Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Case You Haven't Seen It Yet...

This article by Ann Patchett has been linked to on a bunch of blogs (which is how I found it), but if you're a writer and you haven't seen it yet, you might enjoy reading it.

This is my favorite line from it, about the repetition involved in writing and revision:
"The process of writing books is somewhat akin to a very long police interrogation in which the detective leans over the table littered with the butt ends of cigarettes and cold coffee in Styrofoam cups and says for the 87th time, 'Now let's go over this again.'" --Ann Patchett

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday Workout Review: Jeanette Jenkins Core & Stretch It Out

The Jeanette Jenkins' DVD Core and Stretch It Out is actually two separate workouts: Core focuses on your abs and back; Stretch It Out is entirely stretching. Both workouts run approximately 30 minutes each.

My general outlook on ab workouts is that they're something to endure rather than enjoy. But Jeanette's Core workout, though challenging, is not one that had me counting the seconds until it was over. Plus, it's very thorough, hitting all areas of the core, including the obliques and the back (too often neglected).

But what I really love about this workout DVD is the Stretch It Out section. Stretching is a component of fitness that I need to attend to more; but most yoga DVDs bore me to tears, and most non-yoga workout DVDs just tack on a short, ineffective stretching sequence at the end. Jeanette Jenkins' Stretch stands out as thorough, invigorating, and not at all boring. It's the perfect add-on after a cardio workout, or any time you'd like a good stretch.

Reviews here and here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mr. Fish as a Parade Float!

Last summer, the wonderful folks at the Lodi Public Library created a Pout-Pout Fish float for the Rotary Summer Parade in Lodi, WI.




What fun! And I love the advice on the float: "Don't be a Pout-Pout. Duck into the Library to see what it's all about-bout."

Thanks, Lodi Public Library!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Michigander Monday

I don't have a Michigander Monday interview for you today. But I have been meaning for quite a while to thank Kelli at Writing the Waves for interviewing me for her blog earlier this month. Since I'm a Michigander, I'll count myself as this Monday's "Michigander Monday" by pointing you over to my interview with Kelli. It was fun! Thanks, Kelli.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Joy and The Sorrow of Christmas

Today is the Eve of Christmas Eve. We're two days away from the "big day," and around here my spouse, kids and I are feeling cozy and relaxed. We had a nice visit with family last weekend, and we've another family gathering to look forward to later in the week. Household stress is wonderfully low: presents were purchased and wrapped with plenty of time to spare; an assortment of goodies have been baked and enjoyed; and there's been enough snow for cross-country skiing. All in all, I feel grateful, thankful, and happy.

But I've had enough years on this earth to know that Christmas can be, and often is, a terribly hard time for individuals and families to get through. The ubiquitous artifacts of the season surround us and set impossibly high happiness expectations even as they unearth sadness, disappointment, and loss. "Life is made of ever so many partings welded together," wrote Charles Dickens, and to my mind these include not just partings from loved ones but also partings from our former selves, our expectations, and our dreams. At Christmastime, seasonal lights can shine harshly on landscape that doesn't look a thing like we used to imagine.

If this year your Christmas does not seem merry; if you are feeling sad; if you feel very much alone -- please give the ultimate gift of the season by being kind to yourself.

Nurture yourself, the deepest part of you, with gentle words, gentle thoughts, and gentle actions. Tend to yourself, and to your vulnerability. Know that you are not alone, neither in your feelings, nor in your world. Every single person on this planet matters, including you. Whether we know one another or not, whether we've ever even met, you and I, we are all connected.

As best you can, reach out. Anchor your life in some small way to those around you. And don't be afraid to be honest about how you're feeling. Support can come where and when you least expect it.

If you're feeling desperate, at any point, remember that there are people you can talk to even if you don't know where to turn. Most communities have a crisis hotline and can help you with your situation. There is also a national number if you, or someone you know, is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You do not have to be alone with your feelings. Help is available. And with it, hope.


I'll be back to this blog on the other side of Christmas.
Until then, all who pass here, take care of yourselves.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Michigander Monday: Monica Harris

I'm pleased this week to welcome Monica Harris, a Michigan author and also co-regional advisor for SCBWI-Michigan!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Monica: Well, what’s your definition of “little”? :) Let’s see, I was born in Kalamazoo and consider Michigan home. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to live in Germany and Switzerland where I learned a better appreciation of family time, hiking, delicious cheese, and mouthwatering chocolate. As a writer, I’ve been described as being “eclectic” simply because I don’t focus on any particular genre. I write picture books, middle grade novels, YA novels, nonfiction, educational materials, pieces for magazines. Personally, I don’t think it’s “eclectic” but rather “ADD prone.”

Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your latest book.

Monica: My last book was Wake the Dead which was published by Walker & Company in 2004. I’ve sold several magazine pieces since then but for some reason, the book fairy hasn’t stepped forward with my million dollar contract. It will happen though….that’s my mantra!

Debbie: Other books and projects on the horizon?

Monica: I have several completed picture books which need to find homes but in the meantime, I’m trying to move forward on a middle grade novel that’s a psychic mystery. My YA novel follows a similar vein but is more of a psychic coming of age thriller.

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Monica: Check me out at the next SCBWI event where I’m bound to make an announcement or two! :)

Debbie: I'm sure we'll see you at the spring 2010 SCBWI-Michigan conference! (Terrific line-up for the May 1 event; details here.) How about your favorite place in Michigan?

Monica: Having grown up here, I have several places. I love spending summer days in South Haven where I suffered my first heartbreak (long story). The Keweenaw region of the Upper Peninsula holds fond memories as well with its fresh air, friendly people, and easy-going lifestyle.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Monica: There is ALWAYS something going on in Michigan so there’s no excuse to be bored. Check out the monthly Art Hops in Kalamazoo, Celebration on the Grand in Grand Rapids, the Hot Air Balloon Competition in Battle Creek, and the walk across Mackinac Bridge in the fall.

