Saturday, December 27, 2008

Middle Kid Stuff

I found this video clip where Dave Catrow talks about being an editorial cartoonist. It's kind of fun to see him live on video. I'm obviously thrilled to have him illustrating THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES.

To view the clip, click here.

Yesterday my sister was giving me a hard time about writing a "middle child" book when I'm an oldest child. Well, let's just say that being the oldest child put me in the position of hearing all the middle-kid complaints, so I know them well. And, being a mother of seven means I've got five middle kids of my own. But hey, I HAVE written an "oldest kid" manuscript which is currently being evaluated by an editor, and I would love to write a "youngest child" story as well. We'll see if I get lucky enough to see them in print.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

News

I was excited to learn that COOL DADDY RAT has been chosen as a 2008 “Blue Ribbon” Book by the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. It was one of twelve picture books chosen for the year. Click HERE to see the web page with the announcement.


My editor at Putnam emailed me four pages of full-color illustrations by David Catrow for MIDDLE CHILD BLUES. They are fantastic. He’s very talented, and I’m so lucky to be connected to his great talent.


I also received my official contract from Scholastic for SKELETON CAT. However, last week I learned that my editor (the one who acquired the manuscript and was so enthusiastic about it) is leaving to work for Hyperion. She’s not taking the manuscript with her; she’s leaving it with a different editor at Scholastic. So I’m waiting to hear from the new editor, and these transitions are always a bit scary. As an author you hope that a new editor will love it as much as the previous one did, and will have a similar vision. I’m confident Scholastic will take good care of the bony ol’ cat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Unwrapped Gifts

I’ve had a weird “blog writers block” going on. There’s so much to write about, I don’t know where to begin. It’s kind of like the state of the laundry in my house. Where do I start? I guess the answer is, somewhere, anywhere.

Snow is back. Once again we’re slipping and sliding on the roads, scraping windshields, and finding that our van has slid down the driveway and is blocking the street. Winter. Yet, it’s also breathtakingly beautiful. There’s a quiet stillness at night that is so nice. I took some photos of my kids, all dressed up to play in the snow. My sons built an ice slide and used a cardboard box to surf down it. There are icicles on my back window.

The children are MORE than ready for Christmas, but I am not. This is a wonderful holiday but a huge undertaking for a mom of seven. So many gifts to wrap. So many cards to send. So many cookies to bake. I ordered quite a few gifts on Ebay several weeks ago that still haven’t arrived. A little scary, but I’m hanging on to hope.

One of my favorite occasions is the wee hours of Christmas morning. I like it before the chaos, when it’s still and quiet, the tree is blinking in the semi-darkness, and presents circle the tree and pile up into the living room. There’s the excitement of knowing the children will be waking soon. Anticipation. Glee. The opening of presents is so fun, but in my life I’ve learned that some gifts are not wrapped in holiday paper and tied up with a ribbon. Here are a few of my favorite unwrapped gifts I’ve received recently:


1. The gift of a dance. A teenager girl I hardly know gave me a wondrous gift. She took my son Kyle, who is autistic, to a dance. She wore a fancy flowing dress and did her hair beautifully. She held his hand and danced with him. I took a few pictures, and I cried. I remember when he was a toddler, lining up cars on the carpet. He had just been diagnosed with autism, and I grieved for all the things I thought he’d miss. “He’ll never go to a dance,” was one of my fears. So I’m sure she doesn’t know this, but that cute little blonde girl—cute enough to have the football jocks drooling over her—gave me and Kyle a present we’ll both never forget.

2. The gift of support. My oldest son was given a sniff of amyl-nitrate as a practical joke while at work. It made him feel a rush, then diziness. For ten minutes afterwards he had the strange sensation he was floating. When he told the truth about what happened, the entire work crew turned on him, calling him a tattletale and a “retard.” Only one friend offered support, and after they talked I could see the burden lift from my boy’s shoulders.

3. The gift of compassion. When my two stepdaughters lost their mother, baby sister, and unborn brother in a dreadful car crash, people came offering hugs, teddy bears, meals, and tears. The girls felt that there were people in the world who really cared about them, and that somehow, despite their pain, everything would be alright.


Notice how these gifts were for my children, and yet I consider them mine, too. It’s like that passage from the Bible, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these… ye have done it unto me.” I know what that means.


Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only [true] gift is a portion of thyself."


I had my children draw each other’s names from a hat and instructed them to secretly do a nice thing each day for the person they chose. It’s been fun watching the paper snowflakes magically appear on someone’s ceiling, or the beds being made when nobody's looking.

Unwrapped gifts. They’re the best ones of all.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOURS!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Life is Good; I Want My Junior Mints

Last Wednesday night I went to a hockey game with my husband. I’m not exactly a sports fanatic, but it was pretty fun. I really enjoyed watching the goalies do their thing. They come out onto the ice and do this weird chopping action with their legs to rough-up the ice around them. Then they keep their eye on the puck at all times—moving a bit like transformer robots. They’re very focused. The other players seem to shimmy on and off the ice in a dance, some leaving the rink and others replacing them in a constant ebb and flow. Our team was the Grizzlies, and they were playing—get this—the Salmon Kings. So every time we scored, there was a live action shot of an enormous grizzly shaking a wiggling salmon in his teeth. That, and the loud blast of a train horn. Cool.

Now let me back up just a bit. In order to park at the stadium we needed to pay a five dollar parking fee, and I almost never carry cash on me. So we turned around and lost our place in line, driving through town to find an ATM. After going quite a distance from the stadium, we found a seven-eleven. I withdrew a twenty dollar bill, then bought a king-size box of Junior Mints in order to get change. I put them in my purse.

We parked at the stadium, entered the area, went up the stairs, and were met by a twenty-something lady who said, “Can I check your bags?” Now silly me, I thought we might get delayed because of my husband’s gun. He’s a police officer, and ever since the shooting at Trolley Square he has vowed to never go anywhere unarmed. But were they concerned about his gun? Not a bit. “The Junior Mints can’t go into the stadium,” she said.

“Bu…but…I only bought these Junior Mints so I could have change to park,” I said pleadingly.

“Sorry. The Junior Mints can’t go.”

“So…I’m supposed to just throw this huge box of Junior Mints in the trash?”

“They can’t come into the arena.”

Well, you’ve gotta be sheep-dipping me. I can carry a loaded weapon into a hockey arena, but not a box of Junior Mints?

“Here,” she said, “Just put them right by the turnstile, and hopefully they’ll be there when the game is over.”

Yeah, right.

Now, this is one of those moments in life I wish I could re-live. If I could go back in time I would have opened the box, dumped as many junior mints as would fit in my mouth, and poured all the rest into my husband’s mouth, then drooled chocolate down my chin as I went through the turnstile, smiling. Instead I left the box there and climbed the stairs without my precious box of 79-cent mints. Ahhhh, the sting of regret.

Later I learned why the JMs weren’t allowed. A menu in our booth showed Junior Mints for sale…for TWELVE dollars a box. Twelve bucks! That means the moment I left, that twenty-something chick was doing a hoola dance and auctioned off my Junior Mints to the highest bidder. Either that, or she casually ate them up as she inspected other people’s bags. That lady has a great job. Go to the stadium, search people’s bags, stockpile candy, auction them off for cold hard cash, and disappear into the catacombs.

BTW--I had a lovely Thanksgiving with nearly 30 people in my home. The turkey was delicious, the décor and company were fab. Life is good.

And I want my Junior Mints.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Fun Surprise...

My editor just forwarded me four color sketches by David Catrow for our upcoming book, THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES. I am ecstatic. I laughed out loud at almost every picture; the humor he creates is terrific. Middle-kid Lee's got the blues and it really shows. Wish I could show you here, but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to. When (if) I get a thumbs-up, I'll give you a sneak peek.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

SCBWI Inside Children's Publishing Conference


Today I had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators "Inside Children's Publishing" Conference. I and three other new authors talked about our paths to getting published and the marketing strategies we are currently using.

Last night I attended a dessert reception at the Patrick Moore Gallery in Salt Lake City. A bunch of us SCBWI members shmoozed, talked, and generally got aquainted with each other. The atmosphere reminded me a bit of my former life in New York City...being surrounded by art and creative-thinkers on a dark night, with jazz playing soulfully in the background, accompanied by the ambient sounds of city traffic. I met some hopeful writers and illustrators, and it was a pleasure to talk to them.

I will be doing a story-time and book signing at the Layton Barnes and Noble next Saturday, November 22nd. I would love to see you there!

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

Okay, for my 99th post, I decided to impart some wisdom. This is vital, urgent, life-and-death information. Well, not really, but it's still good stuff. Anyway, it seems like every year we have a fruit fly invasion, and finally, this year, I figured out an effective way to get rid of them. I'd heard all about fruit traps in a mason jar, leaving the windows open, vinegar and soap in a bowl, and yadda yadda. Nothing did the trick before. But I've got a better way.

