Archive of ‘Mrs. McGriff’ category

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, 3rd edition by Harold D. Underdown

complete idiot's guide to publishing children's booksHarold D. Underdown gives a complete peek behind the curtain of the children’s publishing industry in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books, Third Edition (Penguin 2008). I have picked up much of the information over the years from following the blogs of some of my favorite writers, but I still learned much about the process, especially what happens once the writing and editing is done.

I found some of the most valuable parts of the books to be the references to additional resources, whether book titles or websites.  My copy of the book has a rainbow of sticky notes poking out the side, marking all the places I want to go back for reference or to save as bookmarks on my computer before I have to return it to the library.

Like other books in the Complete Idiot’s series, the information is organized for easy access and packed with information. Sidebars add even more information with definitions of industry terms, “Class Rules” that explain aspects of the publishing business and secret tips.  My favorite parts are the playground stories, which share anecdotes from working writers and illustrators. Through it all, Underdown emphasizes the need for writers and illustrators to be professionals and to take their careers seriously. It is difficult to make a career out of writing and illustrating for children, but it is possible with hard work and a little bit of luck.

Even though the book has been out for just six year, the rapid changes in technology have made some sections seem outdated already. Self-publishing–especially with ebooks–is still fraught with pitfalls, but it offers a different  landscape nearly every week. The section on author visits doesn’t mention Skype, which I used in my classroom to connect my students with authors.

Even so, this is a valuable reference for anyone interested in writing or illustrating for children.

Pucker Up by Rhonda Stapleton

pucker upWhat if Cupid was alive and well in today’s world?  What if Cupid’s business was booming so much that he had to hire assistants to keep up with all the matchmaking needed?  What if some of those assistants happened to be high school students in charge of matching up couples at their high school?  The resulting comedy comes to a hilarious conclusion in Rhonda Stapleton’s Pucker Up (Simon Pulse 2010).

I actually put off reading this last book for some time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Stupid Cupid, but I never found the second book in the series.  I finally broke down and read the third one, and I’m glad I did.  I suspect I missed out on some love-gone-wrong in the second book, but I had no trouble following the action.

Fellicity should be walking on air. Her long-time crush Derek is now her boyfriend. Derek is even another Cupid employee. Her best friends Maya and Andy are happy in love as well. But not quite all is fair. Felicity’s brother continues to bring home one horrible girlfriend after another. Maya’s parents are headed for divorce. And worst of all, Felicity snoops among her boss’s papers at Cupid’s Hollow and learns that Cupid magic made Derek fall for her. Desperate to make their love last, Felicity will do whatever it takes to win Derek’s heart once the magic wears off. Needless to say, most of her plans lead to disaster.

If you are looking for a romantic comedy packed with misunderstandings, near misses, and outright hilarity (the Cupid spell can sometimes lead to surprising declarations of love), look no further. There may not be grand life lessons to take away, but Pucker Up will leave you with a finer appreciation of affairs of the heart.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people  are reading.

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This week has been a little quieter, and I’ve finished some of the books I’ve been working on. I’m also working on another story assignment for a publlication that had me traveling across the state and meeting some fascinating people.  This week, I need to finish up interviews and write the draft of the story.

I finished…

confessions of a murder suspectConfessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson – I’m still not sure what I think of this one.  Tandy, the narrator comes across as a bit annoying and stand-offish, but at the same time I was fascinated by her.  I was satisfied by the ending, but there are enough loose threads left to lead to sequels.

pucker upPucker Up by Rhonda Stapleton – I had been putting off reading this one even though I enjoyed the first book in the series, Studid Cupid.  For someone reason, I never got a copy of the middle book in the series.  No matter, I had no problem following the skip in the action, and it is a fun read–full of a comedy of errors that results from putting a high school girl (who doesn’t like reading the instruction manual) in charge of sending Cupid’s arrows to pair up couples at her school.

complete idiot's guide to publishing children's booksThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold D. Underdown – This book is littered with sticky notes that I now need to record (in the form of web bookmarks, mostly) before returning it to the library.  It gives a fascinating and informative look at all aspects of the publishing process for children’s books.

I’m currently reading…

les-miserablesLes Miserables by Victor Hugo – I am making progress–now I’m up to 75%–but it is slow.  I am glad this tome is on my Kindle app so I don’t have to lug around the book, but I only pick it up when I am waiting in the car somewhere.  I’m hoping the action picks up as the different groups come together during the riots surrounding the beloved general’s funeral

Secrets of Writing High-Performance Business-to-Business Copy(AWAI) – I’m on to chapters 2 & 3 for my class.  The good news is I did well on my first assignment, and I enjoyed doing this type of writing.