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Monica: Not everyone on my list is considered “fun” but they’re all Michigan based people that have offered something to our culture:

Jerry Bruckheimer – TV and movie producer
John Hughes – Movie producer, writer, and director
Jack Kevorkian – Assisted suicide doctor
Sojourner Truth - the self-given name of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist.
James Anthony Bailey – Cofounder of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus
Homer Stryker – MD and inventor of mobile hospital bed and found of Stryker Corporation
Dave Coverly – Speed Bump comic strip creator
Music: Madonna, Eminem, the Verve Pipe, Alice Cooper, Sonny Bono, the Romantics, Iggy Pop, and OkGo.
Children’s Authors:

  • K.A. Applegate
  • Jon Scieszka
  • Chris Van Allsburg
  • Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Wendy Anderson Halperin
  • Sue Stauffacher

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Monica:

  • We have some of the best freshwater beaches in the country.
  • We’re extremely generous people when it comes to bringing something to a potluck (which I learned is a very Midwestern thing to do)
  • Michigan people have earned the right to complain about the weather so grin and let us vent.
  • When asked where we live, we all put up our right hand and point to some random place on our palm.

Debbie: And the left hand makes a handy upper peninsula!

Finally, some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Monica: Oh, a Michigander all the way!

Debbie: Thank you, Monica, for joining us today!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sneak Preview

Though The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade won't be out for another 97 days (but who's counting), you can read an excerpt over here (scroll down to the bottom part of the page).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Michigander Monday: Janie Panagopoulos

I'm pleased this week to welcome Janie Panagopoulos to Michigander Monday! Her books include the Great Lakes Adventure in History and Mystery series, the Dream Quest series, and books in State of Michigan’s The History of the Inhabitants of the Straits of Mackinac series.

Debbie: Janie, tell us a little about yourself.

Janie: I love what I do. I have been writing professionally for over 33 years and started writing in 3rd grade because my teacher thought I talked too much. Go figure, I just had lots of things going on in my head and wanted to share them, just like today.

I am from a family of readers. My grandmother was named after two of my great grandmother’s favorite books. All my grandmother’s siblings name’s had book connections, too. I think that is very unique and very cool, especially since that was over 100 years ago.

I only write about things that I think is important to learn about. I always ask myself, before selecting a subject or period to write about… “Who cares? What will it teach? Why is it important?” If I can’t answer these questions honestly, I will not waste my time in writing a story “just” to write. It has to have something of importance to share with readers, I want them to learn something factual and have fun while they are learning.
This is one of the reasons I find it very difficult to read any fiction. I don’t read fiction only non-fiction to learn the facts and true history. Facts and reality are incredibly amazing to me, to think what people went through in the past, to see how they survived all that they did, these are our ancestors and are incredible. They made it through life with nothing simple and with no technology to help them. I don’t know if we could do that today.

While doing research, I try to experience the settings and experiences our ancestors would have experienced. No short cuts… canoes and horses not cars… open fires to cook with… the ground with a blanket to sleep on… I must have these experiences to write, so I can honestly share my emotions, and sore, tired muscles and joints with my readers, to put the reader there, too.

I spend 3-5 years doing research, just to help put the reader “there”, to see how amazing our ancestors were, which make us, their descendants, amazing too. It is all in the genes.

Debbie: You've got a long list of books to your name! Tell us about what you're working on lately.

Janie: When I write, I generally am working on 2-3 projects all at the same time. I am currently writing a book about the early explorers of Georgian Bay and also doing research on a project set in China.

I went to China this summer and was amazed at my learning curve. It was just incredible. I was there for three weeks and just couldn’t wait to get home to read Marco Polo’s book about his adventures in the twelfth century and the stories of the Silk Road.

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Janie: I do lots of national and international videoconferencing, which gives me time to write.

I just returned home from a three week book tour and am glad to be able to visit schools by videoconferencing for the next three-four weeks. I also do blogs with schools and have a couple of conferences that I have to travel to, coming up in March.

I currently live in Richmond, Virginia, where I moved this summer. This is a perfect place for a historian/author to live, and I know I will have lots of research material available to me, for the rest of my life. I have already been invited to a few schools in the area, and I don’t even know how they got my name.

Debbie: Your favorite places in Michigan?

Janie: Any place along the beautiful Michigan waterways, lakes, rivers, streams and creeks, I love them all. I am also very fond of the UP as it is still very undeveloped in many areas, and I can really get the feel for Michigan’s primitive settings of the past.

I can just smell the fresh, clean, crisp air of Michigan. I think Michigan is one of America’s most beautiful states.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Janie: The Aurora Borealis and viewing it over one of our Great Lakes is simply magical to me. In my mind, you cannot beat nature when it comes to creating things of beauty, mystery and interest and Michigan is a unique place to see nature at its finest.

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Janie: Michigan teachers... I think teachers should always come to mind when someone asks who their hero is… Teachers make the world different and hopefully better. Teachers give, nearly, their whole lives to children. What amazing and interesting people teachers are.

Also, what other profession is there that the professional spends, nearly their entire life in school. From the time they start school in kindergarten until they retire from teaching… I think this is incredible!

I love learning! I love school! Teachers are my heroes!

Debbie: Janie, how about something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state.

Janie: You have to see it to believe it. You have to drive through our wonderful fragrant woods. You have to see the million diamond glitters reflecting off our Great Lakes. You must travel to the UP and breathe the fresh air. You have to take a walk and listen to the snow fall around you in the woods. You must experience Michigan to understand its beauty.

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Janie: I know, you know the insult from Old Abe about Lewis Cass; I like the history, not the name.

Michiganian is more dignified… Like Virginian.

However, how about Michiganites for something different? I like the sound!

Sorry, you should not ask this question to a crazy historian/writer, you will get a crazy answer!

Debbie: Over the years, I've accumulated quite a few tally columns in the "What do you call a resident of the state of Michigan?" survey. I'll gladly add Michiganite!

Janie, thank you for being with us today!

Head on over to Janie Panagopoulos's web site to read more about her and her books.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Michigander Monday: Buffy Silverman

It's a joy to welcome to Michigander Monday Buffy Silverman, who I'm lucky enough to have in my critique group. Buffy is a great writer with an extensive and impressive array of publications. It's wonderful to have her here today!

