Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mrs. Abed's Classroom Visit

As I mentioned in my last post, a week ago, I went into my daughter's class to write a book with them. We modeled it after my A is for Musk Ox book. It was unfortunate that the teacher's last name started with A, since "A is for Mrs. Abed's class" makes sense and that's not the way it works in my musk ox book, but we ignored that and started off with "A is for Mrs. Abed's class" anyways.

The entire first page read, "A is for Mrs. Abed's class because they are always awesome. Let me show you why..."

Then we took each of the kids in Mrs. Abed's class and gave them their own page, so "B is for Faith because she has braces" and "C is for Anna and Aphoua because they are cute." As you can see, some kids had to share letters because there were 29 kids in Mrs. Abed's class. (That seems like a big first grade class to me.)

It was fun to see what the kids came up with for each letter. Some were fairly plain and predictable, but some were more fun and unusual. My daughter Lucy's says, "S is for Lucy because she's poked sea anemones." She came up with that one herself and was pretty proud of it.

After we wrote the book, I took pictures of each of the kids holding up their letter. They were just quick snapshots, and we didn't have a backdrop or much time, so the busy classroom is the backdrop, but they turned out pretty good, all things considered.

Now I am in the process of putting the book together. It's taking me a lot longer to do than I thought it would. Because I don't have anything else, I am designing the pages in Power Point. I save them as a jpeg then upload them to Shutterfly. I'm using Shutterfly because my son got a coupon for a free 8x8 book. I'm making an 8x11 book, but it said that I could apply the cost of the 8x8 book to the 8x11 book, so I should hopefully end up paying under $10 for the book. If the coupon doesn't work I'm going to be grumpy.

Overall, I think the book writing went fairly well. It was a little long--I wanted it to be under an hour and it turned out to be an hour and a half. Part of that was setting up, but it also took a long time to write the book; I think it took about an hour. The kids actually did pretty good during that hour, but by the time it was time to take the pictures, they were pretty antsy. I think if I do it again, I'll take coloring sheets so they can color while I take pictures of the students one by one. And if I did the presentation somewhere close by, it wouldn't hurt to do the book writing in two sessions. Or maybe break the book writing up some way--write half the book, do another activity, then write the rest of the book, then do the pictures and the coloring sheets. Hmmm...that might not be a bad idea.

So that's how my class presentation went. Not bad for my first time. It will be fun to see how the book turns out when I'm done putting it together.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Advanced Reader's Edition of The World According to Musk Ox and Other Stuff

So I started writing this blog post, talking about how I received my advanced reader's edition of The World According to Musk Ox, and explaining what that is, and how cool it is to hold an actual book in my hands, etc., when I realized that I was basically rewriting the exact same thing I had posted when I received my advanced reader's edition of Musk Ox Counts. So if you want to read the blog post I was going to do today, you can go here and just substitute The World According to Musk Ox when I say Musk Ox Counts.

But since I've already signed on to write, and since I haven't written in a long time, I figured I ought to write something.

So, I will write about how I've been having a hard time writing. It's a very sad story. Lately, I've been having a hard time coming up with ideas, and when I do get an idea, I have a hard time writing it down so that it sounds good. 

For a while, I was working on a YA (young adult) book. It has some ideas in it that I really like, but overall, I wasn't too excited about it. I was trying to push through that lack of excitement though, because I've heard that a lot of times, when you aren't excited about a book you're writing it's because you've come to a hard part to write and your lack of enthusiasm isn't so much because your book is bad as it is because you're just having a hard time writing. So I was trying to push through that lack of excitement, but I eventually decided that the plot just had too many problems. So then I decided to start working again on a MG (middle grade) book that I had started writing and then put away because I couldn't figure out where to take it. I'm still having a hard time figuring out where it goes and how it ends, but I've figured out a few things about it along the way, so hopefully I'll be able to finish it. But even if I do finish it, I don't know if it will be publishable, since it's my first MG book (not my first novel) and I have a lot of learning to do.

I've also been having trouble with picture books. I have a few starting ideas that I really like, but have been having a hard time figuring out where to take them and I'm having a hard time coming up with new ideas. I finally finished a manuscript that seems half-way decent, so after having it critiqued, I sent it off to my agent. This was just a few days ago and I haven't heard back from her yet, so we'll see what she thinks. I'm currently working on another picture book that has been really hard to figure out. It'll be interesting to see if it's good when I'm finished. It's hard to explain, but it's not like a normal picture book. At the moment, I'm kind of afraid the idea might be too advanced for the intended picture book audience, but I'm hoping that with illustrations it will work. Right now, I can't tell if the idea is brilliant and going to make an awesome picture book, or if it's just not going to work at all. I'm afraid though, that once I'm done with this book, I'm going to have a hard time coming up with another idea to write. Even this idea is one that I came up with many years ago and am just trying to rework it so that it's better.

So that's what I'm working on, and I'm enjoying it some, but it's been harder for me to write than it's ever been. I wish I knew where all my creativity has gone. (Is it my depression, is it my medication, is it old age?) I've never had such a hard time writing before. I've been debating about trying something new with this blog. I've been using it to share news about my books, but since I only have three picture books published, there isn't much news and I write rather infrequently. So lately, I've been wondering if I should start studying the craft of writing again and writing down what I learn here. I think it would help me be a better writer, but I'm hesitant to put down what I learn on a blog because I'm not sure I'll be able to add much to what has already been said. So I'm still thinking about that. 

And one more thing--I realize it was a while ago, but it was the last thing I blogged about, so I'm going to mention it here--the book signing at Barnes and Noble went well. I read both my books twice (with my husband) and I sold some books. Plus the bookstore had me sign the books that weren't sold so they could sell them in the store, so that was nice. There was even someone who had read my books before hand, which is always fun. 

Book signing are always a little difficult for me since I'm not well known which means I have quite a bit of time where I'm not signing books, but instead am just sitting there, smiling, and trying not to feel too awkward. I did take coloring pages and bookmarks for the kids, and that turned out well. That way I had kids around me so I wasn't sitting by myself all the time. 

And I said I had one more thing, but I just thought of another. My kids' school had a book fair, and my book, A is for Musk Ox, was there! The best part was when I was shopping there with my kids and there was a lady talking to one of the workers, telling her how good my book was. She was really excited about it and it was fun to hear and fun to let her know that I was the author. 

And I thought of another thing, but I think that's enough for now, so maybe I'll write about it tomorrow. I'm going into my daughter's class to give a presentation tomorrow so I'll have that to write about as well.