Saturday, February 28, 2009

Something New For My Tastebuds

I had a nice visit with my parents today. They're extremely fine people. I'm extraordinarily lucky to have them as my parents, and I love them very much.

And I'm not just saying that because my Mom brought chocolate.

But while we're on the topic of chocolate, let me tell you a little bit about the chocolate in question.

It was Lindt (which is, as you know, my favorite chocolatier), but this chocolate was a little different than my usual 85. Get a load of it here.

It hasn't knocked 85% out as my favorite, but it's a nice second. Good advice, to try new things.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday: I'm Finally Back to Carl

I come to my love of poetry with a certain willful ignorance. Though I occasionally dip into books about poetic forms and conventions, I never really get very far: as I like to joke, I still can't tell a dactyl from a pterodactyl. I'm also appallingly unfamiliar with the history of poetry and the range of the poets that ever have been or are. I guess what it boils down to is that I'm part of that often (I suppose rightly so) disparaged mass of folk who don't know much about art (in this case, poetry) but do know what they like. Make of that what you will, for though I intend to continue to slowly expand my scope of poetry knowledge as I carry on with my life, I'll likely never be scholarly nor disciplined about it.

Yet I do love poetry. I love how the right combination of words -- a deceptively small set of them --- can turn your whole mind. A poem, through the power of its images, or through its sounds, or through the intoxicating synergy of both at once, can be a powerful pivot point, one that sometimes feels like a gift, sometimes like a soaring, sometimes even like a punch. A really good poem can alter you at the very moment you read it; and a great one, stored deep in an interior pocket, can change you much later.

For whatever reason, the poems of Carl Sandburg -- collectively and individually -- have long had a profound resonance for me. I love the sound of them, and reading them out loud is a joy. I also love the images, the characters, the scenery. And what I find most moving is the skill with which the poems have been assembled: they're powerful, without feeling overdone. Amazing stuff. And so it is that this year I set out to read aloud Carl Sandburg's complete poems, a little bit day by day. And though at the rate I've been going, it might take more than a year, I'm still thoroughly enjoying it.

This week I read "Onion Days." Amazing how well one knows Mrs. Gabrielle Giovannitti, Mrs. Pietro Giovannitti, and Jasper by the end of it; and how the shift at the end, from the scene itself to the looking at the scene, to the trying to comprehend it and incorporate it, is both unexpected and natural.

I also read "Population Drifts." So much we know about this woman, her ribs "with the power of the hills in them," and about her family. The information is carefully presented, like a tiny painted thumbnail portrait, and the contrast between their city immigrant life and that of the windblown plain is clear.

And "Cripple." What a movingly beautiful poem. The carefully rendered portrait of the dying man is followed by the simple glory of a sunflower, "rain-washed and dew-misted, mixed with the poppies and ranking hollyhocks," watching each and every night "the clear silent processionals of stars."

The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg sits atop my bookshelf, in its own particular spot. Perhaps you, too, will consider adding it to your collection.

And just for the record: in a dactyl v. pterodactyl grudge match, my money's on the dactyl. The pterodactyl may be bigger, but the dactyl isn't extinct.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Guaranteed Acccuracy

I always enjoy the entries over on the Typo of the Day blog. The other day, they profiled the typo of triple-c versions of acc* words.

After reading the entry, I thought of June Casagrande's "Wonderings and Googlings" on her blog (recent example here), and I got to wondering and googling about "acccuracy."

So, in case you, too, would like to know:

Number of Google hits for triple-c "acccuracy" along with a "guarantee" nearby: 1350.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Boy, I Do Get Around

So apparently I was in Wisconsin yesterday, for a story time at the Dwight Foster Public Library.

Except that I wasn't.

I was in Lansing, at the Foster Branch of CADL (a very delightful branch of a very delightful library system.)

The web crawler for "Upcoming Yahoo" must have snagged my Book Tour calendar entry for yesterday's story time, and mangled the location in the process.

Which all is to say, for any author or illustrator event you intend to attend, always confirm details with the host venue before showing up. Otherwise, it's a long drive to Wisconsin for nuthin'.