Debbie: Buffy, tell us a little about yourself.

Buffy: I have been, at various times: a park naturalist; a teacher for several nature centers and a college biology teacher; a mom (job title still held, but currently a long-distance position;) and a writer. I first donned my writer's cap in the early 1980s, while take a class in graduate school entitled Environmental Writing. With more beginner's luck than I realized at the time, a manuscript that I wrote for the class was accepted in Ranger Rick. Over the next few years I wrote educational materials and articles for adult nature magazines.

It was not until my kids were toddlers and demanding that I read one picture book after another, that I thought of writing for children again, certain that fame and fortune would find me as a picture book writer. And while I did receive compliments and encouragement from editors (again, more beginner's luck than I realized at the time) I didn't make a picture book sale. Not all of us can strike gold with a pout-pout fish, so I turned to children's magazines, and found acceptance writing nature/non-fiction articles.

Now I write nonfiction books for educational publishers--it is nice to know, after years of collecting rejections, that these assigned books will see the light of day. But I still write the occasional picture book or easy-reader and send it out to the cruel world. Lately I've been writing poems, and have a collection that I'm hoping will find a home.

Debbie: Buffy, you have an impressive list of magazine articles and books! Please tell us a little about your latest books.

Buffy: Last week a box of books landed on my doorstep, containing my author copies of Can An Old Dog Learn New Tricks And Other Questions About Animals, a title in Lerner Publication's new "Is That A Fact" series. The book investigates the science (or lack of science) behind common animal sayings (e.g. "The Early Bird Catches the Worm.") This one was a lot of fun to research and write, and the talented folks at Lerner did a great job making the book visually appealing. Look for it in March, 2010.

Debbie: Other books and projects on the horizon?

Buffy: I'm currently finishing up two books on food chains for Heinemann-Raintree, and I'm also starting a new poetry project.

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Buffy: I'm appearing at our dining room table in time for dinner tonight.

Debbie: Ha! I'm making a similar appearance myself today. Buffy, how about your favorite place in Michigan?

Buffy: I'm sure it would be easier to choose favorite places in Michigan if I had grown up here (most of my time is spent in my basement office, and that is comfortable, but not one of my favorite places.) We spent many summer weekends at a cottage near Lake Michigan when my two kids were younger. Taking sunset walks and collecting beach glass and smooth rocks was a favorite past time. I also loved hiking at the Silver Lake dunes. My son would park with his camera to photograph the dune buggies racing up and down the mountains of sand (I'm sure he wished that he had been born into a family that was inclined to race vehicles instead of hike;) my daughter and husband would leap down the dunes to Silver Lake and struggle back up; and and I would hike along the top, collecting sand-smoothed driftwood.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Buffy: Again, an easier question to answer if I got out more. Maybe the Crane Fest at Baker Sanctuary (okay, I've only been once, but it was a wonderful outing.)

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Buffy: I assume you're referring to people other than my husband and two kids, who are not native Michiganders? (and there's your answer to your last question!) Hmmm...there are so many terrific children's book authors in Michigan, that I hesitate to name a few favorites because I know I'll kick myself later for forgetting someone wonderful. Most of these authors are listed at www.kidsbooklink.org, so send your readers there. Okay, I've danced around that question long enough to call it answered.

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Buffy: You can hike and camp on two islands in Lake Michigan--North and South Manitou. There's a stand of giant white cedars (virgin trees=never cut) on South Manitou, and ship wrecks off the coast of both. Other than a case of flip-flopping stomach on the ride to North Manitou, both of these were fun excursions for our family.

Debbie: Finally, some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Buffy: See above!

Debbie: Buffy, thank you for being here today! I admire your writing, and am so happy to share a critique group with you. I hope all the readers of this blog will head over to your web site and get to know your books and magazine articles.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Workout Review: Self "Sculpt Sexy Legs Fast"

First off, can I just say that exercise DVDs often have silly titles? This one is no exception: it sounds like a how-to for expeditiously creating suggestive limestone limbs. Who names these things????

But setting that aside, Self: Sculpt Sexy Legs Fast! is a great workout. It runs about 45 minutes, which to my mind is the perfect workout length (long enough to be thorough, short enough to still fit in the morning schedule).

The instructor is Violet Zaki, who is extremely fit and appears to truly enjoy exercising. Her demeanor throughout is encouraging and energetic, without being over the top. (Granted, I find her occasional use of the phrase "Like you mean it!" to be a bit much; and why, oh why, does every fitness instructor insist upon using the transition "[We're] moving on!" six or more times per session?; but these are tolerable.)

The emphasis of this DVD is on leg muscles, but the exercises incorporate stretching, so that the net effect doesn't feel like bulking up but rather lengthening and strengthening. And, unlike many other body-part-targeted workouts, this workout goes beyond just focusing on the legs and includes lots of heart-pumping cardio work. Most of the work is done standing, and a portion is done with light hand weights. If you don't want to do the whole workout, it's broken into smaller sections: warm-up, legs, cardio, legs with arm weights, floorwork, cool-down/stretch.

A few quibbles/caveats: a) there is some bouncing in this one, so if you've knees like mine, this may take a bit of modification at points; and b) it's filmed outdoors, which means everybody on film looks a little squinty. But those are minor points. I enjoyed this workout, and I hope you'll give it a try.

You can find other reviews here, here, here, and here; and info about instructor Violet Zaki here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Michigander Monday: Devin Scillian

I'm pleased this week to welcome Devin Scillian to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Devin, please tell us a little about yourself.

Devin: I'm married with four children (all of whom have been invaluable in my writing career -- stories have to pass muster at home or they pretty much go back to the drawing board). My "real" or primary job is anchoring the news at WDIV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Detroit. But for as long as I can remember I've had a fascination of and fondness for children's literature. And while it took ten years of trying, my first book, Fibblestax, was published in 2000. That started a surprisingly busy but marvelously satisfying second career as a children's book author. My 12th book will be released in the spring. (And as proof that I may have trouble with focus, I'm also a musician and songwriter.)

Debbie: Wow, you are busy! What an amazing scope of work and creativity. Please tell us about your latest book.