Coming up…

I need to choose a new audio book to keep me company on my runs this week.  I have several to choose from that I downloaded from Sync YA this summer. I think I’ll load up Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. I know I’ve heard good reviews of it, but I can’t remember what it is actually about. I’ll be surprised. I’m not sure what else I’ll pick up, but it’s bound to be something good.

What are you reading this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people are reading.

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Once again, my reading took another unexpected turn.  Last Saturday, my daughter suffered a concussion during a soccer game.  What happens when you take a high energy, active, intelligent girl and take away all screens (television, computer, ipod, phone), take away reading and writing and even listening to audio books for a week?  You have a girl who is desperate to escape boredom but can’t do much of anything.  Once the worst of her symptoms passed, she begged me to read to her. Leery of taxing her brain too much, (Mental and physical rest is the cure of choice for concussions), I read aloud some of our old, favorite picture books, without showing her the pictures.  Much of what I read this week came from that.

I finished….

song of the quarkbeastSong of the Quarkbeast – Combine a dash of magic, quirky characters, and off-the-wall humor for a rollicking good story where the fate of the Ununited Kingdoms once again rests in the capable hands of foundling Jennifer Strange, who just happens to be the acting manager of Kazam Mystical Arts.  Click on the picture to check out my review.

B2B Business-to-Business Quick Start Guide by Steve Slaunwhite, Ed Gandia, Pete Savage for AWAI – I’m signed up to take a class on B2B copywriting next week, and I’m trying to read as much as I can before the class starts so I can get more out of it.

Picture books I read to my daughter (who still loved them as a sixteen-year-old):

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  • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw
  • Mud Pie Annie by Sue Buchanan and Dana Shafer, illustrated by Joy Allen
  • You Are Special by Max Lucado, illustrated by Sergio Martinez
  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James Ransome
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
  • The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story by Rebecca Hickox, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
  • Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China retold by Ai-Ling Louie, illustrated by Ed Young
  • The Egyptian Cindrella by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Ruth Heller
  • The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin,illustrated by David Shannon

I’m currently reading…

summer of letting goThe Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner – Since my daughter enjoyed my reading favorite story books to her this week, she asked me to keep reading aloud to her before bedtime out of a novel.  Since she has been symptom free all weekend, I told her I would if I could pick the book.  She knew I was going to pick this one (I’ve been bugging her to read it all summer), and I know she’s going to love it.

les-miserablesLes Miserables by VIctor Hugo – I’m still making slow progress.  I’m stil lin the riots following the general’s funeral. There’s a lot of talk and action in many different parts of Paris.  I suspect it all happened much quicker than the lengthy description of it all.

complete idiot's guide to publishing children's booksThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold D. Underdown – Much of the information I’ve read this week I’ve picked up from following the blogs of different authors the past few years, but it is helpful to have it outlined in one place with all the possible variations.  I knew publishing was complex, but not just how complex until seeing it all in one place.

Secrets of Writing High-Performance Business-to-Business Copy – This is the text for the class I start this week.  As I get into it, much of the information is clicking into place and starting to make sense.  Even though the terminology and focus is different, I recognize many of the writing principles as lessons I taught my middle school students.

confessions of a murder suspectConfessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson – I had hoped to get through with this one, but I didn’t quite make it.  Tandy is remembering secrets that she had blocked from memory and discovering secrets about her family, but she is no closer to discovering who killed her parents.

Coming up…

This week will be busy with writing (I get to go on a road trip for an interview tomorrow!) and my class, but I hope to finish up some of the books I’m reading and dig into the stack of YA books I’ve been putting off through the summer. Which one should I read first?

Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

song of the quarkbeastA gift came in the mail this week, a gift of the best kind, a brown envelop containing a book I have been waiting for most of this year.  You see, last Christmas I had gift cards to spend on books.  Since I had been given Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer in paperback, I chose to preorder the second book in the Chronicles of Kazam in paperback, too.  The Song of the Quarkbeast (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013, Hodder and Stroughton 2011) finally released in the US in paperback this month.

That’s a long time to wait to see what the rise of magic might mean to Jennifer Strange and the motley collection of magicians at Kazam Mystical Arts Management.  It was worth the wait.  Even though magic is surging through the Ununited Kingdoms, all is not well.  King Snodd and his Useless Brother are up to their usual tricks.  This time they are joined by an evil magician who goes by the name of Conrad Blix, and the fate of magic–and the world–hangs in the balance. Who is the only one who can stop them?  Jennifer Strange, of course.

The highly capable foundling might have her hands full.  Kazam Mystical Arts Management forced into accepting a challenge from Blix.  Kazam should have no trouble taking on Blix and his few magicians, but the contest just might be rigged.  Two of Kazam’s most powerful wizards get turned into stone.  They others are being rounded up by the police.