(But the library looks nice, so it wouldn't be a wasted trip.)

Read more about the Dwight Foster Public Library here, and be sure to stop by their blog about their building project. For Foster CADL, head here.

Wednesday Workout Review: "Pilates Abs Workout" by Ana Caban

Ana Caban's Pilates Abs Workout is a humbling experience. Perhaps not for everyone, but for me, definitely. It's intense. It clocks in at 25 minutes and it's challenging for pretty much the entire time. Shot on location in Hawaii, the backdrop is beautiful, but you probably won't notice the scenery much till it's over. As described on the back of the case, it's a "vigorous" workout.

I didn't have a chance to do a search for reviews on this one, but you can find some reviews over at Amazon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday Tunes: "Collage" by Karrin Allyson

Vocalist Karrin Allyson has a lovely voice, and on Collage she uses it with beauty and variety. The songs she performs range from "It Could Happen to You" (Jimmy Van Heusen - Johnny Burke) to "All of You" (Cole Porter) to "Give it Up or Let Me Go" (Bonnie Raitt) and more. Some tracks I like better than others, but the album as a whole is very strong. I'm particularly fond of "Live For Life" (Norman Gimbel and Francis Albert Lai), a song I first heard Karrin Allyson sing many years ago on the radio as the sun came up after a sleepless night with my then infant son. The song enchanted me, and has remained a favorite ever since.

Karrin Allyson has a web site that lists her other albums. (The only other album of hers I happen to have is Blue, but I like that one very much too.) You can also find a few audio and video samples.

Find other reviews of Collage here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Butter and Spice and Everything Nice

I made some clove cookies this evening. I didn't follow the recipe exactly (I doubled the ground cloves; and I halved the effort, being far too lazy for all those refrigerate/roll-the-dough intermediary steps), but even as low-tech drop cookies they still tasted good.

And the smell! Delightful.

Even if you're not in the mood to bake cookies, run now to your spice cupboard and grab a whiff of ground cloves. Ahhh.

Nothing To See Here

Since I don't have a profile post for you today, but don't want to leave you completely empty-handed as to what to do with your Monday, I thought I'd point you in the direction of the Monday round-up of nonfiction children's book reviews.

Friday, February 20, 2009

If You Give A Politician A Rhyming Dictionary

I read that the Kipling-quoting former governor is shopping a manuscript around. One hopes it's not a children's story, lest it read something like this:

If you can keep your bedtime when all about you
Are sent to bed early and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all siblings doubt you
But want allowance while shouting, too,
If you can skate, and not be tired by skating,
Or playing dodgeball, don’t deal in size,
Or on playdates, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t mouth off, nor talk too wise;

If you can scheme--yet not make schemes of disaster,
If you can drink--and make soda pop your aim;
If you can meet with Defiance and Scoutmaster
And treat those big bosses just the same;
If you can hear the truth your parents have spoken, and
Twist their words, and break the rules,
Or watch the things others gave you, broken,
Never to be mended with worn-out tools:

If you can make jokes about disciplining,
And eat no fruit but applesauce,
And choose, and smirk while grinning,
To never bother to brush nor floss;
If you can fall apart and yet continue
To take your turn till all are gone,
And so hold on until they spin you:
Pin the Tail on the Donkey – it must go on.

If you can talk when brother threatens to hurt you;
Or swing on swings, and not fall too much;
If blowing your nose, your manners dessert you;
If neatness counts, but not too much,
If you can fill a neverending minute
With nonstop talk, and verbal run:
Yours is the Earth – and everything in it:
For you are a child, dear little one.

Yes, We Have No Bananagrams

It's Friday, so I should be posting something poetry-ish, but I'm not. However, you'll find the weekly round-up over at The Holly and the Ivy. And at Douglas Florian's blog, you'll find a fun poetry prompt about creating a poemagram. Head on over and give it a try.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Workout Review: Kari Anderson's "Reach"

Anyone who has read my blog for more than 5 seconds has likely discovered that I am very easily distracted. Guilty as charged. So before I get to my workout review, please indulge me as I share with you a brief story about my recent discovery of my alter ego.