Devin: My newest book is still being illustrated. Memoirs of a Goldfish will be out in the spring. It's the story of a goldfish whose quiet life is suddenly thrown into very crowded chaos by the new guests who keep showing up in his bowl. The idea came from my daughter, Christian, who suggested the title.

My most recent published book is One Kansas Farmer written with my wife Corey. It's a book about our home state of Kansas, and it was released at the beginning of this past summer.

Debbie: Other books and projects on the horizon?

Devin: I'm currently working on an alphabet book about Australia called K is for Koala. I'm working on a folktale called The Legend of Johnny Kaw. And I'm also working on a Christmas story that I like very much called The Smallest Stocking. I'm not sure if other writers have so many manuscripts going at once, but it's the only way that seems to work for me.

Debbie: Any upcoming author appearances?

Devin: I'm currently setting up the school visit schedule for the winter and spring. I've got several appearances with the band coming up. And in March of 2010, I'll be giving the keynote address for the Michigan Reading Association which is a wonderful event. I was delighted to be asked.

Debbie: Your favorite place in Michigan?

Devin: I have many -- I love the Leelanau Peninsula, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Harbor Springs and Petoskey, Saugatuck and Holland, and I'm extremely fond of a summer afternoon at Comerica Park. But Corey and I have really fallen for the Thumb and if pressed, I'd say my favorite place is at our little cottage along Lake Huron near Lexington and Port Sanilac.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Devin: I do love America's Thanksgiving Parade (even though it means a very early wake-up call on a holiday that never gives me a day off!). Corey and I really enjoy the Ann Arbor Art Fairs every year. And any and every Red Wings Stanley Cup parade is a pretty darn good day, too.

Debbie: Great events, all! How about a few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Devin: There are so many Michiganders I've come to enjoy, but I have a special admiration for Jeff Daniels and what he's done in his hometown of Chelsea. As a successful actor, he can certainly live anywhere but it was important to him to begin a professional theatre in Chelsea, and the Purple Rose has become a vibrant catalyst for art and business ever since. He's also become a superb spokesman for Michigan. And I'll also point out that he's never given a bad performance as an actor; he's a pro.

Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Devin: I've been all over the country and all over the world and I don't believe any place has as much beauty per square mile as Michigan. We're very lucky.

Debbie: I agree with that! Finally, some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others, Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Devin: I vote for Michigander --- but as a non-native, does my vote count as much? (I just think it's a superior word. And if you've read Fibblestax you know you can trust me when it comes to words!)

Debbie: You get a full vote, and we'll count you amongst the Michiganders! Thank you so much for being here today.

To learn more about Devin's books, as well as his music, please head over to his web site.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Poetry Friday

For Poetry Friday this week, I offer up a poem of mine that originally appeared in the April 2008 Eastside Neighbor. I will admit that I am indeed sometimes guilty of being a "littershrug." This poem is a reminder to myself (and to anyone else who might be willing to listen) that keeping a park or other favorite place clean involves one step beyond simply not littering. In this season of thankfulness, you can show that you're thankful for your parks by helping to keep them free of trash!

Are You A LitterShrug?
--by Debbie Diesen

Of course you're not a litterbug –
But maybe you're a littershrug?

You see some garbage left behind
And try to put it out of mind.

It bothers you, but not enough
To stoop and pick up trashy stuff.

Yet little messes, so contagious,
Grow to messes that outrage us.

Litterbugs and littershrugs
Together lead to litter-ughs.

The cycle, though, can be contained
When littershruggers are retrained.

To make your park a better place
And put a smile on someone's face,

Go grab yourself a bag and glove,
And show your park a little love.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Poetry Friday

Fate

You have to hope, for his sake, that the guy was alone

when it happened. Of course, “guy,” is a gender

assumption, but the whole scene’s got “guy” written all

over it. Guy spots an unclaimed treasure left out

curbside, and he can picture just the right place for it in

his basement. Or maybe it was a cast-off from his co-

worker’s brother-in-law. “Sure, it’s all yours. Stop on

by.” So he heads over, pulls over, tosses it into the back

of the pick-up truck. Or maybe jams it awkwardly into a

trunk that somehow seemed bigger when he first

bought the car. A smart guy, he’s well aware there

should be a bungee cord or two involved; but the cord

he really needs is back in his garage, and the cord he

really has is too short to help. Lucky he’s not going too

far. No worries. Good enough. Out on the highway, he

speeds up without even thinking about it, and then,

Thump, a heavy thud informs him he’s hit a bump and

his treasured find has crashed out onto the highway

shoulder, landing in an amalgam of odd angles. And

there it sits, even now, weeks later. For his sake, it’s a

darn good thing he was alone, with no witness to his

folly. Still, he knows that more than likely before the

whole mess mysteriously disappears, his wife will

probably drive by it. When she sees it there, upside

down and shattered, she'll laugh out loud and say,

"What a perfect place for such an ugly old chair.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Order of Odd-Fish

I haven't read the book yet, so I can't give you a review; but after hearing James Kennedy speak at an MLA luncheon today, I'm definitely adding The Order of Odd-Fish to my "To Be Read" pile. Click here to read about a book described as "A carnival of odd," "Rollicking fantasy on the grand scale," and "Equal parts Monty Python and Roald Dahl." Should be an interesting read!

Nancy Pearl

I had the pleasure of hearing Nancy Pearl speak yesterday, at the Michigan Library Association annual conference. You've probably run across Book Lust, More Book Lust, and/or Book Crush, and/or heard Nancy Pearl on NPR. Maybe you even have the action figure (standard or deluxe). But if you're not familiar with her, head on over to her site and blog. I didn't realize she had a blog: near-daily Nancy Pearl - what could be better?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Language and Learning

Sherry Y. Artemenko is a speech language pathologist in Connecticut. Her practice, Play On Words, focuses on the speech and language skills of special needs children, and on the needs and questions of parents of young children. Her blog and articles cover topics such as language development, play ideas, book and toy reviews, and more.

Though I've never met Sherry in person, her inclusion of The Pout-Pout Fish in her online article "Cool Picks for Hot Summer Reading" summer before last led me over to her site and blog, and we've since corresponded a bit by email.