What you need:

1. Something fruity to attact the flies to the same area.

2. A shop vac.


Heh heh. Yes, just use one of those high-powered super-suction shop vacs. Once the flies are concentrated around the fruit, stir them up so they start to swarm, and begin sucking away. The suction power is just too strong and they all disappear right out of the air. It took me about two minutes to eliminate them all--and I haven't seen once since.

Don't you just love the randomness of my blog?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I Vote for Heat Miser

Well, now that winter is nearly upon us, I thought I'd share a classic song from my childhood. It was so catchy and fun that it stuck with me. I think songs like this one influenced my picture book writing a whole bunch.




All the best to you,

Kristyn Crow, President
Snow Haters Club of America

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ten Reasons to Have an Author Visit Your Child's School

Having an author come to visit your child’s school is a wonderful thing. Here are ten reasons why:

1. When the school shows enthusiasm for an upcoming author visit, the students take the cue that books must be important. A buzz of excitement is created. Kids are then motivated to read that author's books in preparation for the visit.

2. When they meet an author, children discover that he/she is a real person, not just a name on a book cover. They then feel a more personal, human connection with books.

3. With advance notice, most authors in their presentations can address particular topics that highlight a school's individual literacy curriculum or program. For example, the "The Six Traits of Writing," or a literacy theme. This unites the teachers with the author in a common message.

4. The author visit is a break from the routine, a "surprise," a "celebration," a "special guest," and FUN associated with reading, rather than work.

5. The author's books can be sold, in many cases, at greatly reduced prices if a school purchases them in bulk for a visit. (Not required.) Or parents can order books in advance at deeply discounted rates. Then the students can go home with a lasting souvenir of the event, and even have it signed by the author they met. A further reading incentive!

6. Authors can provide teachers with additional activities or lesson plans that the children can use in class to build on the experience in the weeks after the visit is over.

7. Reluctant or at-risk readers can be motivated to read a book when they’ve met the author.

8. An author visit is an excellent way to kick off a literacy event, such as a book fair, a junior author's fair, a literacy night/week, or to reward students who have achieved reading goals.

9. Authors who spend time at schools can teach children many things, like how to brainstorm ideas, get a creative stream flowing, and improve their reading/writing skills.

10. Authors can act as mentors to children by modeling goal-setting, hard work, and determination.

To learn about how to have an author visit your school, click here.

To book Kristyn Crow for a school visit, click here.

Read about one of my special school visits by clicking here.


My reason for this post--I went to an elementary school yesterday to do an author presentation. When I arrived at the school, the literacy facilitator warned me that there was a mother who was upset about my visit. She didn't know me at all, but just heard an author was coming to the school. She called the office and asked what the reason was for author visits. She felt that authors don't give a hoot about the students but only want to make a buck selling their books. She didn't think it was right for us to "peddle our wares" to the kids. I was told this angry mom planned to attend my assembly and might even "heckle" me.

Sheesh.

Well, I felt very sad about this. I'm sad there are people out there that misunderstand the purpose of an author visit. I spent more than a year on my presentation and had purchased some cool rhythm instruments to teach the children rhythm in language, which studies have shown can improve reading skills. My assemblies are a lot of fun for the kids, and other than read my books to them I do nothing to "peddle" my books. School visits rarely make an author lots of money in books sales. The experience is all about getting children excited about reading.

Fortunately, the assembly was a success and the kids had a lot of fun!! I don't know what happened to the disgruntled mom, but I think I may know why she's unhappy. There are some authors who are traveling around blitzing schools in a particular areas (free visits) where the emphasis is solely on advertising the books. I fear that these "free" visits might do some damage to other authors who aren't merely pushing book sales and could really use some compensation for their time and effort to prepare an educational presentation. I'll write more about the problem with "free" author visits later.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Trouble with Writing a Picture Book Manuscript in Verse

Yesterday I presented at a writer’s conference with Rick Walton in Salt Lake City. Rick and I discussed topics such as what makes a good picture book, picture book structure, how to market your manuscript, etc. Participants got to pass out a manuscript to the group and get a thorough critique.


I remember one particular manuscript vividly, because the writing style was somewhat similar to my own. There was rhythm, rhyme, and word play. Every line of text was filled with internal rhymes that made the reader do a vocal fox trot. Fun. The trouble was that the story itself had some problems. It was a bit too complex for a picture book and needed editing. Maybe a whole lot of editing. But if she whittled away the complex stuff and stuck with her silly, core story, she might just have a fabulous chance with it.

Yet I heaved a sigh for this writer.

A heavy sigh.

That’s because verse can be so terribly tricky to write in the first place. In order to make the sweeping changes we were suggesting, I knew she was not only going to have to edit and refocus her story, but she would have to start all over again picking apart the rhyming words and finding new ones to fit the revised plot. It was like we’d just taken her finished jigsaw puzzle and dumped it all over the floor. I know how that feels.

If you write in rhyme and enjoy playing with words like I do, you know what I mean. I’ve often spent hours on a single word in a rhyming manuscript. Each one has to fit into the meter you’ve set up, which means the word must have the right cadence and the right stressed syllable. It really is like working on a jigsaw puzzle of letters and sounds.

Writing in verse creates layers of additional work when you revise the manuscript. And using internal rhyme creates more layers. For example, COOL DADDY RAT was particularly challenging because when an editor suggested the rat “needed a girlfriend,” (and there wasn’t one already in the text), adding her upset all my word dominoes. Now I’d have to say different things in the story, which would call for new rhyming words, which would call for new internal rhymes to match them. Later, when I was told the girlfriend didn’t work and I decided to add Ace, the dominoes were upset again: new things to say, new rhyming words, new internal rhymes to match.

So if you’ve decided to write a children’s book manuscript in verse, think first about the reasons why. Rhyme should feel integral to the story so that it somehow compliments or facilitates the action. For example, in COOL DADDY RAT, I used scat verse to liven up the text and put the reader into the jazzy music scene. When you read the manuscript, you are right there, performing with the characters. In BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP, the repeated refrain is a scary sound heard by the characters in the story. If you’re writing in rhyme for no particular reason, I’d suggest you rethink. It’s just too tedious to revise. Besides, you’ll have to make sure of the following:

1. You haven’t become a slave to the verse, choosing words you wouldn’t otherwise consider, just because you’ve gotta rhyme the thing.

2. You haven’t made it so predictable and cheesy it sounds like a television jingle.


3. It’s not monotonous like a music box that repeats the same goofy tune.

4. That the words flow easily, even for your most rhythmically-challenged readers. Nobody should “trip” their tongue on the text.

5. That it wouldn’t just--darn it—be better in prose.

6. That the editor wants to see rhyme. Many say they don't.


If you do decide to take on the challenge of writing in verse, create a good skeletal outline of your story BEFORE working through the tricky mechanics of the rhyme. If your basic story premise doesn’t work, you’ll eventually end up with your puzzle pieces on the floor.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ten Things...

Ten things that make me happy:

1. Reading a good book.
2. Hugging my kids, or watching them perform.
3. Admiring the colorful autumn trees.
4. Writing a story that somebody else likes.
5. Being loved unconditionally by someone I can trust.
6. Chocolate.
7. Talking to extended family on the phone.
8. The first snowfall.
9. The last snowfall.
10. Disneyland - The Indiana Jones Ride.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

That's Why I'm Easy (Like Sunday Mornin')




What can I say? I'm a proud mom. Here are two of my sons, rehearsing for a talent show. There's a lot of music in our house. Sunday mornings are never easy, and this one was particularly hard. So the song is a bit ironic.

The Orem Barnes and Noble signing last Friday night was fun. It's always great seeing fellow authors/illustrators like Sharlee Glenn (who I got to share a "zone" with) and Nathan Hale, Julie Olsen, Guy Francis, and Rick Walton, who didn't stay for the signing but met us for dinner.

I've got a good number of school visits lined up for the next eight months. Should be fun.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

To be a Flourisher...


Alright, so I read this article on msn.com about longevity, and it gave ten signs that you will live longer than you might think. Most of the signs had to do with health…the foods you eat, how much exercise you get, etc. But then there was one sign of longevity which said, “You’re a flourisher.” Hmmm. A flourisher? I hadn’t heard that word used quite like that before. The article quoted Corey Keyes, Ph.D., who said, "We should strive to flourish, to find meaning in our lives." A flourisher is someone who lives life to the fullest, but with a purpose. A flourisher becomes passionate about using his/her own gifts and talents to make the world a better place.

I know in my first marriage I wasn’t a flourisher. My life was all about hitching a ride on someone else’s back…someone whose life dreams I assumed were more important than my own. With that mindset, I believed I was put on this earth to service him and to take care of the kids and to support him in his career. My own goals and dreams had little importance. And rather than flourish, I languished.

I believe the challenge is for each of us to determine what our individual purpose is for being alive. And if we just aren’t sure, well, then we have to take up a cause—something “virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy,” and while we’re doing that, we’ll be lead in the direction we’re supposed to go. (And hey, in the mean time our days are well spent.) It’s got to be a very personal, individual thing—something that would still be a passion, goal or dream even if our spouses died or abandoned us, if our kids grew up and left the house, if our friends turned their backs.