So yesterday I was reading Boni's blog post, and of course had to weigh in with my opinions about nomenclature for her Gut Instinct; and this led me later in the day to have jumping around in the back of my mind the pressing question, "I wonder if 'Gutte' is actually a name?" This in turn took me to a baby names site (no, I'm not in need of one - name nor baby) and the discovery of an interesting sidebar at the site, called a "Baby Names Advisor," wherein you put the mother's name and the father's name and determine a suitable baby name. Well, who can resist that? Of course, I put in my Mom's name and my Dad's name, and lo and behold, the name that's best for me is.... Mariela.

Mariela. Who knew? Don't I sound somehow taller, smarter, and better looking?

(If you'd like to determine your own alter ego, go here and look over to the right.)

What does this all have to do with workout DVD reviews?

Absolutely nothing!

But the workout DVD that I'm recommending this week is one that even a Mariela would love. Of all the workout DVDs I have (and I actually have more than I care to admit to), "Reach: Upbeat Toning & Flexibility for a Dancer's Body" by Kari Anderson is one of my all-time favorites. It consists of 30 minutes standing work, 20 minutes floor work, and 10 minutes stretching. Though I don't tend to relish long workouts, really this is one that's best done all together. If you do the full workout, you'll feel wonderful -- very stretched out and full of energy. The instruction is low-key but easy to follow, the music is interesting but not annoying, and the workout is challenging but not impossible. I highly recommend it.

A couple of reviews of it can be found here and here.

Mariela gives it five stars.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Tunes: "Rodrigo y Gabriela"

The self-titled Rodrigo y Gabriela is an amazing album. Acoustic guitarists Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero have a created a sound that defies easy description. Their web site says this: "Their music is difficult to define, straddling both world and rock, and often imbued with timeless Hispano – classical influences. The fire in it comes from their life-long passion for metal music."

My favorite track on the album would have to be, well... every track on the album. Listen to a little of it over at their site, on the video clips page.

A few reviews for you here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The View Keeps Changing

[A note about tomorrow: I won't have a Michigander Monday profile for you to read. Sorry about that. There's no shortage of great folks to profile, but I've been neck-deep in a couple of projects lately and neglected to send out enough interview invitations. But MM will be back soon.]

February has a reputation for being a fairly dismal month - and it's not an entirely undeserved rep. But there's a real beauty to the snow and the outdoors at times -- a beauty that changes rapidly. Take this morning for instance. (The pictures that follow don't do justice to what I saw, but should give you a bit of the flavor.)

As the sun started to come up, there was a pink tint to the sky behind our house, and a light fog:


Relatively soon, the sun broke through and began to burn off the fog:


But then came another fog, thicker than the first:



All of this in the span of about an hour or less.

Sometimes, when you take the chance to stop and look, the view can be amazing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Is this three posts in one day? Yeah, it's overkill (guess I should have planned ahead); but I have to do this one today....


More Great Modeling of "Public-Figures-Reading-Children's-Books-Aloud" Behavior

http://www.publishersweekly.com/eNewsletter/CA6637070/2788.html#In_Brief

A Valentine's Day Poem...

Valentine’s Day Breakfast, 2009

Take one bout of insomnia
(what to do at 4 a.m. but bake a coffeecake?);

add a blanket of snow over yesterday's bare lawn
(omelets and hash-browns cushion the blow);

stir in two well-rested children,
and a handsome husband,
(blessings, indeed);

and suddenly you find yourself seated at the table
for an accidental feast.

How it all came together –


-- but no matter that…


Just eat.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Poetry Friday

(Before we get to my poem, please note that the Poetry Friday round-up is over at Big A little a, so be sure to head over there to partake of the grand variety of Friday poetry.)


Little Legs (a poem for tired young mothers)

Keep a penny in your purse
for the grocery store horse.
The days that last forever
gallop fast.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ruth McNally Barshaw Fan Club HQ

Ruth McNally Barshaw, a talented artist and writer, is also a very kind soul. She recently sent a letter to a young man I know, and it meant a great deal to him.

Isn't it a nice thing that whatever else might be said for it, the world is still populated by nice, generous people?