And so it was quite thrilling to see a letter to the editor by her in the New York Times. Click here, and then scroll down to the second letter.

Her letter, written in response to an article about the Walt Disney company offering refunds to purchasers of Baby Einstein videos, is a thoughtful and nicely worded reminder of what children truly need in order to learn.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Poetry Friday

Horizon

Autumn shifts in her seat,

and suddenly the landscape changes. Gone

are the sun-kissed golden tresses,
the fiery reds,
the laughter of the pumpkins.
In their place,
low mounds
of soggy brown leaf sludge,
encircled
by the broad, wide scent of decay.

See the statue trunks.
Lift your eyes to the branch silhouettes.
What stands before you?
Is it ache and desolation?
Or is it beauty and magnificence?

Listen closely for the answer.

Hear it on the horizon.


Yes.

Yes, it is.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where's My Mummy? (Crimi & Manders)

For ages, I have been meaning to write a post about the adorable picture book Where's My Mummy?. Written by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by John Manders, the story begins, "On a deep, dark night in a deep, dark place, Little Baby Mummy did not want to go to bed."

After darting out into the night for a final game of Hide and Shriek, Little Baby Mummy gets lost and can't find Big Mama Mummy. He encounters Bones (a skeleton creature), Glob (who looks as green and globby as you might imagine), and Drac (a vampire in vampire PJs), all of whom offer him kindly, cautionary advice about being out past bedtime.

Then Little Baby Mummy encounters... a mouse! This dreadful creature of the night scares him right back into the arms of his Big Mama Mummy, just in time to get ready for bed.

The text is great fun and the pictures are adorable (none of the "scary" creatures are too scary). Where's My Mummy? is a great book for the current Halloween season, but also a truly fun story to share with a young child any time during the year.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Rainy Day in August

Now that the Michigan Reads tour is complete, I look forward to writing up some blog posts about the experience. I've got some catching up to do first, though, so it may be a couple of weeks before I'm able to do that. In the meantime, I thought I'd take you back to a rainy day in August, when this year's Michigan Reads program was formally announced. This took place at the first Young Folk BookFest, held in conjunction with the Great Lakes Folk Festival.

I knew I'd be reading my story at the announcement, but I figured I might also have an opportunity to say a word or two. So I prepared a few remarks. Not being much of a public speaker, I can't say I gave a rousing speech; but my comments were heartfelt. As part of my look back at the Michigan Reads experience, I thought I'd share those comments here.

So here they are, pretty much in their entirety (less some thank yous at the beginning):


It is a true privilege to be here. The Pout-Pout Fish is my first book. My lifelong dream of becoming a published writer came true just last year. It’s been an amazing year and a half since Mr. Fish and his friends first arrived in bookstores and libraries. To be standing here today, to have had my and Dan Hanna’s book chosen for this honor, is extremely gratifying.

But what is important to me is not that this particular book was chosen. What matters is that the Michigan Reads program exists. Michigan Reads is a proactive program that directly supports childhood literacy. The existence of Michigan Reads says great things about our state. It speaks volumes for the importance Michigan places on our #1 natural resource: our kids.

Literacy is what launches a lifetime of learning. Without literacy, children can’t arrive where they are headed. Research shows us that children who have not developed at least some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out of school later. And the lifelong impact of poor reading skills is devastating.

But the good news is that the easiest and most effective way to promote basic literacy skills in young children –- skills that have fancy names such as phoneme awareness and alliteration sensitivity –- is simply to read aloud to kids. To read aloud fun books with silly sounds and plenty of rhyme and word play. To read aloud stories that are so enjoyable they demand to be read over and over again. The particular book doesn’t matter! But reading aloud does. Reading aloud is the easiest way for a parent or caregiver to teach literacy, without ever having to be “instructional.” It’s fun, and it promotes a love of reading that lasts a lifetime.

All of us here work hard in our lives to pass along our love of reading to our children, to our students, to our patrons. For many of us, this is the thing we do that we feel most passionate about. But I would like to suggest to you that there may be even more each of us can do, beyond what we’re already doing. And I would challenge each of you here today to think of some small way in which you can extend your already remarkable literacy reach.

Perhaps for you it might be the simple act of publicly modeling your own reading behavior, being “caught” reading in places kids will see you. For you, it might be offering to be a guest reader at your neighborhood school, or at the preschool you drive by every day on your way to work. Some of you might even consider volunteering time as a reading tutor. Small acts can have a huge impact, and you don’t need to be a celebrity to be a reading hero.

Learning to read is an individual act, but it is one that takes place in a context. When the context is a reading culture –- at the family, school, and community level -- literacy becomes contagious and all but inevitable. Here today, as we celebrate reading and books and kids, we are reminded that we are all a part of that context, that together we create a nurturing reading culture.

What a fabulous thing… that Michigan Reads. Thank you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What You Wish You Knew About Librarians, Told!

For a peek into the inner world of librarians, head on over to 100 Scope Notes for the blog post, "Things Librarians Fancy."

(Just FYI, I stay out of the ironic/irony-free cardigan fray by eschewing cardigans entirely.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Michigan Reads tour drawing to a close

Today is the last day of my Michigan Reads tour. I'll be in Hamtramck at 11 and 1 for my final stop.

What a great experience it has been! The children I've met, along with the parents, librarians, and teachers, have been wonderful, and inspiring. I feel like the luckiest person there is to have had this opportunity to travel throughout the state and share the joys of reading and literacy with children and families.

Once I've had a chance to catch my breath (and catch up my email, my paperwork, and my laundry!), I'll have a blog post or two about the Michigan Reads tour.

I also will get back to more regular postings to this blog, including the Michigander Monday feature (weekly profiles of Michigan children's book authors and illustrators); my off-topic but relevant-to-staying-healthy-so-I-can-write Wednesday Workout DVD reviews; and my earnest if awful Friday poetry.

Till then, head over to one of the blogs in the sidebar, and I'll be back in blog action soon!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Good News!