Just like the first book in the series, The Song of the Quarkbeast is packed with quirky humor and unforgettable characters.  Blix is a villain that you will love to hate.  I loved the introduction of the Mysterious Boo. What’s not to love about someone who rescues quarkbeasts and has a deep, dark secret?  We even learn more about the transient moose and finally meet–however briefly–the Great Zambini.

If you’re totally confused right now, don’t worry.  Jasper Fforde excels at the kind of humor that introduces random things that somehow make sense in the end.  Just hang on tight and enjoy the ride.  The only down side is now I have to wait for the release of The Eye of Zoltar.  The sneak peek in the back is just enough to leave me wanting more.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people are reading.

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My reading week took a surprising turn–not at all what I expected to read. We also had a weekend filled with soccer, and I chaperoned the girls’ soccer team on their overnight tournament. I’m glad to be home and hopefully get back to a more expected reading and writing week.

I finished…

The Federal Election Commission Campaign Guide – A friend asked me to serve as treasurer on her campaign committee for Congress. Before I accepted, I wanted to know what I was getting into.  Let me just say that reading through all the rules, laws and guidelines for federal campaigns was eye-opening. I value even more Susan’s campaign that does not rely on extensive fundraising, but on talking with people directly.

I’m currently reading…

les-miserablesLes Miserables by VIctor Hugo – I didn’t get too far this week.  I only made it to 73%.  The story got bogged down with political theory about the differences between revolution and insurrection.  We did see the funeral of the beloved general that incited riots and Gavroche is a part of it all.  I like that kid.

complete idiot's guide to publishing children's booksThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold D. Underdown – I’m taking my time with this one to absorb the information.  One of the most valuable parts of this book is the resources included.  By the time I’m done, I’ll have sticky notes sticking out all over.

confessions of a murder suspectConfessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson – I’m not sure what I think of this one.  I’m intrigued enough to want to finish to find out who murdered the parents, but the narrator is a bit much.  She addresses the listener/reader frequently, and it seems almost overdone, especially when she’s dropping what seem to be obvious hints and claiming that “this is a story for another time.”

song of the quarkbeastSong of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde – I’ve been waiting for this one since just after Christmas.  I received a paperback of the first book, The Last Dragonslayer, for Christmas. Since I started the series in paperback, I preordered the paperback for this second book in the series, and it just came out in the US.  I love Fforde’s wordplay and humor, and so far I’m loving Jennifer Strange’s second adventure.  Magic is indeed on the rise again, but that doesn’t mean the Kazam’s problems are decreasing. If anything, they face even more trouble.

Coming up…

I definitely will be finishing up the books I’m in the middle of here.  My goal is to catch up on some blog posts as well.  I have several good books I’ve been reading that I want to share.

What are you reading this week?

August books read

101)  Writer’s Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing edited by Michelle Ruberg – My crash course in freelance writing is starting to pay off.  This presents much information on getting ideas, querying magazines, conducting interviews & research, writing the article, and considering the business side of writing.

102) The Cup of Our Life by Joyce Rupp – I enjoyed going through this six week Bible study again.

103) Staff of Serapis by Rick Riordan – Annabeth Chase and Sadie Kane make an amazing partnership.  I’d love to read more combining the two series with Greek demigods and Egyptian magicians.

104) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – The audio version is powerful, but I am glad I read it first.  I’m not sure I could have followed it otherwise.

105) 2014 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market edited by Chuck Sambuchino – I learned much from the articles and interviews.  The listings of publishers, agents, and magazines are a valuable resource.

106) Bugged!  How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee – Why can’t all history be this much fun?

107) Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth – I love the exploration of prayer through color and drawing.

108) Anne of Green Gables – Anne kept me in good company as I listened to an old favorite.

109) Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent – another reread that I enjoyed

110) And the Mountains Echoed by Kahled Hosseini – Breathtaking and beautiful

111) Save Me by Lisa Scottoline – exciting storyline that raises thought-provoking questions

112) Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie – I love Miss Marple in her first adventure!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people are reading.

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I finished:

murder at the vicarageMurder at the Vicarage by Agathy Christie – Doing lots of mowing this week gave me lots of time to listen to this audio from SYNC YA.  It was a delight to listen to.  I love Miss Marple and her keen observations–though if I lived in her village, I’d probably think she was a busybody when she turned her skills on my life!

and the mountains echoedAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – This is my favorite of the three Hosseini books I’ve read.  The end was bittersweet, and I definitely wanted to read more about some of the characters.

save meSave Me by Lisa Scottoline – Everything that could go wrong when Rose volunteers at her daughters school does go wrong–bullying girls, an explosion, a missing/injured child, lawsuits and possible criminal charges.  Then Rose turns into an amateur detective and brings the true bad guys to justice.  I liked it.