And talented, too. If you're not familiar with Ruth's work, head on over to her site or her blog, and get to know her, and her marvelous Ellie McDoodle books (1, 2 and 3).

Thanks, Ruth. You're a gem.

Stacy & Jason & Mr. Fish

OK, everyone, head on over and take a look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz_KT1mJq1Y

Too fun! I love it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wednesday Workout Review: "10 Minute Solution Target Toning For Beginners"

Working out is only tangentially related to writing, but I do find that all things in my life, including my creativity, go better if I'm healthy and happy. Music feeds my Happy, thus the new series of Tuesday CD reviews. Workouts feed my Healthy, thus this new series of Wednesday Workout DVD reviews. As with the CD reviews, the workout reviews will generally be brief, mostly along the lines of, "Here's one I like." So, here's one I like.

Cindy Whitmarsh's Target Toning For Beginners, part of the 10-minute Solution series, was one of the first workouts I slipped into my DVD player a year-and-a-half ago when I decided to take shaping up a little more seriously. (The big four-oh has a tendency to encourage one to start contemplating long-term health in a new way.) Cindy is a friendly instructor, and the workouts (one each for abs, thighs, glutes, arms/shoulders, and stretching) are non-intimidating for the beginner yet still challenging if you've been at it a while. Sure, you catch on real quick that you're going to do sets of things (4 slow, 8 at tempo, and then, with a perky "can you do 8 more?" there's 8 more to do...) but there's enough variety in the exercises that the workouts don't drag. You can do one or more or all five. I recommend this DVD if you're just starting out, or if you want a little something to toss into your workout rotation for occasional use or spot-toning.

Other reviews here, here, here, and here.

Cindy Whitmarsh has other workout DVDs, including Total Body Sculpt, which I tried out a couple of times. I can't say I liked that one as much -- it felt rushed to me -- but it's been a long time since I looked at it, so maybe my opinion will be different when I try it again. She also has a web site.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Urban Sketchers

Over on Barb's Little Red Hen Studio blog, I discovered the Urban Sketchers blog. Head on over and take a look -- it's really neat.

Tuesday Tunes: "Ways Not To Lose" by the Wood Brothers

Tuesday Tunes is a new feature of this blog, wherein each Tuesday I mention a CD that happens to be in my player. I'll also try to share a thing or two about why I like the album. No music will be provided on this page, but I'll point you to the artists' web sites for further info. I welcome your comments about the featured music in the comments section.

The Wood Brothers' Ways Not To Lose -- with Oliver Wood on guitar/vocals and Chris Wood bass/vocals, plus Kenny Wollesen on percussion -- is one of those albums that is thoroughly enjoyable but defies an easy label. Folk music, twang, blues, jazz, country, rock, and soul all factor in. My favorite track on the album is "Atlas," which you can hear a sample of on their web site (scroll down toward the bottom of the page). Google the album title, and you'll find a lot of reviews and/or articles, including here, here, here, here, and here.

They have a new album, Loaded, which I haven't heard yet. There's a review of it here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

So Then What's the 1%?

I'm a h-u-g-e fan of this (in fact, I have a couple of squares of it pretty much every single day), but I had no idea this existed.

Now that's some very dark chocolate. Devoted dark-chocoholic though I may be, I'm not sure my palate would be able to handle it. But I admit I'm curious. I'll have to track some down and try it some day.

Michigander Monday: Jean Alicia Elster

For those of you new to this blog, Michigander Monday is a regular feature that profiles a Michigan children's book author or illustrator each week. This week we welcome Jean Alicia Elster to Michigander Monday!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself.

Jean: I’d like to share a few things about myself that aren’t already in the biography on my website (www.jeanaliciaelster.com): By day I am a grant writer for a mental health agency. I can use my legal background (I’m still licensed to practice law in the state of Michigan) in the research, persuasion, advocacy, and organizational aspects of the job. Plus it takes me outside of myself for several hours a day on Monday through Thursday. Writing is very solitary work and it’s important to stay in touch with the various ranges of human need. Keeps me grounded, I guess you could say.