I’ve heard about people who reach that moment of epiphany where they say to themselves, “This is it; this is why I was put on this planet. I’m doing the thing I came here to do.”

Here’s hoping every one of us gets to have one of those moments. At least one, before time runs out.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

introspection

I have to admit, I'm haunted by the car accident that killed my stepdaughters' mother and little sister. I keep hearing the horrific sound of crushing glass and metal in my head, even though I wasn’t there that awful night.

I imagine myself in the driver’s seat and wonder what she saw and felt in those final moments. The sheer unfairness of the whole thing bothers me. By what forces in the universe is one person allowed to live when another must die? Is every second I’m still here, alive and breathing, a moment stolen from her? Surely she would have wanted to live, to watch her two little ones and her older daughters marry and have children of their own. She would have wanted to be at their weddings, graduations, and the births of their children. Why were those opportunities taken from her, for no apparent reason? I don’t feel worthy of such grand entitlements, especially when they were rightfully hers.

It’s a sobering thought that a person can be driving home one evening with her child strapped in her car seat, and in a flash, everything ends. Such a harsh reality makes me consider how I'm spending my time. Am I doing enough that makes a difference? Am I using my time wisely? If my life ended today, what things have I left unsaid or undone? Did I owe someone a heartfelt apology? Did every one of my kids know that I loved them completely? Would people look back on my life and proclaim that I was “good?”


Two young mothers in my very extended family (both in their early thirties), are having double mastectomies in the next few days. One has lymph node involvement and one doesn’t. They are both now facing cancer, the wretched beast that claimed my mother’s life. So I ponder. Why? Why them? Of course, they are both surrounded with love and family support and each one is now acutely aware of the beautiful blessings in her life. Is this what death—or its looming presence—is supposed to teach us? To draw closer to each other? To be appreciative? Why is it that the more delicate, fragile, and temporary something seems, the more precious it becomes?

Today I am resolved to have more gratitude.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Need a Job, So I Wanna Be a Paperback Writer

The Beatles knew all about writers. (Shut off my music player on the right margin before playing this clip.)




I used to be soooo jealous of my younger sister, Michele, because there was a Beatles song with her name in the title. And there was FRENCH in the song. And it was a LOVE song. Life isn't fair.

OCTOBER EVENTS:

17th - I'll be signing books at the Orem Barnes and Noble from 7:00 p.m. until closing. Come say hello.

24th - I'll be at the Layton Barnes and Noble with twelve other authors, from 5:00 p.m. until late. Would love to see you there.

25th - I'll be putting on a picture book workshop with Rick Walton, to help fund our book for kids with juvenile diabetes.

30th - E.G. King Elementary's "Spooky Literacy Night." (Layton, Utah.) I'll be there to present and sign books from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., with authors/illustrators Mike Knudson, Will Terry, and Nathan Hale. Come check out what goofy costume I end up wearing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Tidbits and the LAYTON AUTHORPALOOZA

It’s interesting to be working with three different publishers. It seems like there’s always something different going on with each one. Right now I’m sending some receipts to Putnam for the postcards I ordered, and I’m waiting for a disk with digital images from Harper, so I can read Bedtime at the Swamp on the big screen when I visit schools. Scholastic just contacted me, welcoming me aboard, which was great fun. I cannot WAIT to see who they select as illustrator for that book. (No, I don’t get to choose. They did ask for my suggestions, which is a huge compliment. But they have final say.) I did make a couple of recommendations, and we’ll see what happens.

I am helping to set up an “Authorpalooza” at the Layton, Utah Barnes and Noble. It should be fun…I always worry that there will be a snag and somebody’s books won’t arrive on time or something. Hopefully all will go well. But there will be (so far) THIRTEEN authors there, signing their books. YA GOTTA COME! The date is Friday evening, October 24th, 2008. Here are the list of authors planning to attend:

Ann Cannon
Randall Wright
Sharlee Glenn
Rick Walton
Will Terry (Illustrator)
Becky Hickox
Anne Bowen
Wendy Toliver
Ken Baker
Kristyn Crow
Carla Morris
Mette Harrison
Greg Newbold (Illustrator)

Come spend a Friday evening with some cool authors (I know, I know, I’m only a tiny bit cool, and that’s only when I buy my kids something) and get some signed books!

I’m also setting up some school visits. I’m going to have kids clunking and clanking out a beat to my book, Bedtime at the Swamp. Splish splash rumba-rumba bim bam BOOM!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Mother's Letter

When my mother died I used to wish that a letter would arrive mysteriously one day in the mailbox. It would have no return address, and would say all the things I needed to hear for reassurance. Now that my stepdaughters have lost their mother so tragically, I want to fulfill that wish for them.



My Dear Babies,

Your stepmother Kris is writing this letter for me only because I cannot. There is so much that I need you to know and understand, and mothers have a deeply spiritual connection. So I hope you will understand if my words must come through her. Otherwise, I am silenced.

I did not mean for this to happen. This was not my choice. I did not ever choose to leave you while you're still so young. Sometimes in this life we are forever changed by the poor choices of others. You are my babies, and will always be. My death doesn't change this. I have loved you from the first moment I knew you were growing within me and will always love you, forever, without end. I have enjoyed every moment we've shared together, every laugh, every song, every recipe, every errand, every snuggle. I loved watching you grow from tiny babies into toddlers, and from toddlers into little girls, from little girls into beautiful young ladies. I am so very proud of who you both have become. It was especially wonderful to see you be such caring big sisters.

I hope you know that I will continue to watch you grow and learn and experience life from my new perspective. I am here with Bo and Sam and they are happy and at peace. We miss you so very much, but we are with you in spirit at all times. In the quiet moments, close your eyes and you will feel us close beside you. Our love has not been extinguished. Love is a force far more powerful than death. You have three guardian angels that will be watching over you for the rest of your lives, loving you.

It is important for me to tell you that I will see you again. This life is not the end. It's just a short moment in the scheme of eternity. There will be a joyous day when I will get to hold you again and see your faces and tell you about the many wondrous things I am experiencing. I will tell you all about the milestones I saw you reach in life and how I helped you from afar. I will tell you funny stories of Bo and Sam and they will be so very glad to see you. What a wonderful day that will be!

Until then, remember I am with you. Remember that I love you. Have a good life where you make good choices. Help other people and give service. Do the things that bring you true happiness and peace. Follow your dreams. Use your talents. Think carefully before you act. You are my legacy, which means that your good lives will honor me, Bo, and Sam. Be sure to show respect and gratitude to all the people who care for you and provide for you. Always be grateful. There is so much to appreciate in life. You have so many people who love you.

More than anything else, I want you to be happy.


And remember me.

With all my heart,

Mom

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Tragic Event

A phone call can change your life. Yesterday I got two.

The first one came in the afternoon, a cause for celebration because I had sold a manuscript I'd worked on for a very long time.

The second phone call came at 1:00 in the morning. It was the grandmother of my two step-daughters, letting me know that their pregnant mother and two-year-old baby sister had just been killed in a head-on collision. Their mother was killed instantly, but the toddler survived for one hour. My husband got out of bed and came hurrying down the hall when he heard the sound of my voice. He knew something terrible had happened. When I told him his former wife and her daughter had been killed, he fell to his knees and sobbed. The two of us spent the rest of the night awake, surviving bouts of crying and holding each other. My husband knew that when morning came, he'd have to tell his daughters their mother, baby sister, and unborn brother had all died. How does a father do this? How does he break their hearts? How do parents guide their children safely down a path of horror and anguish?

And then I was struck with the notion that I had now become the only mother these girls would have on this earth. The reality of that hit me hard. Surely I would fall short of their expectations and needs. Would they see me every day and be reminded that their real mother wasn't here? How could I come through for them in this devastating time?


Here is the news link to this terrible event.


There is sorrow in our home today. But there is love, and there is hope.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

From Beneath the Graveyard Mist...Comes....

My agent called today to let me know that Scholastic had made an offer to purchase my picture book manuscript, THE SKELETON CAT! I am incredibly happy!

They've even got an illustrator in mind. He's someone who has done a lot of work for them. However, my agent is suggesting another one. (I didn't know agents could suggest illustrators. Interesting.) I'll let you know when that has been decided. Now, THIS is strange, but they actually were asking my opinion about an illustrator. Wow. That's new. Usually I'm informed after the fact. Most people are surprised to learn how little say we authors have in the art portion of the book.

From what I hear, my agent is currently negotiating audio rights and other stuff. I don't know about all that. I'm just glad she handles this contractual things so I don't have to.

So who is the Skeleton Cat?

THE SKELETON CAT has already lived out his nine lives, and gets ONE more chance (now as a skeleton) to finally live his dream! But will he make it in the living world? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bedtime at the Swamp Review: School Library Journal

I just received the review for Bedtime at the Swamp from School Library Journal. Very cool! Thought I'd share:


CROW, Kristyn. Bedtime at the Swamp. illus. by Macky Pamintuan. unpaged. HarperCollins. Aug. 2008. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-083951-2; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-083952-9. LC number unavailable.

