Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writers and Dinosaurs

Caroline with Skeleton of a Giant Sea Reptile (Los Angeles County Natural History Museum)
Fellow blogger and children’s book writer Greg Leitich Smith has launched a feature on his blog showing photographs of  children’s book authors with dinosaurs.  Well, obviously not with REAL dinosaurs, but with skeletons or other representations of the giant, extinct reptiles.  Last week he put up a post of me with skeletons of two of my favorite extinct reptiles, a mosasaur, a type of  giant sea reptile, and a pteranodon, a giant flying reptile. I am comparing my wingspan with that of the pteranodon, whose wings stretched nearly 20 feet from tip to tip!  While these creatures are not dinosaurs, they are both giant reptiles that lived in the Dinosaur Age.  You can read about them in my books Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age and Pterosaurs, Rulers of the Skies in the Dinosaur Age.  (And, just in case you are having trouble pronouncing the word “pterosaurs”,  remember that the “p” is silent so the word is pronounced as if it begins with “t”.  Pterosaurs were not birds and did not have feathers.  Their wings were made of thin skin.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Advice to an Aspiring Writer

Caroline's First 100 Books
I often get asked for advice from people who want to publish a children's book.  In many cases, writers worry that they will have to find an illustrator for their story before they submit it to a publisher. My first piece of advice is that you don't need to worry about an illustrator.  This is taken care of by the publisher.  If an editor wants to publish your story, then he or she will choose an illustrator whose style is appropriate to the story.  My second piece of advice is, go to a library or bookstore and look at other books in the same general category as your story.  Make a list of the books that seem closest to yours.  Those are the publishers most likely to be interested in your story.  When you are in the library or bookstore you can also look at books about writing for the children's market.  These books will give you guidelines about how to submit your manuscript.  You can also look online at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators site ( ).  It isn't easy to have a children's book published, but if you do your homework and you have a good story, it can happen!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

StoryFaire, Santa Barbara

Authors Jody Fickes, Caroline Arnold and Joan Graham at StoryFaire, Santa Barbara, April 30, 2011
On a sunny Saturday two weeks ago, along with about a dozen other authors, I participated in StoryFaire, a day long celebration of books and the arts for families and children in Santa Barbara.  Kids could do crafts, art projects, get free books, buy books and have them autographed, and watch performances on stage.  Authors each had 12 minutes to perform on stage.  The challenge was to attract and keep an audience in the free flowing outdoor venue!  The key was to offer kids the chance to participate, whether in helping to tell the story (as Alexis O’Neill did when reading her book The Recess Queen), holding props (as Ann Paul did while reading her book Tortuga in Trouble) or interacting with the audience (as Erica Silverman did while reading her book Big Pumpkin.)  I talked about my book Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines and invited children to come up to the stage and have their “wingspans” measured.  (Most kids were red-tailed hawks.)  Then I read the first two chapters of Wiggle and Waggle while two children acted out the story with my Wiggle and Waggle sock puppets.  You can see a sample of my performance in this video.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Travel Blog

Caroline and Jennifer in Uganda, 1971
After years of thinking that I should share some of my travel articles, I have decided to launch a blog devoted exclusively to my travel writing. I call it The Intrepid Tourist. I have chosen to start with a piece about the reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg as we begin a four year retrospective on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Other current posts include a walking trip through Cornwall and a week in the Scilly Islands. Next week I will take a look back on a trip to Africa with my husband and one-year-old daughter Jennifer (pictured above with me on the equator in Uganda in 1971.) While some of my pieces will be about trips I took a few years ago, all links will be up-to-date. My plan is to post new blogs weekly. My goal is to share some of my travel experiences with the idea that there may be people out there who might want a more personal view of various travel destinations than you can get in a travel guidebook. I plan to post once a week. If you want to get an email announcing new posts, you can sign up as a follower.

As I go through my files collecting material for the blog, it is fun reliving our various trips. One reason that I started the blog is that I have a vast store of unused material that has never seen the light of day. I will also use the blog to report on current travel. The two trips we have coming up are a family reunion in Atlanta in August and a trip to Sardinia in September (where Art has a meeting.)
Hope you enjoy reading The Intrepid Tourist!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wiggle and Waggle Stick Puppets

Recently, I visited my granddaughter’s kindergarten class and read my book Wiggle and Waggle. The children all loved singing the “Digging Song” and afterward we made Wiggle and Waggle stick puppets. I was impressed by the creativity of the children in coloring the worms. Although a few of them made the worms brown (as I did in my samples, and the artist, Mary Peterson, did in the book), the rest made them all colors of the rainbow and a number of children chose to do stripes and patterns! I did the same project last weekend at StoryFaire in Santa Barbara, a wonderful day out-of-doors for children and their families celebrating books and the arts. You can download the stick puppet project and other fun activities (including a song, word search, coloring page, recipes and games for a wormy party, and more) HERE. Have fun making your own worm puppets and acting out the story! This activity is perfect for preschool and kindergarten age children.