Since childhood, I’ve been taken with the needle arts. I’m more involved with knitting lately—especially the garter stitch. The simplicity and the elasticity appeal to me right now.

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

Jean: My book, Who’s Jim Hines?, is a coming of age story about a twelve-year-old boy as he comes to terms with the racial realities of Detroit in 1935. It’s based on real events in my family’s history. For almost twenty-five years, my maternal grandfather owned a very successful wood business, the Douglas Ford Wood Company. The focus of this book is the summer of 1935 when my uncle—young Douglas Ford Jr.—unravels the mystery of a man named Jim Hines, a driver for the wood company whom Doug Jr. has always heard about but has never seen.

While it is labeled as a middle grade novel, specifically for ages eight through twelve, adult readers are enjoying Who’s Jim Hines? as well. I tell anyone who asks that it’s written for ages eight and above.

Debbie: Other books and projects on the horizon?

Jean: I always carry several unwritten projects swirling around in my brain. I am outlining a companion volume to Who’s Jim Hines?. That book will also take place during the summer of 1935, but the focus will be on Doug Jr.’s oldest sister. I am also in the process of writing the first volume in a series of books for teen girls.

Debbie: Upcoming appearances?

Jean: I have many upcoming appearances. I thoroughly enjoy this phase of the book marketing process. I love visiting schools, libraries, book fairs, book conferences—the whole gamut.
I have a special fondness for libraries because I firmly believe they are the repositories of our culture. I enjoy interacting with children and youth in that setting. That works out particularly well for me this year because Who’s Jim Hines? was selected as a 2009 Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. I may be invited to appear at more libraries than usual because of that honor. Please feel free to check my website calendar for more details about any additional appearances.

Debbie: Your favorite places in Michigan?

Jean: One of my favorite Michigan locales is the Detroit Riverwalk. Right at the southernmost reach of downtown Detroit along the Detroit River, it is a walkway that will one day span from the Ambassador Bridge to the Belle Isle Bridge. On a sunny day you will be in the midst of people from all across metropolitan Detroit as well as every corner of the world, all taking a leisurely stroll. And kids love the carousel!

Every summer I vacation with my family in the city of Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Just outside of Marquette, along Lake Superior, is Little Presque Isle Beach. That has got to be the most beautiful spot in all of Michigan. The beach is practically deserted which makes for hours and hours of peace and tranquility. And don’t neglect to take the short trek (or swim, depending upon the water levels) over to Little Presque Isle—quite an adventure!

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Jean: Every spring I look forward to the Detroit Festival of the Arts in the Wayne State University/Cultural Center area. Local, national, and international artists and entertainers converge upon this dynamic and energetic section of the city to the delight of hundreds of thousands of visitors. An invigorating experience.

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

Jean: Interesting Michigan people? Come on down to Detroit’s Eastern Market on a Saturday morning. Farmers, vendors, and customers from across the state meet, mingle, barter, and buy fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meat and poultry—you name it. It’s a people watcher’s paradise!

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

Jean: Michigan is home to some of the finest writers, musicians, and artists in the world. I am honored to be a part of such a stellar creative community.

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

Jean: I vote for Michiganian! When I was young, I was taught that we who live in Michigan are referred to a Michiganders. But now that we have a choice, I prefer to drop that whole goosey gander connection!

Debbie: Jean, thank you for joining us today! And congratulations on the well-deserved Michigan Notable Book honor. I hope readers of this interview will head on over to your web site to learn more about you and your book.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poetry Friday

Poor Carl. I'm so fickle. I pledged to spend a year with him, and yet here it is another Friday, and I've not got a Complete Poems reading report for you. It's not that his words have lost their allure - oh, no; not that -- it's just been a busy stretch, and I temporarily abandoned my daily Sandburg read-aloud habit. But I'm now back on track, and next week, I promise, I'll have a read-aloud report.

In the meantime, here's a poem of my own for you...


February

I want to go outside
in short shirtsleeves

and feel the sun on my arms;

feel my freckles rise up,
collectively,
to denounce the dark of winter.


I want to catch the scent of growth,
and fill myself with the earnest smell of things to come.