PreS-Gr 1–In this swampy tale set “’neath the fat gold moon,” a boy describes what he repeatedly hears: “Splish splash, rumba-rumba, bim bam BOOM!” With shaking hands and a pounding heart, he races through the “sludgy slime” with the mysterious creature at his heels before taking refuge in the branches of a willow tree. The boy’s siblings come to retrieve him, followed by two cousins, but all end up high in the tree out of reach of the monster. Then just within arm’s grasp of their dreaded adversary, the boy’s mother calls for everyone to return; she understands all too well a kid’s playful imagination and orders everyone, including “the monster,” to get home and take a bath before bed. Lively, colorful cartoon characters set in inky black or deep blue moonlit scenes and offset by crisp, white pages add energy and suspense to the story. The repetitive chorus, a simple rhyming story line that will draw readers in, and the perennial appeal of books that are just “scary” enough make this title an appropriate addition.–Marian Creamer, Children’s Literature Alive, Portland, OR

Monday, September 1, 2008

BREAKING DAWN - What's the Deal?

So, I’ve heard that BREAKING DAWN is a huge disappointment. Hate groups. Death threats. "Return 'em, don't burn 'em." Why? Is it the quality of the writing, or what happens to the characters, or both, that have people's nostrils smoking?

If you hated the book, I’d like to know why. I haven’t read it yet, so I’m assuming with the negativity there must be a SERIOUSLY un-happily ever after for Edward and Bella. Give it to me straight.

Or if you L-O-V-E-D it, what do you think all the fuss is about?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Summer's OOOoooo-VER


We had a great summer, and our Disneyland trip was a definite highlight. We had two days and an overnight at the Staybridge suites. It was fabulous. We went on every ride, and many rides we went on multiple times. The Indiana Jones ride, for example...we probably went on that ride nine or ten times, no joke. We loved checking out California Adventure and really enjoyed the Soarin' over California ride. Here are some fun pictures--notice how I'm strategically absent. School starts Monday. Too bad, so sad.



































Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The SKETCHES arrived! Hooray!

Last week I was thrilled to receive David Catrow's sketches for our upcoming book, THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES. He is incredibly talented, and I'm very excited for this book. The sketch above (remember these are rough, to get the layout correct, etc.) made me laugh out loud. Our hero, Lee, is mad that his older brother can order from the adult menu and his sister gets a meal with a kiddie toy. (As you can see, she's shot him in the forehead with it.) Mom and Dad are still ordering at Jack in the Bun. What fun!

I also found out that one of my manuscripts has now been moved to an acquisitions meeting, which means it may be close to a sale. I'm crossing my fingers so hard, they're blue.

My kids are all home from their summer visits with their other parents. We're back to a full house. Noise. It's a great thing.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

David Catrow Sketches

Today I’m just like a little kid on Christmas eve...or a little kid standing in line at Disneyland. That’s because I’m about to get my first glimpse of David Catrow’s sketches for my upcoming book, THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES. My editor says the sample sketches should arrive Fed Ex today. Holy cow. Talk about exciting. Keep watching my blog, and maybe, just maybe I’ll give you a sneak peek.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Baby Mine, Don't You Cry

Today my five-year-old daughter started to cry, and said, “Mom, I don’t ever want to have babies, ever.”

And I said, “Why do you say that?”

“Because it hurts you. They have to cut your tummy with a knife. And that hurts a whole lot. I just don’t want to.”

I was speechless for a moment. Where had she heard about tummies being “cut?” I decided she’d probably seen one of these birthing television shows on A & E or something. It seems like childbirth is everywhere on T.V. these days.

“Well, honey, not all mommies have their tummies cut. And there’s medicine that makes it so it doesn’t hurt. Anyway, you don’t have to worry about that for a very long time.”

“Yeah,” she whined, “and then if I did have babies, you’d be old like a grandma and then you’d probably die. Just like your mom died when she was a grandma. And I don’t want you to die. So I don’t ever want to have babies. Never EVER!”

She tossed herself onto my bed in a heap, crying dramatically. I stroked her hair. I thought about my mother and her untimely death. I remember feeling like a five-year-old little girl when she died, even though I was a young adult.

There’s a scene in the movie “Dumbo” where the little elephant wants his mother, but she’s been banished and caged. His trunk reaches up to her desperately, and for a brief moment she's able to cradle him through the bars, rocking him to the song, “Baby Mine, Don’t You Cry.” But then she must slip away into the darkness, leaving him all alone. My mother’s death made me feel just that vulnerable and scared.

“I think someday you’ll change your mind,” I told my daughter. “Being a mommy is a wonderful thing. My mom loved being my mommy. And I love being your mommy.” I told her a little about the day she was born. And I said, “I’ve had lots of babies. And look, I’m fine. I survived. I’m here with you, and I’m happy.”

I didn’t mention the fact that she was indeed “cut” from my tummy, and that days after her birth I was rushed back to the hospital when the incision completely re-opened. Her birth and the recovery were very difficult. I also didn’t mention stuff like stretch marks, the pain of breastfeeding, the heartbreak of loss, the devastation of divorce and sick children and the many other things a mother might experience which make a “cut tummy” seem like a jog down the sidewalk. She’d have to find these things out on her own, after life toughens her up a bit. I hope she’ll be spared some of them, but certainly not the intermittent joy.

Moms are warriors, but we start out--and part of us will always remain--as scared little girls. Tonight I understood my daughter.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Torture Chamber

In case anybody was wondering, the business of writing picture books can be sheer torture. Torture I tell you, torture! It’s mostly the waiting that drives me insane. Since early February I’ve had a manuscript with two publishers—and each had given me good hope—but I’ve yet to hear anything from either one. Not a yes, not a no. Six months of waiting. It’s agonizing. I wait a few weeks, until I’m practically biting off my fingertips and then I finally cave in and write my agent. She’ll give me reassurances but no final word (if she doesn’t have one she can’t give it).

So we wait. Sometimes my agent makes a very polite inquiry with the editor who took the manuscript, and we might hear a tidbit or two about who’s currently looking at it and what the picture book sales “climate” is. But nothing about the final decision. I end-up waiting several more weeks, until we’re brave enough to make another inquiry. Sheeeesh. Meanwhile I write new stuff, filter it through my critique group, and send the best stuff to my agent. She rejects the majority of it. So I go from excitement over a new piece, to the awful belief that surely my last book will be my last book forever, and I could never write another worthwhile thing again if I tried every day of my life.

I’ve learned that a big part of a writer’s angst is the yearning for more. Because getting published doesn’t make it go away. There is no cure. Sure, there are episodes of exhilaration—but no end to the yearning. Another story, another book, another character, another idea. Searching, searching my brain files. Dry spells are unacceptable.

I wonder if J.K. Rowling is finally satisfied. I hope so. Please say there’s a hypothetical end to this madness.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

From the Secret Files of a Nutty Mother, Episode 1

Tonight I walked through a pitch-black park by a stream, and put a tablecloth on a picnic table. Then I set out a vase with flowers, lit two candles, put out four Ben and Jerry’s ice creams with spoons, and waited. I waited for the signal. It didn’t come.

I started to hear noises. You know, scary noises like rustling in the bushes, whistling, and footsteps. Where was the blasted signal? Darkness makes me nervous. And with the candles lit, my eyes could see absolutely nothing beyond ten feet of me. More sounds. Noises. Somebody breathing? I paced around a little, tempted to just leave. This was beyond the call of duty as a mother. I mean, please. Covert operations in the woods on a dark night? I’m too old for this.

Finally, the signal. A text jingle. I read the code letter. “D.” That’s all the text said. It meant “we’re standing by the duck pond.”

I texted my response. “A.” That meant, “I’m at the first location we chose. Plan A.” You see, we had to pick two locations in case one had been foiled. But in the original plan, he would arrive at the location at dusk. The candlelight was supposed to be enchanting, not eerie. They were supposed to see the rushing stream, not hear it and imagine it. He'd waited too long.

I hit “send,” and I ran. I left the candles burning in their glass containers, and I ran through the black night, my stomach in knots. That was really scary, and I’m not even sure why.

I jogged around the corner where I had hidden my van. There was my teenage son’s car, parked by the curb. His car and nobody else’s. Hmmmm. He was supposed to be bringing his date and another couple. This little romantic candlelight thing was a surprise for the end of the double date. But the other couple would be in a separate car. Where was it? Had my son hoodwinked me?

For a moment, I didn’t care. I just didn’t like being at the park at night, clear back from the road, deep in the trees, by a rushing stream. I’ve seen too many slasher films, I suppose. So I got in my van and drove off. Mission accomplished.

As I pulled into my driveway, I thought, that might just have been the nuttiest thing I’ve ever done as a mom. No, no, wait—I’m sure there are nuttier things. Give me a moment and I’ll think of something else.

At home, I waited fifteen minutes and sent another text. No code letter this time. Real words. “You were supposed to be with another couple. Five more minutes, then come home.”

Covert operations or not, I’m not a shmutz.

"Sorry. The other couple couldn't stay," he responded.