I very much enjoy Jo Dereske's Miss Zukas mysteries, so I was pleased to see this bit of news on her web site:
"Thanks to all the encouraging letters from readers, I’ve begun a new Miss Zukas mystery, to tie up (hopefully!) the loose ends so many of you mentioned. The publishing world is a tad grim right now, but sometimes you’ve just gotta do it and see what happens. I hope to complete it in the next few months, and I’ll post any good news. Thank you for the good words!"

Here's hoping for one more -- or even better, many more -- Helma Zukas mysteries!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Michigander Monday: Amy Huntley

I am thrilled this week to welcome my friend and critique group member Amy Huntley to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Amy: I'm a high school English teacher, a wife and a mother to a seven-year-old. And now--how exciting to say it--I'm an author, too! I've lived in Michigan most of my life, and love this state. I'm an avid reader, enjoy playing the piano and attending the theater, and even though I HATE packing, I actually like traveling.

Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your new book!

Amy: The Everafter, published by HarperCollins (Balzer and Bray), is a young adult novel that explores the role loss plays in our growth as individuals. It tells the story of 17-year-old Maddy Stanton--who's dealing with the ultimate loss: her own life. She finds herself in a limbo state with all the objects she misplaced throughout her time on earth. Using the objects allows her to return to the moment where each one went astray. While there she can either observe or live her life. Maddy uses the objects to discover how she died and to help her cope with her own loss of life so she can embrace a new future.

Debbie: Other books and projects on the horizon?

Amy: I'm working on another young adult novel. Someday, I'd also like to work on writing a chapter book or mid-grade novel. The one thing I NEVER plan on doing? Writing a book for adults.

Debbie: Sounds like famous last words! In the meantime, any upcoming appearances?

Amy: I'll be at Schuler Books (Alpine Road Grand Rapids location) on October 15th at 7:00 pm, and then I'll be at the Okemos Meridian Mall Schuler Books on November 17th at 6:30pm.

Debbie: Your favorite places in Michigan?

Amy: I love Tahquamenon Falls, Greenfield Village, Charlton Park, all the little towns along Lake Michigan and visiting lighthouses in the UP.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Amy: The Renaissance Festival is tons of fun. I'm amazed to discover how many other people like to go there to live in the past--at least temporarily. I'm not sure how many of us would actually opt for 16th Century medicine, diet and clothing as a true way of life!

Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Amy: I realize that I am biased here, but I think Michigan has some absolutely awesome teachers. I get to meet teachers from all over the state, and the dedication that I see there is inspiring. Of course my family was important to me growing up, but teachers always came in a strong second for me. I know other states have highly dedicated and caring teachers, too, but Michigan teachers...I love you!

Debbie: And I second that: Michigan's teachers are top-notch!! Amy, how about something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Amy: Its landscape is beautiful. We often have marvelous autumns, and come winter we get beautiful fluffy snow. Watching the leaves bud on the trees in the spring reminds me of what a miracle Planet Earth is. I know there are other states that have the beauty of seasons, too, but it's one of the coolest parts of living in Michigan. It's impossible for me to think about my novels without being highly conscious of the season in which action is taking place. I don't linger on long descriptions of the physical setting when I'm writing, but the beauty of the state is always in the back of my mind when I'm telling a story.

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Amy: I'm a "Gander." Maybe that's because I grew up sharing space on my parents' property with some very assertive geese, but whatever the reason, that's what sticks in my mind.

Debbie: Amy, it's been great having you here today! You're a wonderful writer and a fine friend. I hope everyone who reads this blog post will take a moment to seek out your terrific novel The Everafter.

Thanks for stopping by for Michigander Monday!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Michigander Monday: Margaret Willey

This week we welcome Margaret Willey to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Margaret, tell us a little about yourself.

Margaret: I have been writing in multiple genres for 30 years, but most of my published work is for children – 7 teen novels, 5 picture books and a new northwoods folktale scheduled for 2011. I also write essays, reviews and short stories. My entire writing life people have told me I need to stop spreading myself so thin and focus on 1 or 2 areas of writing, but I have never been able to do that. My dad was a visual artist who worked in many genres; so I guess I can both blame and thank him for that.

Debbie: What an amazing scope of work you have! Please tell us about your latest book.

Margaret: It’s a thrill to talk about my new novel for teenagers—A Summer of Silk Moths—because I have been working on it for TEN YEARS and there were many times when I almost gave up! But I kept coming back to it and having “aha” moments about how to improve and deepen it. It came out on October 1st. It contains so many elements that are important to me as an artist. Here are three: my fascination with silk moths, my belief that the natural world can be a place of healing and sanctuary for children, and my belief that a new generation can heal the wounds of the previous one. The novel is set in the southwest corner of Michigan where I grew up. It is also a tribute to a book I loved as a girl; Gene Stratton Porter’s A Girl of the Limberlost—a classic coming-of-age novel that is 100 years old this year!

Debbie: Margaret, A Summer of Silk Moths sounds like a must-read! Other books & projects on the horizon?

Margaret: I’m currently working on a new young adult novel about three teens in juvenile detention who have a sworn a pact of secrecy about their crime. Very different from Silk Moths, really fun, full of twists and surprises, no title yet.

Debbie: Sounds wonderful. Margaret, do you have any upcoming appearances?

Margaret: All still unfolding. I was recently at the Midwest Booksellers Association in St. Paul, Minnesota in late September. Check my novel’s website for upcoming appearances: http://www.summerofsilkmoths.com/.

Debbie: Your favorite places in Michigan?

Margaret: I have traveled all over the world and I have come to really appreciate the natural wonders of Michigan: St. Joseph’s Tiscornia Beach in the summer, the Leelanau Peninsula in the fall, Hoffmaster Park ski trails in Muskegon in the winter, and year-round the great and historic city of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula. I also love my home town of Grand Haven—the beautiful boardwalk and the lighthouse, Morningstar Restaurant and the Bookman Bookstore, the deep ravine behind my house, full of deer and owls and an occasional fox. What would I do without these places?

Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan event or happening?