Most of all,

I want to tell that infernal groundhog
that he’s a no-good, two-bit whistlepig varmint
who should find himself a new line of work
and never again darken our days
with his useless shadow.



But, instead,


I zip up my coat,

slip my ten fingers into their fleecy corrals,

snug my head into my hat;



and take it on faith

that spring



will not



forsake me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yes, We Can Set a Great Reading-Aloud Example!

After the way I ended my post of a couple of days ago, I was quite tickled to see this.

Returning to a Neglected Feature...

Some of you may recall that last year I began an occasional feature on libraries that have sustained damage or are serving communities that have been damaged by natural disasters.

My entries included a long entry on the Cedar Rapids Public Library. The Cedar Rapids Public Library is continuing its long recovery process from the largest public library disaster in American history. There were also numerous other libraries affected by last year's flooding in the Midwest. I wanted to share with you some information about a couple of others.

I contacted by email the Director of the Keck Memorial Library in Wapello, IA, about what the children's writing community might be able to do to help. From the reply (which was sent to me last summer - yes, I'm that behind in posting this):
Our library was very fortunate not to have any damage to the building due to flooding. However, one of the communities that our library serves, Oakville, was completely under water. Many of its residents fled to Wapello to live with relatives or find temporary housing. Some of the displaced families visited the library with their kids because it was something familiar for them at a time when their whole world was being upset. A lot of the families came to the library to use computers, find flood information, check out materials and find things to entertain the kids. Our children books were heavily used. Most of the families did not have time to gather their own books from home when they had to evacuate.

One thing parents have looked for are children’s books on subjects such as flooding, having to leave your home, finding a new home, changes, and being angry.

Oakville contracted for library services with our library. The contract was due July 1. Our library board waived their contract fee for the year so we are working on a shortened budget.

I am not sure we exactly qualify for what you had in mind, but I am sure the kids would enjoy seeing some new books. If nothing else, maybe the children authors you reach might think about the kids dealing with not only losing their homes, but maybe their town, and write a wonderful book to bring a smile back.

Thank you so much for your concern.

The Director of the Schreiner Memorial Library of Lancaster and Potosi, WI, shared this information with me (also last summer):
Thanks for your interest. Our Potosi Branch Library was flooded from beneath the floor, and we were able to rescue books and computers with a very few exceptions. The books lost (a box full - fewer than 20) were mostly children’s. The damage was structural – to flooring and walls. We had to empty the library while significant renovation took place. We are now back at full strength after being closed for almost two months. Donations are always welcome, of course, and we prefer cash so that we can make our own selections. On the other hand, if an author would donate an autographed copy of his or her book it would be a very big deal for our little library and we would be happy to promote it.

Both emails reminded me of the significance and importance of libraries in hard times, as well as the importance of books in times of disaster and need. I hope that we all, in whatever way we can, remember to show our libraries -- be they the ones in our own communities, or libraries elsewhere -- our support and our appreciation.

I would like to continue to periodically post information about libraries in need, so please share with me any libraries you would like to see featured.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Michigander Monday: Bernadine Cook

What a pleasure today to feature Bernadine Cook!

Debbie: Tell us a little about yourself and about your books.

Bernadine: 1954: We are living hand to mouth... paycheck to paycheck, and expecting our 5th child. I decide to write 'The Great American Novel,' and have about 70 pgs finished, when child #4 wants attention. I pick her up to rock her, and tell her a story that I made up as I rocked. She falls asleep. Child #one, 11 yrs old, says to me, "Why don't you write down the story you just told Lise? It's as good as the one we got from the library today."

Hmmm, I hadn't thought of picture books.

So child #1 and I go to the old manual typewriter my husband had given me, and proceeded to put the story into book form. We finished about 2 a.m. the next day.

I knew nothing about submitting a manuscript. So blithely put it in an envelope, sans SASE, and sent it to the publisher whose book we were not impressed with, I still remember the title..."Shapes" by, of all people, Margaret Wise Brown! (the publisher later told me that she herself did not like the book, and advised him not to publish it.)

Three months later, manuscript forgotten, I got the letter from the publisher... first words were "We're delighted with your story, and would like to publish it. Is a $300 advance agreeable to you?" At that time, a $30 advance would have been welcome.