"Five minutes. Then home."

Friday, August 1, 2008

Releases, Reprints, and Realities

I walked into Deseret Book the other day, and there was BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP, staring me in the face. Hey, that was unexpected but very cool! So if you’re looking for a copy, try Deseret. It’s curious to me because they never carried COOL DADDY RAT. Not sure how these decisions are made.

Yesterday my editor at HarperCollins emailed me, saying she was “very happy” to report that only one week after its release, BEDTIME is already into its first reprint! I guess that’s good news, as far as sales go.

Now everybody around these parts is getting ready for the release of BREAKING DAWN, by Stephenie Meyer. I can’t help but wonder what it must be like to be her. She’s got fame, fortune, and a movie in the works. This was a girl who graduated from BYU, a young LDS mom who loved to write. Did she ever imagine this? How has it affected her family? I’d love to talk to her, mom to mom, someday.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Baby Book Big Laughs



This Brian Regan clip made me laugh. His delivery is so great. Note 1: With this kind of supremely-basic baby book he's referring to, in real life the author is probably also the illustrator, so s/he created not only the text but the whole book concept. Either that, or a staff writer or editor chose very simple text for a specific type of baby book the publisher wanted to make. Note 2: To my (somewhat limited) knowledge, there is no millionaire out there whose claim to fortune was writing the text for board books at two words per page. Unless he owns the whole publishing house, too. Note 3: Owls absolutely do say "hoot." You just have to listen really, really, really hard, at night, in a forest surrounding a dark medieval castle.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

BURSTIN' THROUGH THE CATTAILS




"Then OUT of the darkness stomped my dear old MA! She burst through the cattails and she cried, 'AHA! I've been tryin' to get you children home to bed, and I find you a-hidin' in this tree instead!"





(If you haven't read "Bedtime at the Swamp" you won't get that.) Anyway, we went camping this week and slept in a tent by a number of enormous ponds, where dragonflies darted around and frogs croaked, catfish slurped, and cattails grew. Kinda swampy.


It was a fun getaway from everything...and kinda strange to only have one child in my charge instead of seven. Although, my youngest daughter can be quite the drama queen at times. Five kids in one.





GOOD TIMES.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hangin' Out Wid Da Peeps


This is the cool crowd of authors (and one editor) I got to hang out with at the "Writing for Charity" conference at the Salt Lake City Library. (Thanks, Shannon, for letting me copy this photo from your site.)

Front row from left: Kimberly Heuston, Shannon Hale, Chris Schoebinger, Brandon Mull.

Middle row from left: Ann Cannon, Me, Sydney Salter, Becky Hickox, Anne Bowen, Laura Hickman, Mette Harrison, Ann Dee Ellis and baby-to-be.

Top row from left: Scott Francine, Wendy Toliver, Mike Knudson, Tracy Hickman.


So I went to Barnes and Noble today, to look for Bedtime at the Swamp. Wasn't there. On their computers, it still says "Not Available, Pre-Order," which means they don't even have it at their warehouse yet. Hmmm. So much for these release dates. I've learned they don't mean a whole heckuva lot. That's okay, though, because when B&N realized I was the author of the book they made arrangements for a story time/book signing. Fun!

The Provo Library gave Cool Daddy Rat a very nice review. To read it, click here. I'm also planning to do a reading there at some point. Spoke with the director at the ALA conference.

Monday, July 21, 2008

This Widget will Self-Destruct in One Hour

I remember it was about three weeks before Christmas, 2005, and I was sitting in my living room decorating the tree, when the telephone rang. It was a long distance number--looked like California--but I wasn’t sure.

“Hello?”

It was my agent, with her distinctive voice that I knew about as well as Charlie’s Angels know the voice of their boss. (Like the angels, I still have no face to put with the voice.) “Merry Christmas,” she said, and I thanked her…thinking she was just making a friendly call. But then again, she’s far too busy for friendly calls. “I just sold Bedtime at the Swamp to HarperCollins,” she said, and told me the amount of the advance. I was absolutely stunned. “That’s wonderful!” I said, my voice cracking with emotion. “Oh my gosh…that’s just wonderful! Thank you! Thank you so much!” I heard her voice respond with a bit of emotion, too. Afterwards I came into the kitchen, crying, and hung up the phone. My husband hadn’t heard my conversation and immediately felt fear—that I must have received some awful news. I told him what happened, and he breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Soon we were dancing around the house. What a wonderful Christmas gift.

I hope this book will be a fun read-aloud where children can echo the refrain back to the reader. I’ve just purchased some cool rhythm instruments and hope kids can bang and clank out a fun beat to the story. I cannot believe we are down to the end of this ticker widget, just hours from release time. I’m curious what the widget does at the zero hour. Explode with confetti? Turn black? Just say, “In stores now?” We’ll see.

If you do get a copy, thank you, and…enjoy.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Writing For Charity a Wheelin' Success!

Today was the writing for charity conference at the Salt Lake City Library. It was great! There were about 100 people in attendance. We started out sitting together as authors for a panel discussion where Shannon Hale guided us in some questions about writing, getting published, and dealing with writer’s block. Then we broke into workshop sessions based on our particular writing genre. It was fun hearing the conference attendees read their manuscripts and giving each other feedback. I had a touching moment where I read a manuscript written by a young girl—I’m guessing she was twelve or thirteen. Her manuscript was quite good, especially considering her age. She had these beautiful eager eyes and I could feel her dreams of being an author beaming through. It reminded me of the dreams I had as a young girl. Oh how I hoped I would be published! Her mother was right beside her, supporting her in every way. I will be very surprised if she doesn’t have all her wishes come true.

Today’s conference earned approximately $5400 for the Wheelchair Project. Shannon Hale is planning another conference next year, perhaps for another charity. I’d be thrilled to be a part of it.

Afterwards I had a great time having lunch with many of the authors who came. The only bad thing was walking down the sidewalks of Salt Lake City in 98-degree heat, wearing high heels, and carrying a 25-pound bag of picture books. SOMEBODY (initials RW) lead us to a defunct address and we were hopelessly lost in the city. Earlier I had considered bringing my luggage bag on wheels, but thought, no--I'll just be parking right at the library. Never could have imagined a ten-block sauna trek. The lovely Wendy Toliver helped me carry my massive bag, spelling me by switching off with me every other block. She is a true sweetheart! Thanks, Wendy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Writing for Charity - THIS Saturday!

THIS Saturday, come hang out with a whole bunch of children's book authors!

If you haven't registered yet, just show up and pay at the door. This is a fabulous opportunity for anyone interested in writing for children, and it's all for a good cause--The Wheelchair Project.

When: Saturday, July 19, 9 am to 1 pm
Where: Salt Lake Main Library, 200 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, Utah
Cost: $45 (should be tax deductible!)
Event breakdown:
9:00 am -- Registration
9:15 - 10:15 am -- Panel discussion in the auditorium
10:30 - 11:15 -- Break out discussions in topic groups
11:30 - 1:00 -- Small group workshops

Authors:

Realistic fiction: Mike Knudson, Sydney Salter, Anne Cannon
Picture Books: Kristyn Crow, Rebecca Hickox, Anne Bowen, Rick Walton
Fantasy: Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, Tracy & Laura Hickman, Mette Harrison

Monday, July 7, 2008

First Bedtime at the Swamp Review

I was excited to find the Kirkus review today, and wanted to share:


"Sitting in the moonlit swamp with his West Highland white terrier, a boy hears, "Splish splash / rumba-rumba / bim bam BOOM!" and knows it's a swamp monster. He high-tails it up a willow, but his sister comes to tell him Ma wants him home for bedtime. When they hear the monster again, she joins him up the tree. Each time a relative arrives to fetch him home, they end up in the tree. Even the monster is frightened into joining them by the strange sound-and then Ma herself appears to march her brood off to bed. They all go "splish splash" in the bath, "rumba-rumba" with their toothbrushes, "bim bam" up the stairs and "BOOM!" into bed. Crow's rhythmic chant and rhymed text are nicely brought to life by Pamintuan's bright, swampy, expressive art, the clean lines and colors making the most of the absurd situation. Bedtime and monsters haven't gone together so well in years. Worth a second copy to have on hand for storytimes on either topic." (Picture book. 3-6)


Pamintuan's "bright, swampy, expressive art (with) clean lines and colors...worth a second copy..." Congratulations, Macky!

Two Weeks 'till Bedtime at the Swamp!

I just looked at my countdown widget and I can't believe we're two weeks from the release of Bedtime at the Swamp. I remember when that widget showed hundreds of days. Time really flies! As far as I know, we still don't have an official review of the book. Reviewers must be incredibly busy. COOL DADDY was reviewed months before its release. It'll be hard to compete with the two stars that book received, but hopefully all will be very positive. I think Macky is incredibly talented.

At the ALA conference I made some contacts and am planning to do some local readings and signings this fall. I'd love to arrange some school visits, too. I'll post a schedule when I have one.