Margaret: Actually, as I’m getting older, I tend to avoid crowds, so a lot of the wonderful festivals—like the Cherry, Blueberry and Apple Blossom Festivals, Tulip Festival and Grand Haven’s own Coast Guard Festival—don’t tempt me like they used to when my children were small. I’m getting to where I get more excited about the local farmer’s market than a festival. I love the two weeks in early late May/early June when the lilacs bloom. Or the arrival of Michigan asparagus. Or the first cider pressing in the fall.

Debbie: Those are some of my favorite Michigan happenings, too. Love that fall cider! Margaret, tell us about a few Michigan people we should all know about.

Margaret: A lot of important writers have come from Michigan—two I would mention here are Iola Fuller, who was born in Marcellus, Michigan and was a librarian. She wrote The Loon Feather, a classic historical novel published in the 40’s and set primarily on Mackinaw Island, narrated by an Ojibwa girl, the daughter of Tecumseh. It’s an amazing, amazing book. I also love to mention the great Verna Aardema, whose work includes Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears, winner of the Caldecott in 1976. Born in New Era, she was a dedicated elementary school teacher in Muskegon before she was an author. The first booksigning I ever had was with Verna at the Bookman in Grand Haven, a very precious memory.

Debbie: What a wonderful experience that must have been!
Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about our state?

Margaret: I don’t think people who are not Michigan residents know or appreciate our Upper Peninsula—how geographically and historically unique it is up there. In fact, a lot of Michigan residents don’t know. It is a treasure trove of international folklore because of the immigrants who came from all over the world to work in the lumber camps and mining towns—the French Canadians, the Finns, the Swedes, the Irish, the Brits. There were African-American lumberjacks. There were Native Americans tribes long before the Europeans came and overdid the logging and mining thing. The U.P. still has wide areas that are undeveloped, unspoiled and gorgeous. The stretch along the lower shores of Lake Superior comes to mind. Marquette is one of my favorite cities in the world. And don’t forget the tiny & weird roadside historical museums...I’ve visited quite a few.

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others, Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Margaret: Wow, I am really sounding like a Michiganian here!

Debbie: Michiganian it is! Margaret, I truly enjoyed this interview. Thank you for being here today!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

If You're Ever In Ludington...

...you should definitely eat here. Absolutely delicious!

Great Kids

So far I've had two stops on my Michigan Reads tour: Benzonia and Holland. I've met hundreds of wonderful kids! -- along with great librarians, terrific teachers, and spectacular parents. I'm having a blast.

Amongst the wonderful kids I've met in my travels are three remarkable kids, and their dad, with whom I had the privilege of spending some time yesterday. They have their own blog -- if you haven't visited it already, you definitely should.

Now, off to Ludington!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Everafter

Congratulations to my friend and critique group partner Amy Huntley on the debut today of her young adult novel The Everafter!

Go buy it! Go check it out! Go read it!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Lazy Update On The Lazy Person's Reading Group

It's been four months since I launched The Lazy Person's Reading Group, summer edition. (For those of you not familiar with it, LPRG is a choose-your-own-adventure style book group, with no membership requirements and no reading list. Find more info here; it's never too late to join.)

In those four months, I have read some, though not all, of my ten LPRG selections. (I've been reading plenty of other things over the last four months, but just haven't made it to all the reading group selections yet.)

I'm too lazy to give you a full update on all of the ones I have read so far, but I figure I should probably touch base about Book Option #7, "A book you figure you probably should read, even though you don't really want to."

As many of you know, I ran a poll in my sidebar to determine if my "don't-wanna-but-should" book would be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The poll question was: "Should I, Debbie Diesen, who has never cracked the spine of nor even read a dust jacket of a Harry Potter novel, add Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to my summer "To Be Read" pile?" The votes were as follows:
  • 26 Yes. The Harry Potter novels are great, and you really should read at least one of them:
  • 12 Yes. Even if you don't end up enjoying the books, they have enough significance to our popular culture, you need a passing familiarity with them.
  • 6 Yes. I don't have some fancy-schmancy reason, but definitely Yes! Read the book!
  • 8 No. If the book is not screaming to you, "Read me!", there are plenty of other options you'd probably prefer.
  • 1 No. Stand firm! Anything that popular can't be good!
  • 6 No. Do I have to have a reason? Just No!

Adding up the yeses and the noes, that came to 44 Yes and 15 No. And even though I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more votes in the category "No - Anything that popular can't be good!" (I think mine was the only one), I accepted the results and this week got down to work reading the first of the Harry Potter books.

And did I like it?

At first, yes. I enjoyed the beginning of the book, as we got to know Harry and his pre-Hogwarts life. Not knowing anything about the novel's plot (having done my best over the years to ignore the whole Harry Potter phenomenon), I found myself pulled in by the characters and the plot development. As I rode the train to Hogwarts with Harry and his newfound friends, I began to think, "Perhaps I've been wrong to avoid these books! And, furthermore, based on having been so wrong, I am now forced to examine all my other irrational dislikes of the popular, including, but not limited to, Ben Franklin, Michael Pollan, and Power Point presentations!"

But then, after we got to Hogwarts, my interest level took a dive. I think it was just a matter of the boarding school setting. When I was a kid, the idea of a boarding school was fascinating. I would have eaten that aspect of the story line up. As a 42-year old? Not so much.

Then came Quidditch, descriptions of which I found to be capital-t Tedious. My interest level flatlined.

But I stuck with the book, and read it to the end. Having done so, my honest assessment is that it's an absorbing and well-written book -- but it's just not for me. I don't regret having read it, if only for the fact that I now know what a Muggle is and what Hogwarts is, etc., but I probably won't read any of the others.

That chore now out of the way, I will periodically post updates on some of my other Lazy Person's Book Group selections . And eventually I'll have a second round list (maybe the winter edition of the Book Group.)

(But rest assured, it won't include this, this, or these!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Go Away!

I'm not here! Go here instead!

There you'll find an interview with me, on the blog of the wonderful and marvelous Shutta Crum.

And after you read the interview, please go read all of Shutta's books. She's one of my most admired people in the world of children's lit. She's talented, energetic, creative, generous, and fun. So go enjoy her books!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Celebrating Semicolons et al

Don your party caps: It's National Puncuation Day!

