly thought, Ah-ha, I really want to study dramatic techniques to use in my author talks. And maybe even take a drama class.
By the way, I wrote about Kari-Lynn Winters’ fabulous book “Gift Days” in this blog post.
3. My third Ah-ha moment came during Beach Lane books vice president and publisher Allyn Johnston’s talk called “Now Let’s Read Aloud”. Allyn mentioned that a lot of writers don’t realize that you don’t have to actually meet the editors at a conference. She said that writers may actually be doing themselves a disservice by following around an editor. That’s because many writers will meet an editor and suddenly become like a deer in headlights and start babbling away.
Ah-ha, I thought, this confirms something I realized when I attended the CANSCAIP conference. I went to that conference, gathered my information, and then submitted my manuscript afterwards. Because simply by being at the conference, you are already opening doors. Anyone who hears Allyn Johnston speak automatically bypasses her no unsolicited manuscript policy. She would rather have you absorb the information you gained during the conference, alter your manuscript, and then submit. It makes sense to me.
I did luck out and have Allyn Johnston sit at my table at lunch, and it was fascinating to hear her stories. Also sitting at my table was author Linda Urban, who informed us that she is going to have an extended picture book published. It’s more than 70 pages!
What do you think about my Ah-ha moments? Do you have anything to add? Leave me a comment.