If you're interested in writing for children and want to meet with local authors to get tips, manuscript feedback, and all kinds of publishing advice, please sign up for the "Writing for Charity with Shannon Hale" event on the nineteenth of this month. It's not very expensive--and every penny goes to charity. These are the kind of events that get you closer to publication. Sometimes a professional can give you that one suggestion that will turn everything around and send you off in the right direction. It happened to me. Here's the link to my post that explains things in detail:

Writing for Charity with Shannon Hale

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Caldecott and Newbery Awards Banquet, 2008

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the Caldecott and Newbery Awards banquet in Anaheim, California. It was an experience I’ll never forget. As you certainly know, this is the “Oscars” for children’s book writers. The participants were first wined and dined in a great ballroom and then the awards were officially presented.

Brian Selznik received the Caldecott Medal for his book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. He explained that his intent was to use cinematic elements in a chapter book where pictures helped tell the story. He said that one of his inspirations was author Remy Charlip, whose book Fortunately, Unfortunately uses the power of page-turns as a tool to build suspense. Brian initially wanted to create one picture per chapter, but ended up with 300 pictures in a 500-page book. It's a unique work, and I can remember months ago that some people were questioning whether it really could be classified as a picture book at all. In the end, his ingenuity won over the Caldecott Committee who reported, in so many words, that they had never seen anything quite like it before, and doubted they would ever again. If you haven’t picked up a copy, you should. This is a book full of suspense, hope, adventure, with wonderful pencil illustrations that depict cityscapes, expressive characters, and fun surprises. It'll be great to read this with my children.

As part of his acceptance speech, we watched a funny PowerPoint presentation using Mr. Selzniks' illustrations set to dramatic music. Young Hugo wakes and seems to be startled to learn that Brian is at the awards banquet instead of him. We see Hugo running through the Paris streets and riding a train. It was very funny, and ended to thunderous applause.

We also were entertained by the truly marvelous Laura Amy Schlitz, recipient of the 2008 Newbery Medal for her book, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Her talent for storytelling was more than apparent in her delightful speech. She stood to the far right of the podium to address the audience in monologue-fashion, and related an experience of catching a child on the playground who had climbed too high and was afraid to get down. Laura had underestimated the force of that 55-pound falling child, who knocked her on her behind, then got up, dusted herself off and told her simply, “Thank you.” Laura related the story as being similar to the wallop she felt after first learning she had received the Newbery award. First the wind was knocked out of her, but then she appreciated the warmth that came from the acknowledgement.

She shared a funny account of how she would often answer students who questioned her about a scar on her forehead from having moles removed. "Do you want the true story, or the interesting story?" she'd ask. She'd then tell a marvelous, magical story about an encounter with a bear, leaving the children mesmerized. But despite reassuring them afterwards that the story wasn't true, the students seemed to WANT to believe it, anyway. Facts are important, she said, but stories are what really move us. Her acceptance speech was so entertaining that we listened with rapt attention, laughed, and were touched. Later there were whisperings that these were the "best" Caldecott and Newbery speeches ever given.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is another must-have, and will certainly be used for years and years to come by classrooms and schools all over the country. It’s a collection of short one-person acts, highlighting various characters from medieval times, from noblemen to peasants to thieves. She wanted to provide a way for students who were studying medieval times to each be a star. It’s a truly remarkable piece of work.

The awards banquet left me inspired, overwhelmed, and wanting to reach within myself to become a better writer. Every author dreams of winning such an award, but for me what was most inspiring was learning about two authors who had a particular vision and didn’t set out to do what everyone else has already done. Their unique books break the mold and certainly earned these distinctions.

“Write the book you want to write,” Brian Selznik reminded us.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lovin' California

Today I’m writing from inside the Desert Palms hotel in Anaheim, California. I’m sitting right now in the lobby, looking out from a sunny window at Katella Avenue by Disneyland. My family was with me earlier in the week, where we spent two days at the big “D” and California Adventure, and stayed overnight in the Staybridge Suites. We had an incredible time. Disneyland is immaculate, beautiful, and continues to upgrade its rides and entertainment while still holding on to the classics we all love. I’m a nutty Disney fan. Have you ever seen those commercials where the parents are there with their kids and suddenly they turn into kids, too? Yep, that’s me.

Anyway, we went on a ga-zillion rides, especially our favorites like Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space and Splash Mountains. We loved trying out the “Hollywood Tower of Terror” and “Soaring over California” from California Adventure. But the highlight of our trip was the fulfillment of one of my childhood dreams. We ate dinner at the Blue Bayou restaurant. It’s the one that you see with the colorful lanterns at the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It wasn’t cheap. But the memory was worth every penny.

So at the end of our trip the kids all went back to stay with their other parents (you know, the musical houses game that children of divorce have to play) and my husband returned home while I stayed in Anaheim for the ALA Convention. (ALA stands for American Library Association). Imagine an enormous convention center filled with exhibits from every publisher you’ve ever heard of in your life, and three times that number of publishers you haven’t. They are all proudly displaying their books, new and current releases, and designating their award winners with big stars. They also have their most celebrated authors signing books, many of which they give out to participants for free or very reduced prices.

Today I had the opportunity to meet Mo Willems, and was very excited when he remembered COOL DADDY RAT and described the artwork by Mike Lester and said he liked it. That ROCKS! I also got to meet Nancy Paulsen of Penguin Young Readers and many editors, authors, and marketing people from HarperCollins and Putnam. It was fun to see my books on display. I didn’t do any signings…I’m still a newbie. That’s one eye-opener for new authors who go to these things. You think with two or three books you might be considered a “real” author, but you realize you’re still quite a ways from being real. You’ve got to have more than a handful of books to be given signing time.

Shannon Hale was there with Nathan Hale, and I got a copy of their new graphic novel. (I’ve always thought that term was weird because it sounds like a book full of indecent stuff. But it’s really novel in illustrated form, a bit like a sophisticated comic book.) I’ll be driving back home Tuesday with Rick Walton, Mette Harrison, Will Terry, and Nathan Hale. Great authors and illustrators. Great company.

Oh, and I’ve got enough autographed books to cart home that I’m sure to make one big long scrape along the freeway, paving a trail from Cally back to the Utah mountains.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My First Bound Copy of Bedtime at the Swamp!

Yesterday I got my first bound copy of BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP in the mail! My publisher sent it--what a nice surprise. I think Macky did an amazing job on the illustrations. Last night, I got to read the story to a group of my nieces and nephews. My littlest red-headed niece kept saying, "Monster Bim Bam Boo! Monster Bim Bam Boo!" It was so cute. She also had memorized parts of COOL DADDY RAT, and she could predict when it was time to say, "ZOW" and "POW" and even tried a little scatting. There's nothing more fun than seeing a two-year-old scat. It was such a great time. That's the beauty of picture books--when they are read together, you can share an intense moment of bonding. You're in close proximity, sometimes as close as a snuggle or hug, pointing at observations, and sharing an experience together.

By the way, if you've purchased a copy of one of my books and would like it signed, contact me via email at contact@kristyncrow.com.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Skip to My Lou, My Editor

Lost my editor, what do I do?
Lost my editor, what do I do?
Lost my editor, what do I do?
Skip to my lou my darling!

I'll get another one, prettier too.

I'll get another one, prettier too.
I'll get another one, prettier too.
Skip to my lou my darling!

(Wait...shouldn't that song be "Skip to the loo, my darling?" As in, skip to the bathroom? I mean, who is "Lou" anyway?)


I’m teasing. But editors have lives just like everybody else—and sometimes they jump to a new publishing house, become the unfortunate victims of downsizing or mergers, decide to stay at home and parent kids, take up copper mining, or whatever. So occasionally authors who have worked with a particular editor for months or years get the news that he/she is no longer the contact on the book anymore. This can be very disheartening, and even a little scary. Sometimes editors take a book along with them to their new house so it suddenly has a new publisher, which has happened to some authors I know. And sadly, other times the book may be orphaned and possibly even be pulled from production. Most of the time, a new editor picks up the baton.

I’ve had three editors for Bedtime at the Swamp, and just learned my third editor is now leaving to work for a different house. This particular editor I actually got to meet in person, which is a rare thing indeed. She had traveled down to my area for a writer’s conference and I re-arranged a family vacation just to attend and meet her. Only a few months prior I had lost the second editor for mysterious reasons. That was hard, because we had worked together for several years, and really hit it off. She was very excited about the book and was responsive, complimentary, and eager to help in any way she could. It was almost like chatting with an old friend. Suddenly she was gone, and I wasn’t even able to say goodbye.

Now editor number three, the one I met in person, has also moved on. Fortunately I got a reassuring email from the original editor who acquired my manuscript (editor number one), and so I’ve come full circle. Are you confused yet?

My Putnam editor for COOL DADDY RAT and THE MIDDLE CHILD BLUES had been with me all along, and that does make things less bumpy. She’s been a delight to work with.

Still crossing my fingers on a manuscript which is being seriously considered by a publisher I haven’t worked with yet. It’s a long, agonizing wait…(sigh) just part of the process.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Fathers Day to Cool Dads Everywhere!