I adore punctuation; without it, I'd lose the will to write. But I wonder... Can I manage to include all the [known to me] punctuation marks into one short punctuation-a-rama blog post? If I put my mind to it -- actually, if I just try hard enough (never mind the thinking), I'm quite sure the answer will be "Yes"!


But I'm not making the meat loaf.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We have a winner!

I've now carried out the hat drawing for the Aaron Zenz The Hiccupotamus book give-away.

I did slips of paper - one for regular comments; two for comments that started with an A and ended with a word-with-a-Z; and five for twenty-six word A to Z comments. I was delighted by the creativity of the comments -- what fun!

I tossed them in the hat and had my younger son do the actual drawing. And the winner is... Meg Kuta!

Meg, just send me your mailing address, and I'll send it along to Aaron. You can email me at deborah [at] deborahdiesen [dot] com

Thanks, everyone, for all your terrific blog comments!

P.S. I was going to do this blog post in an A-to-Z format, but lost steam: "All blog comments," Debbie exclaimed, "featured great humor, intelligence, j... something something something...."

Here's My Hat - What's My Hurry?

I have the hat...

(it's from my Rhyming Dictionary costume)

...and I've just put the slips of paper in.

But I won't be doing the drawing for the Hiccupotamus book (see below) until this afternoon, as I'm going to let one of my sons do the ceremonial pick-one-from-the-hat selection.

I'll let you know who wins as soon as I know.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Michigander Monday: Aaron Zenz

This week's Michigander Monday is Aaron Zenz, here as part of the Hiccupotamus blog tour! Read on for a great Q&A session, with a book giveaway at the end.

Debbie: Welcome! Tell us a little about yourself.

Aaron: So far my life has been spent hopping around this great state. I spent my entire childhood in Jackson Michigan, went to college in Hillsdale Michigan, and have since been living and working in West Michigan.
My wife and I have five kids at last count. I've been working as a freelance illustrator from home for the last several years, and my wife homeschools the young'uns... So we're ALL home, ALL the time. Makes for a fun noisy house! My kids and I chatter about our favorite books on our blog "Bookie Woogie" -- there we have fun reading and drawing together, and we've become friends with all sorts of neat cyber-people.

Most of my working life has been spent making stuff for kids -- picture books, educational computer games, baby toys, stickers, card games, coloring books, and I teach art classes. But I've also pulled stints as varied as designing safety training manuals ...to providing graphic recording services for a hospital ...to mowing neighborhood lawns. I like it when my little ones can eat.

Debbie: Aaron, please tell us about your latest book.

Aaron: I've got two books hitting shelves in September '09. One is The Hiccupotamus which I both wrote and illustrated. As one might guess, it's about a hippo with hiccups. But you see, this hippo falls on his bottom when he's got'em. And being a rather large creature, his malady causes some major trouble for any critters unfortunate enough to be standing nearby. The book is bright and colorful and loaded with crazy nonsense words.

And about as different from that as can be, the other book out this month is called Nugget on the Flightdeck and is a realistic look at life aboard an aircraft carrier. We follow a new recruit on his tour of the carrier, ride along as he's launched into the air, and join in on his practice dogfight. The story is written by Patricia Newman, and it's full of facts and fun jargon.

Debbie: Other books, and projects on the horizon?

Aaron: Lots of stories in development... any takers? Hello, hello?

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Aaron: With the new school year underway, I've got Author Visits starting to line up, which I LOVE. I knew when I started making books that the potential for School Visits existed. But I never anticipated how MUCH I would love them. They are as (or more!) fun as making the books themselves. We write poems, draw pictures, meet a puppet friend. They're a blast! Any takers? Hello, hello?

Debbie: (Takers, visit Aaron's site for contact info!) Aaron, your favorite place in Michigan?

Aaron: I love the West Michigan shoreline. Wonderful dunes and beaches. We live 5 minutes from Lake Michigan and are spoiled by it. I also have a great fondness for the U.P. Growing up, we often vacationed up north... wonderful memories of multiple visits to Pictured Rocks, Tahquamenon Falls, Muskallonge Lake, Fort Michilimackinac...

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Aaron: I love Indian Summers in Michigan. Can you still say that? Is that PC? Indian Summer? "Native American" Summer? "That-last-warm-fling-after-autumn-starts-getting-cold" Summer? Sitting in an apple tree at the time makes it even better.

Debbie: Whatever you call it, it's a beautiful time of year! A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Aaron: Winsor McCay was a Michigan native. He was one of the greatest American cartoonists (Little Nemo in Slumberland) and the pioneer of animated film (Gertie the Dinosaur). He grew up in Spring Lake Mi, and I've trekked over there many times in the last few years to help re-introduce folks to their most famous forgotten native son. (http://www.springlakemccay.blogspot.com/)

Debbie: Some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?

Aaron: When I was a kid, I saw a lady selling goose-shaped Michi-Gander crafts at an art show and have loved the term ever since. So I guess this Michigander and his Michigoslings make up a happy little Michigaggle.

Michigaggle! Oooo... I feel another children's book coming on... Any takers? Hello, hello?

Debbie: I for one would love to see a Michigaggle children's book! Terrific idea. Aaron, thank you for being here today.

And now, blog readers, the details on that giveaway!

Aaron has mostly kindly offered to send, to one lucky reader of this blog, two copies of The Hiccupotamus (one for the winner and one for a friend). [For shipping purposes, the giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only.]
  • How can you enter the giveaway? It's as easy as a blog comment! One week from today, I'll pick, from a hat, one of the names of the folks who comment on this blog post.
  • Want to increase your odds? Since it's up to me how I choose the winner... In celebration of the cool A-to-Z aspect of Aaron Zenz's name, if your blog post comment begins with an A and ends with a word containing a Z, I'll put your name in the hat twice.
  • Want to really increase your odds? If your comment is twenty-six A-to-Z words long, in alphabetic order, I'll put your name in the hat five times. So have fun, and maybe you will be the lucky winner!
Thanks again, Aaron, for stopping by Jumping the Candlestick on your blog tour. And congratulations on Hiccupotamus, Nugget on the Flight Deck, and all the other great books of yours that are available!