Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Young Authors at LA's Best

Welcome Banner at Arlington Heights
During the past school year children in the LA’s Best after school program at 33 Los Angeles schools participated in a Young Author’s program.  Children learned about getting and developing ideas and wrote their own books.  In coordination with California Readers, each participating school had a visit from a published author.  I visited six schools and was impressed by the enthusiasm of the children and how proud they were of their own books.  Even Kindergarten, First and Second Graders made their own books.  They learned that like most writers, their best material comes out of their own lives.  The theme of their books was “I Am...”  As I went around the room to meet the authors and admire each book I learned that “I am a good drawer,” “I am a good drummer,” “I am a good sister,” “I am good at basketball,” and “I am a good reader.”  Each book was different and expressed the personality of the author.  The children not only wrote their books but illustrated them as well.  Each book also had a title page, copyright page and a dedication.  I wish I had had a Young Author's program when I was growing up!

LA's BEST - Better Educated Students for Tomorrow - is a nationally recognized after school education, enrichment and recreation program serving more than 28,000 children with the greatest needs and fewest resources throughout the City of Los Angeles. LA's BEST After School Enrichment Program provides a safe haven for children ages 5 to 12 at 186 elementary school sites each day during the critical hours after school — at no cost to parents. Established in 1988, LA's BEST is a partnership including the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the private sector. LA’s BEST is part of Beyond the Bell, whose mission is to ensure that all children and youth in LAUSD have access to high quality, safe and supervised academic, enrichment, and recreation programs that inspire learning and achievement beyond the regular school day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Writing Istanbul: Workshop and Sightseeing Rolled into One

Istanbul, View from the Galata Bridge
I have just returned from a writing workshop in Istanbul, Turkey, four days jam-packed with writing, sight-seeing, and getting to know both American and Turkish writers.  The workshop grew out of a Writing Istanbul, a program developed for Turkish writers by Yesim Cimcoz, and adapted for a group of American writers led by Sheila Bender of Writing it Real and Susan Bono, editor of Tiny Lights.  Our headquarters was a small, family run hotel where most of us stayed and which had a small lounge where we could gather.  Each day included a morning or afternoon writing workshop inspired by our sightseeing during the rest of the day.  Our excursions included visits to the Hagia Sophia and Grand Bazaar in the historic section of Istanbul, climbing the Galata Tower for a 360 degree view of the city, watching a performance by whirling dervishes, wandering the narrow shop-lined streets, a boat trip to one of the Princes' Islands, and more, all enthusiastically led by Yesim and her colleague Fusun.
Yesim Cimcoz, of Writing Istanbul
One afternoon we met Turkish writer Jale Sancak, who talked about her short stories and writing process.  (Yesim acted as translator, but Jale was so expressive in her manner, that we could get the sense of what she was saying even though she was speaking Turkish.) We met at the Literary Cafe Edebiyatcilar Kiraathanesi in Sultanahmet, a gracious tall ceilinged coffeehouse reminiscent of Paris or Vienna, offering coffees, teas, and pastries.

Turkish Author, Jale Sancak

Another writing-related excursion was to the newly opened Museum of Innocence, a complex realization of the novel of the same name by Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk.   In the story, an identical museum is created by the main character of the book (Kemel Basmaci) as a monument to the two women in his life. I had not read the book, but now that I have been to the museum, I plan to.  As I always do when I travel, I kept a daily diary of our activities to help me remember everything we did and saw.  Now that I am home, I will use it for inspiration as I digest my experiences and put some order to my thoughts about this full and stimulating trip.
[Note:  For more about my visit to the Museum of Innocence, go to my May 28 post at]

Podcast from workshop:  On the final night of our workshop, each member of the group read aloud from a "postcard home", a fitting end to our diverse and full stay in Istanbul.  To listen to the nine-minute podcast, click here.
Writing Istanbul Online BookFor a wonderful compilation of photos and writing from 14 members of the Writing Istanbul group, go to this online magazine Writing Istanbul at

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Projects Build Excitement for an Author Visit

Welcome poster with Wiggle and Waggle drawings
Recently, I did an author visit at Vintage Magnet School in Los Angeles.  When I walked into the auditorium to set up for my presentation, I found the walls covered with all sorts of posters and projects the students had made to prepare for my visit.  Younger children had read my book Wiggle and Waggle and had learned the Wiggle and Waggle song, which they had listened to on YouTube.  Some made their own illustrations and others colored Wiggle and Waggle pictures downloaded from my website.
Older children had created 3-D posters of the Taj Mahal, mounted on silver paper.  And, there were all kinds of pictures of animals–from zebras and killer whales, to bobcats and koalas–inspired by my many animal books.  One classroom reproduced the cover of my book A Penguin's World with pieces of torn paper.  Every child contributed!

When the children came to my presentation, they were excited and eager to hear more about the books.  I can always tell when students have been prepared for my visit, because they respond with such enthusiasm.
My day at Vintage was organized by librarian Karla Forbes, who did a superb job getting the kids ready for my visit.  Librarians like Karla are the key to helping children make the connection between the books they are reading and authors like me.  Perhaps, someday, some of them will grow up to be authors or illustrators too!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

IRA Conference: Think Outside the Book

Signing A Warmer World in the Charlesbridge Booth at IRA
Last week I was in Chicago for the IRA (International Reading Association) conference where I gave a presentation, signed books, did a radio interview, and enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones as I wandered the exhibit floor. My presentation, Think Outside the Book: Bringing Nonfiction Alive Through Hands-On Projects and Activities that Engage Readers and Make Them Want to Learn More was well attended (they had to close the doors when the room became full!) and people seemed to like it. A link to a PDF of the handout with directions to the projects is on my website. Lily DeSisto, the marketing person for my publisher, Charlesbridge, did a great job of coordinating my trip with a signing in the booth of A Warmer World, a delicious dinner with some of the other Charlesbridge authors, and setting up the podcast radio interview with Emily Manning of ReadWriteThink.  (When the interview is posted later this month I’ll post a link to it.)  During the conference I also had the pleasure of getting together with the people from Highlights and Boyds Mills for a nice dinner.  I didn’t have time to see much of Chicago outside the convention center, but you can go to my post for May 7 on The Intrepid Tourist for a report of my walk down Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park and the Art Institute.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Get Involved! New Website for A Warmer World Shows You How

Learn how YOU can be involved in helping to combat global warming. This new website,, created by Kirsten Cappy and Jamie Hogan, for A Warmer World:  From Polar Bears to Butterflies, How Climate Change Affects Wildlife, provides tips for helping young people (and everyone else as well) express their concern to lawmakers and other decision makers through offering: Warmer World Actions Alerts about key environmental legislation and actions; a place to locate your Congressperson's email address; plus E-Cards to send to Congresspeople and other concerned citizens. Blog posts featuring items in the news relevant to climate change are a feature of the home page.  The site also has information about the book and biographical information about me and the illustrator, Jamie Hogan. Take a look at  Together we can slow the warming of the world!