Happy Fathers Day to all you jazzy, fun-loving, scattin', tappin', snappin' Dads who'll dance in the city with your kids. Be sure to take them out to the places you work and play--and let them see you doing what you do best. Remember, you only stay "cool" for so long.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Wheelchair Project -- Writing for Charity with Shannon Hale

I'm very excited to be involved in a terrific event this July, initiated by the one and only Shannon Hale, and involving some other amazing children's book authors. The following text is quoted from her blog:


This summer have unfettered access to professional children’s authors, all in the name of charity! Saturday, July 19, several local authors will host a Writing for Charity event in Salt Lake City, with all profits going to The Wheelchair Project. Come hear writers talk about their process, how to write for a young audience, storytelling tips, and the ins and outs of the publishing business. In addition, have your picture book text or first page of your novel (the most important page!) workshopped by professionals.

When: Saturday, July 19, 9 am to 1 pm
Where: Salt Lake Main Library, 200 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, Utah
Cost: $45 (should be tax deductible!)

Event breakdown: 9:00 am -- Registration
9:15 - 10:15 am -- Panel discussion in the auditorium
10:30 - 11:15 -- Break out discussions in topic groups
11:30 - 1:00 -- Small group workshops

Authors include Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, Mette Ivie Harrison, Ann Cannon, Kristyn Crow, Becky Hickox, Kimberley Heuston, Anne Bowen, Aprilynne Pike, Ann Dee Ellis, Mike Knudson, and Wendy Toliver.
Space is limited, first come first serve. To reserve your spot, mail in the $45 registration fee.

Mailing address: 1176 E 2620th N, Provo, UT 84604-4132
Make checks to: "LDS Philanthropies" (the organization that runs The Wheelchair Project) and write "Wheelchair" in the memo line.
Also include: Your name, age, phone number, and area of interest-- picture book writing, fantasy novel, or realistic fiction novel.

On the day of the event, bring 15 copies of the first page of your novel or picture book text (maximum word count: 300 words) for some hands on workshopping.

100% of the proceeds (after the nominal location fee) go to The Wheelchair Project, a wonderful charity that donates new wheelchairs to people in third world countries, many of whom have never had one. A wheelchair can completely change the life of a disabled person, offering mobility, increased independence, and a chance to go to school or find employment. Because this charity is administered by volunteers with LDS Philanthropy, there is no overhead and every penny donated goes directly to purchasing wheelchairs. This is not a religious charity--the wheelchairs go to the needy regardless of their faith. Thank you for supporting this extraordinary cause!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lights, Camera, Action: Why Picture Book Writers Should Think Like Screenwriters

I have this theory that picture book writers would probably make good screenwriters, and vice-versa. That’s because both the picture book writer and the screenwriter have to think in visual scenes. A screenwriter must always consider what the audience will see: who appears in the scene, what they're doing, what the setting is like, and how the camera is angled. On a smaller scale, the picture book writer must do the same, because the picture book is also a visual experience.

I received a manuscript to critique several years ago that comes to mind now. The writer had created an entire story with a grandfather lecturing his grandson as they sat in a living room. Hmmm. So… let’s think like a screenwriter for a moment and imagine that an audience is going to pay for a ticket and watch this manuscript portrayed as a film on the big screen. Would it be entertaining? An entire movie filmed with two people sitting on a couch?

To be fair, I suppose some fantastic director could possibly pull this off. I'm sitting here trying to think about movies where the setting hardly matters and is very confined. How about The Breakfast Club..would that qualify? It has a group of students in detention, and much of the movie takes place in the school library. Yet, still, the characters move around, sneak out, change locations, etc. Let me try to think of another one. Panic Room? In that movie we do get to see the villains, who are outside of the room, trying to get in, which creates a lot of tension. (If you can think of a better example, let me know. I’m sure there must be a movie out there which takes place in one room.) How about The Big Chill? That’s one house, not one room. But notice how in movies where the setting is fairly irrelevant and doesn’t change much, the characters must be extremely intriguing. For example, the Breakfast Club is certainly character-driven. We get to eavesdrop on these teenagers of differing social status confess their personal struggles to their peers.


Mo Willems’ pigeon books, like Don’t Let the Pigeon Ride the Bus, have almost no setting. There are no fantastic scene changes, and certainly the pigeon could be sitting on a couch for most of the book and it wouldn’t matter much. Yet the books work. They work BIG time. How? Well, it’s the pigeon. He stands right in front of the readers and talks to them. He engages them in a conversation. He’s drawn simply, like a child’s sketch come-to-life, which is fun for kids. And he’s funny. He’s child-like--even a little bit naughty. (You see...he has some important SpongeBob elements.) A character this engaging can bypass the need for an interesting setting.


So the grandfather-talks-to-grandson manuscript might work if the characters were somehow remarkable. What if grandpa is trying to tell grandson a story and grandson is simultaneously morphing into the characters of the story? Or what if he’s growing bigger with every page turn, until he topples the couch? What if grandpa becomes more and more villainous as the story goes along? Maybe grandson asks hilarious questions during the discussion? (Not really fulfilling as a story, but interesting at least.) In most cases, something visually interesting must be happening to the characters in a picture book. And typically, this requires movement. Action.


“Yes,” you say, “but can’t we just illustrate the discussion they are having?” Not a great idea. A good topic for another post.


In my view, the grandpa-and-grandson-on-the-couch manuscript would not work well as a picture book. Just as it would be quite challenging to create a movie filmed in one small space, a picture book with no action or scene changes would be a tough sell. Could it be done? Maybe, with some kind of brilliant twist. But if the characters are actively experiencing things in the present, the reader is more likely to turn the page. (Or watch the movie.)


As you write a picture book manuscript, take a moment and put on the screenwriter’s hat. What is your audience going to see and experience? Will it work, visually?


Of course, I’ll sit on the pigeon’s couch and chat with him anytime.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

WHERE IS EVERYBODY?




There’s an old Twilight Zone episode where this guy runs around and realizes to his horror that he’s all alone in a town. He runs into the movie theater, stores, and although there are signs of life, he can’t find a real human being anywhere. Frantically, he keeps searching. Yet all along, he’s actually hallucinating. He’s really strapped to probes in a pseudo-spaceship, being tested to see how long he can stand having no contact with people before he loses his mind.





This has been a weird weekend, and I can relate to this guy. I'm in a strange zone where nobody is returning my calls or emails, and I've even got two manuscripts being looked at seriously, but not a word yet from anyone. It's silent. So silent. Too silent. Tick, tick, tick. WHERE IS EVERYBODY?


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Good for Chuckles

So I got an email alert for COOL DADDY RAT... from a certain book website... and it had all the particulars right (publisher, price, author, illustrator, ISBN #) and then gave this description of the book:


"Completely revised and updated, the Second Edition of this comprehensive text details the basic, in-office diagnostic and therapeutic procedures commonly performed in treating dogs, cats, and rabbits. Step-by-step instructions on restraint, anesthesia, surgical technique, and medical management are provided and include the whether to in addition to the why to and how to. The book discusses purposes of the procedures, indications, precautions, possible complications, equipment needed, and preparations. Superb line drawings of procedures explicitly demonstrate operational motions as well as pertinent anatomic relationships."


Hey! I didn't know I'd written a surgical manual for pets! I'd hate to see the surgical technique performed on some poor animal whose vet is using COOL DADDY RAT as a guide. ZOOBY ZOOBY ZAT ZAT A DIDDY WAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Listening to Chimes

I’ve actually got a moment right now where the house is still and quiet. I can't hear children--only the noise of the aquarium humming (I didn’t realize it made that sound) and chimes playing outside in the blowing wind. This is a rare occasion—one that must be taken in with a deep, nourishing breath. There are times when the noise level is so great in my house, and the word “Mom” is repeated so many times in a five minute period that I’d like to run screaming down the street. For example, this morning we were getting ready for church and I could hardly think straight. One kid needed me to find him a belt, another couldn’t find his shoes, one daughter needed her hair fixed and two daughters needed a referee for their squabble because one said the other was—gasp--“staring” at her. One son needed insulin and another needed me to magically dry his just-washed undershirt in thirty seconds. Meanwhile, my husband was frustrated because he needed to create a typed sign-up list and the printer wasn’t working. Somehow, I was supposed to resolve this problem, too. Then, when he opted to use the printer in his police car, he managed to lock himself out with the keys still inside. I ended up driving our half-dressed motley crew myself as he stood in the driveway attempting to break into his own patrol car with a hanger.

Life is joyous. I can hear chimes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A (Seven Question) MEME in Times Square

Well, well, well. It appears I’ve been tagged. And since Bill at Literate Lives gave COOL DADDY RAT such a rockin’ review, I can’t resist joining the game. So here’s how it goes:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.

2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.

3. At the end of the post, the player then tags people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.

4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.


So, let’s begin:

What were you doing ten years ago?