I’m currently reading…

les-miserablesLes Miserables by VIctor Hugo – I’m up to 72%, but the story is bogging down with more political theory and lots of mooning over each other by Marius and Cosette.  In this section, I’m most impressed with Eponine’s bravery.  She protects Marius and Cosette from a gang of six robbers (including her father) who have just escaped from prison.

complete idiot's guide to publishing children's booksThe Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold D. Underdown – I’ve just started another text in my crash course on freelance writing.  Now to start getting all these ideas that are swirling around my head down on paper and out into the world.

Coming up…

confessions of a murder suspectConfessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson – I just transferred this one to my iPod to listen to while I run and do other mindless tasks.  The heat and humidity kept me from running this morning, but I have something to listen to when I do get on the road!

I’ll continue reading the books I’m in the middle of.  I also have another book by Lisa Scottoline that I will start.

History Is So Bugged!

buggedI’ve been around long enough to learn that my history classes in school left out a lot of history. Kings and generals, battles and revolutions certainly shape history, but did you know that tiny bugs played their role as well? Nope?  Neither did I. Or at least I didn’t until I read Sarah Albee’s Bugged: How Insects Changed History (Scholastic 2014).

It is indeed “swarming with facts,” as the cover proclaims.  Not just any facts–it is packed with facts that are shocking and disgusting and gross.  There is mayhem and death and destruction on every page that is guaranteed to make you itch–if you can manage to scratch between peals of laughter. Did you know that bugs were once used as a form of execution? (Read all about it on page 100). You may even discover that your favorite red sports drink or cherry ice cream or pink blush contain dyes made from squashed bugs. (Read about it on page 20.)

Bugs have done dastardly things–devour food crops and spread deadly diseases–that have changed the course of battles and wiped out large numbers of people.  Albee digs to find the traces of bugs behind some of the most dramatic events of history, from ancient times to modern history, and from the Far East to the New World. I just wish my history textbooks in class could have been as much fun to read as this one was.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people are reading.

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It may have been because I was procrastinating other things, but this was a good reading week for me.  I finished up several books that I had been reading for quite a while and started several others.  Now if I can just crank up the writing to match for this coming week!

I finished…

code name verityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I finished this last Monday morning.  The audio was excellent, but I am glad I had read the text first.  Hearing the words after reading them highlighted details that I missed or sped through when I first read it.  I defnintely want to read Rose Under Fire.

2014 childrens writers market2014 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market edited by Chuck Sambuchino – Okay, confession time.  I didn’t read every description of every publisher, agent, and magazine, but I did glance through them and looked up a few using the subject and age level indexes.  Once I get my writing going, I will want to invest in a yearly subscription to refer to.  I learned much from the articles and interviews in the first half of the book.

buggedBugged!  How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee – My view of history will never be the same.  It’s too bad that history textbooks can’t have this much fun with history.

anne of green gablesAnne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – Anne Shirley kept me good company this week as I ran, mowed, cleaned, and canned salsa.  This story has long been one of my favorites that I revisit again and again.  I enjoyed listening to Anne’s scrapes and kindred spirits and imaginative stories just as much as reading them.  Of course, now I want to go back and read the rest of the series.

heaven is for realHeaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent – I didn’t intend to reread this book this week, but it was lying around and I found myself picking it up. (My husband’s Sunday School class is getting ready to start it.)  Once again I found myself captivated and wondering at the experiences of this little boy.

I’m currently reading…

les-miserablesLes Miserables by VIctor Hugo – I’m up to 70% of the way through despite getting bogged down in another detour, this one about slang and a history of language and politics.  I would have found the sland discussion interesting, but my French is not good enough to get the points he was making.  I don’t think the English translation caught the whole of it.

murder at the vicarageMurder at the Vicarage by Agathy Christie – I also downloaded this title from Sync YA over the summer.  I love Agatha Christie mysteries. Even though I very likely read it long ago, I don’t remember the end, so I get to enjoy it all over again–and it is a Miss Marple mystery.  She’s my favorite.

and the mountains echoedAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – This is breathtaking so far.  I love how Hosseini’s writing sweeps me out of my world and into one that is so very different.  After reading his books, I would love to see the country and people of Afghanistan.  I’m not sure I’m brave enough to visit in real life right now, but I am grateful that he shares his vision of it through his stories.

Coming up…

I will finish the books I’m in the middle of.  I also want to catch up with my blogging and writing in general.  I have a couple of books that a friend lent me that I’d like to pick up next. I am hoping for a productive week for both reading and writing!

What good books are you reading this week?

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