I was so tickled, I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote another one.. The Curious Little Kitten. Both books -- The Little Fish That Got Away and The Curious Little Kitten -- were published in 1956.

I just didn't know I couldn't do it. Then I got careless, and the next book took three years of work, and a lot of help from the publisher, but it too, Looking for Susie, was published.

I have since self-published The Little Puppy That Lost Its Tail, and had another picture book 'printed', but not 'published'. Only about 50 copies for friends & their children. Then I sold Shorty And That Cat to the Japanese publisher who now had all three of the other books. A Korean publisher also has The Curious Little Kitten, and has expressed an interest in the others.

2009: I am now 84 going on 85. I still dabble a bit in writing, and have a manuscript almost ready for submission. It has a lot of animal photos in it, and I am now waiting for my son, a photographer, to provide first class photos for the book. One of our SCBWI-Michigan members, Sherry Wells, was kind enough to take a look at it and gave me some excellent suggestions.

The Little Fish book is currently with HarperCollins, and has been in print since 1956, in one form or another. The other books are not now in print in the USA, but are still in Japan and one in Korea. I have found Japanese and Korean publishers are happy to take a look at what you have, and while slow with the royalties, are very nice to work with.

I do enjoy our group, and have learned much from our members. Wish we had some members in Michigan's U.P. where the weather is cold and gets colder.

Debbie: Do you have other books or projects currently on the horizon?

Bernadine: Just the one mentioned above.

Debbie: Any upcoming appearances?

Bernadine: I have not done many appearances since moving to the U.P.

Debbie: Your favorite place in Michigan?

Bernadine: There are so many 'favorite' places in Michigan, Greenfield Village, Mackinac Island, Tahquamenon Falls, etc. But if I had to pick just one in which to spend a day, it would be The Hartwick Pines, off I-75 near Houghton Lake. There is a little church there at the end of a trail, lumbering museum, and, of course, the pines! An original stand of the most beautiful trees I've ever seen.

Debbie: Favorite Michigan event or happening?

Bernadine: The walk across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day each year. I've walked it twice.

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

Bernadine: More than a few fun people are those on the list serve in the SCBWI-Michigan chapter.

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

Bernadine: That whatever it is you want to find, you can most likely find it in Michigan.

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

Bernadine: I like to be called a Michigander. I can't be an honest to goodness 'Yooper,' as I have only been in the U.P. four years. I believe the true 'Yoopers' are those who were born here.

I'd love to hear from any of those who might want to visit with me.

Debbie: Bernadine, it's been a true pleasure and honor. I still have my much loved, very tattered copy of The Little Fish That Got Away from my own childhood. What a joy to have hosted its author here today!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Bit of Silliness

For no particular reason, the classic "Green Apples and Bananas" song popped into my brain at breakfast this morning. In case you're not familiar with it, it starts out something like this:

I like to eat,
I like to eat,
I like to eat green apples and bananas.

I like to eat,
I like to eat,
I like to eat green apples and bananas.


And then comes the fun! In subsequent singings of the song stanzas, one changes all the vowel sounds to Long A; then Long E; then Long I; O; and U. The E verse is particularly fun:

Ee leek tee eat,
Ee leek tee eat,
Ee leek tee eat green eeples eend beeneenies.

This is one of those songs that seems like it's always been around, but I wonder if the original creator is identifiable? I plan to nose around into it later (curiosity always gets the better of me), but if anyone knows the origins of the song, be sure to chime in with that info.

Update: Most sources indicate "traditional" or "unknown" as the lyrics author. The United States Copyright Office has a renewal registration for "Apples and Bananas," indicating "w Johnny Mercer, 1909-1976 & others, m Frank Scott," which, if it's the song in question, I would interpret as "words by Johnny Mercer and others, music by Frank Scott." So it could be Johnny Mercer was one of the first people to officially write down the lyrics, though "& others" would seem to indicate the lyrics were in general use and not attributable to one person. Like tracking down Mother Goose origins, I have a feeling the original author would be nearly impossible to identify.