Ten years ago my oldest son had just been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age seven. It was a life-changing event for our family. It’s strange looking back on those days, since today my two sons with the disease are almost entirely independent in their care. But back then I was watching the clock and testing my boy’s blood sugar, filling syringes with insulin, and injecting him four times a day, while also caring for a preschooler with autism, and a toddler. My then-husband and I had planned a fabulous second-honeymoon to Spain, and almost canceled it after the diagnosis, but my in-laws insisted upon learning the regimen so they could care for our kids and rescue the trip. Europe was an experience I’ll never forget, filled with castles, fountains, and sidewalk cafes. Little did I know it would be the swansong of the marriage. It was like standing on the deck of the Titanic, watching the beautiful sunset dance on the water and thinking everything couldn’t be more perfect.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order):


Ride my new Mother’s Day bike, fill out insurance paperwork to switch health programs, call the local elementary school about my daughter’s birth certificate, take my fifteen-year-old to the orthodontist, clean the house. Fun stuff like that.


What are some snacks you enjoy?


I am a chocoholic. Although lately I’ve developed a thing for Lays spicy jalapeno potato chips. Bad, bad news.


What would you do if you were a billionaire?

Buy a house with a whole lot of land and a wrap-around porch--a little bit like the one in Forrest Gump-- and make a really great writing office with a gorgeous view. Right now I write at my dining room table, since the kids have overtaken whatever semblance of an office I once had. I’d also hire 24-hour housekeeping, laundry, and landscaping service. I’d get myself a zippy car and then I’d donate a whole bunch of money to breast cancer research, autism research, and juvenile diabetes research. I’d buy everybody in my extended family a new hybrid car.


What are your bad habits?

I’m a diet Pepsi addict, a LOST fanatic, and I let the laundry get away from me.




What are five places where you have lived?

Inglewood, California; Rolling Meadows, Illinois; New York, New York; San Diego, California; Layton, Utah


What are five jobs you have had?

Sandwich maker, waitress, Assistant to the CFO of Columbia University, BYU Secretary, Picture book author.


What people do you want to tag?

Macky Pamintuan
Mette Harrison

Monday, May 26, 2008

In Memory of Abraham Lincoln


For some reason, our family has really been into Abraham Lincoln lately. I happened to watch this fantastic documentary on the History Channel about our sixteenth president and was so moved, I determined that my kids needed to watch it-- that every American needed to watch it. I mean, you can't really be an American and not know this tragic, powerful story from history. Right? Just call it one of my bizarre motherly crusades. So I bribed my kids with Hagen Daas and said if they watched the whole thing, we'd go out to ice cream. They moaned and groaned a bit, but the ice cream was a good lure. In no time they were absorbed. We've since had many spontaneous discussions about the great Abraham Lincoln, his assassination, and the hangings that resulted. So many interesting facts. For example, we often discuss the awful plight of Mary Surratt, hung for conspiracy to commit the President's murder based on evidence that was questionable at best. Just prior to her execution, she is pictured with the police shielding her from the sun with an umbrella, to prevent her from getting heatstroke.

Here's my third-grader, posing as Abraham Lincoln in his recent biography fair.

I also want to mention my mother today, a wonderful example of love, service, and devotion to family, who died on February 15, 1994 in Los Angeles, California, from breast cancer. She was softspoken, she loved lilacs, and I remember she liked to eat chocolate orange sticks. I loved her laugh, and she was an amazing typist. She always corrected my grammar. In her final days, she lay in her bed and said, "I am not afraid; I know what lies in store." Oh that I could have such courage! I miss you, Mom.

Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fireflies

In my childhood there were fireflies. Magical flecks of illumination and wonder.

I would sit in the grass and watch them flit and fly, trying to guess when the next one would light up. I was a born dreamer--a child who constantly imagined. I talked to trees and named them, invented stories about the squirrels, and believed there was an invisible moat surrounding my back yard. I envisioned the hill by our house was the place the king of trolls spoke to his followers. And I dreamed about my future.

One of the gifts I’d like to give my children is the power to dream. I hope they see their future selves creating, dancing on a stage, designing, building, writing, researching, parenting, and doing what they desperately love. My desire is that they start to envision it now—whatever they hope for. Too many children today don’t know how to dream, or even believe they have permission to do it.

Every kid should know the joy of watching fireflies flit around the back yard on a summer night.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Westmore Elementary School is WAY Cool!


Last Thursday, I had a terrific experience. I got to do an author presentation for a whole bunch of fabulous fourth graders. When I first arrived at the school, I was standing in the hallway when a student approached me and said, "Hey, aren't you Kristyn Crow?" Then a few other kids said, "There she is!" I couldn't believe it. I mean, it's not often I'm recognized by strangers. The teachers had prepared their students for my visit by viewing my website together as a class on their big screens. So after receiving a warm welcome, I talked about how I became an author, what picture book authors do, and how picture books are made.

I also got to visit individual classes, where we invented identities for the "fat cat" in COOL DADDY RAT. Some of my favorite suggestions were that his name be "Toothpick Bob" and that he could be both a sumo wrestler and the president of a jell-o factory. Great, creative stuff. In one class we had enough time to design our own picture book characters and introduce them to each other. When my visit was over, I marveled at how well things had gone. I can't wait to do more school visits! Next fall, I'll have two newly-released books, which should make things that much more interesting.

Westmore fourth graders, you ROCK!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The 28th Drawing Board

Sigh. BIG sigh. I am now starting my 28th version of a manuscript I’ve been working on for eighteen months. Yes, that’s right. This is a picture book manuscript for young kids, and it will be my 28th complete re-write of it. But I’m motivated, because it looks like there’s some serious interest in it. I won’t give you the details about the story at this point because it’s both on the chopping block and under the microscope. (Hey, neat--two clichés in one sentence.) But imagine trying to reconstruct all the motivations of a certain character, and doing that within the confines of a precise rhyme scheme and meter. I’ve got to put every “at” “to” and “but” in the right place, and get all my stressed and unstressed syllables just right, saying what I need to say within a few beats per line. That’s the task at hand. My brain is a little bit fried.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting Westmore Elementary School in Orem, Utah. Should be fun. You never know how these things will turn out, but I’m looking forward to it.

ALSO—this Saturday the 17th of May is the Provo Children’s Book Festival, at the Provo, Utah Library. If there’s any way you can make it, you should…I mean, hey, SHANNON HALE is going to be there. (My daughter can’t wait.) And I can’t forget to mention Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, Jessica Day George, Sara Zarr, James Dashner, Mette Harrison, Sharlee Glenn, Rick Walton, Nathan Hale, Ann Cannon, Guy Francis, Kim Justesen, Michael Tunnell, Sherry Meidell, Ken Baker, Laurel Brady, Will Terry, Anne Bowen, Kristen Randle, Randall Wright, Chris Crowe (my alter-ego…jk) Ron Woods, Carla Morris, Ann Dee Ellis, Julie Olsen, Mark and Cara Buehner, Becky Hall, and more. These are fabulous authors, and I am just one lucky duck to be hanging around in their (sniff) company. They’ll be reading, signing, and answering questions. (Me, too.) Lots of fun stuff planned for the kids, so bring ‘em. I’ll be there reading at 11:00 a.m., and signing most of the afternoon.

To read more about it, and to see the "presenter bios" (authors who will be there) click here:

Provo Children's Book Festival

See you there!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Authorpalooza!

Here I am at today's "Authorpalooza" book signing at the Orem Barnes and Noble. (Thanks, Sara Zarr, for taking this picture.) Book signings are fun--I really enjoyed getting to know some of the other local authors I hadn't met before, especially Wendy Toliver, Sara Zarr, and Jessica Day George, whose brains I got to pick. I asked them, "How do you work past the middle of a novel when you're burned out?" And, "How long does it take you to finish a novel?" They wanted to know how long it takes me to finish a picture book manuscript. We had lunch together, about twelve of us, and that was nice. My family came in droves, and I really appreciated their support (even when mashed potatoes and beans were being discussed loudly at my table).


It's always a little humbling going to these things, because I'm a newbie, whose book just got released. But I'm so grateful for the opportunity I've been given to hang out with such intriguing people, and to do something with my life I really love.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

I Just had the Coolest Dream...

When you’re an unpublished writer, you dream of your first book release.

You imagine walking into any random bookstore, and immediately a band begins to play. There are balloons everywhere you look. Confetti is flying. A crowd has gathered and the line winds around the perimeter of the store. Each person is clutching a copy of your book and salivating for you to sign it. The manager of the bookstore comes waltzing over and rolls out the red carpet. You’re offered a frothy drink with a little red umbrella. There are whisperings of …will there be a sequel? When will it be available? Can I order an advance copy?


No writers will admit they dream this, but we all do.

And here's the bad news. Only five out of every quintillion authors get to experience it.


So sometimes it's good to think about why we write. It's not really about achieving super-fame and fortune (or is it)? No. Don't we write because we hope to captivate, inspire, touch, terrify, transfix, enlighten, move, amuse, and surprise people? Even little four-year-old people with dirty faces? Isn't it the impact on the individual reader that we're seeking? I think, for me personally, it's the idea that somewhere out there a parent and child are sitting together, holding a book, enjoying an experience outside their reality. Cool.


Although, the frothy drink with the little red umbrella sure sounds (sigh) lovely.