Monday, September 28, 2009

Mentor Monday: Know Your Reader

Several months ago, I wrote a Mentor Monday entry recommending that you read as much as you can within your genre. For me, that's picture books. I've read literally thousands of them during my almost 30 years of teaching preschool. Part of knowing your genre, is knowing your readers. What do they think makes for a good read? How do they process information? What do they find funny? How do they articulate their thoughts?

To that end, I'm having book discussions with my students at least once a week. My students range in age from 3 years 0 months to 5 years 2 months, and I mix the ages in my classes. I'm blogging at The Picture Book Project, and thought all of you children's writers might find it interesting to read beyond the professional reviews and find out what children really think about the books we write for them. (The numbers before each child's name indicates the child's age in years and months.) Enjoy!

Let's Get Started!

The first three books we're reading at Hogarth this year are Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? written by Bill Martin, Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar written and illustrated by Eric Carle. In our class discussions following the readings, we looked at Carle's illustrations and noted that the endpapers of the Bear books were illustrated with stripe patterns, and the endpapers of the Caterpillar book was illustrated with a dot pattern. References to stripes or dots within the children's comments relate back to that discussion.

In order to get the book discussion ball rolling, I asked each child to pick his or her favorite from among these books and talk about what made that book so appealing. If this didn't prompt a big response, I followed up with questions specific to their favorite book. If they picked either Bear book, I asked which animal depicted in the book was their favorite. If they picked the Caterpillar book, I asked which food they'd eat first if they were a hungry caterpillar.


4.8 Keegan: My favorite was Polar Bear. I liked the front cover. My favorite animal was the peacock because of his spots, and I never seen a peacock.

5.2 John: I liked them all because I liked when the zoo keeper came to feed the walrus in Polar Bear and because all of the kids were dressing up like animals. I like Brown Bear because the class was looking at the teacher and the teacher was looking at the fish and looking at the kids. I like The Very Hungry Caterpillar because of Monday, Tuesday and all of that stuff when they flipped over and there kept being more and more food. The Caterpillar one is my very favorite. I liked the way Eric Carle did the end papers. One had dots and one had stripes facing up and one had stripes going sideways.

4.10 Daniel: I liked the Caterpillar one best because it had the folds in the paper. I liked it when the caterpillar was a baby and I liked the part where it was a butterfly. It was really pretty.

4.3 Brady K.: I liked Brown Bear best because I liked the stripes on the end. My favorite animal was the purple cat because he's purple!

4.5 Sophie: I liked Brown Bear best because the teacher was reading the book about animals to the kids. My favorite animal was the purple cat because of the purple. I like purple.

(Note: Neither Brady nor Sophie heard the other one's purple cat preference. Mack in PK also referred to the purple cat. Obviously, this is a very appealing illustration.)


4.2 Kaitlyn: I liked the Caterpillar because it was super hungry and he ate too much and he had a stomach ache. If I was a hungry caterpillar I'd eat the apple first.

3.6 Eva: I liked the Caterpillar best because it ate a leaf up and then had a tummy ache, that's why. I liked the part where the caterpillar ate up all the food. If I was a hungry caterpillar I'd eat a leaf first.

3.8 Mack: I liked Brown Bear best because it had the kitten. It was purple. I liked that one. And she was licking her elbow. Meow! Meow! Meow! I can do the sound of her. That made me laugh.

3.7 Emelyn: I liked the Caterpillar because it was silly when you said the moon was an egg!

3.11 Acadia: I liked the Caterpillar because I got it at home and it's my favorite book. I like the colors of the circles. If I was a hungry caterpillar I'd eat the pickle.

 Even More Eric

We continued exploring Eric Carle's books today when we read The Grouchy Ladybug. Once again, I asked the children to pick their favorite Eric Carle book from among those we've read thus far.


4.5 Leah: I loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar so much! I liked the food part best. I loved that. That was so silly. If I was a hungry caterpillar I would just eat three plums so I wouldn't get a tummy ache.

4.9 Brooke N.: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because there were a lot of people who were big, but she said they were not big enough, but they were big enough. I liked the rhinoceros part because he was trying to eat him but he was too big.

4.2 Bella: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because of the pictures with the little pages and the big pages. I liked all the clocks because the hungry ladybug did all of that. [Points at clocks.] I liked the elephant best because I saw one at the zoo.

4.0 Arthur: I liked all of these books. My favorite was The Grouchy Ladybug because he keeps saying, "You're not big enough!" I liked that it did it like this. [Indicates the differently sized pages.] My favorite animal was the whale because it slapped the tail on the ladybug and the ladybug said, "Ah-h-h-h-h!" And then he put his tail back and that was my favorite part.

4.7 Hayden: I liked Brown, Bear, Brown Bear best. I liked the goldfish because it's yellow because I love yellow. I liked the duck because I love yellow a lot, because the ducky is gold and the goldfish is gold.

4.11 Brooke B.: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because when he said, "No, you're not too big!" I liked the hyena best because it reminds me of Izzy. She really likes hyenas and she's my best friend.

5.2 John: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because the nice ladybug offered, but the ladybug said, "Hey, you! You want to fight?" But she said, "Aw, you're not big enough!" And I liked it because it had when the ladybug said to the tail on the whale, "Hey you! You want to fight?" And the tail gave her a big slap. And I liked it because it had the house and the lighthouse. And I liked it because when the ladybug met the wasp and he showed it his big stinger. And I liked when that animal [points to stag beetle] showed him his big claws. And I liked when the mantis wanted to fight and he said, "If you insist." And I liked the bird because I knew it was going to eat the ladybug. I liked the lobster because he opened his claws and I knew he was going to snap him in his claws. And I liked the skunk because he lifted his tail and I knew he was going to release a stinky smell at the ladybug. And I liked that the snake was going to eat the squirrel and the ladybug for his breakfast. And I liked the hyena because he laughed and he was going to eat him. And I liked the gorilla because he was beating his chest and he was going to punch him. And I liked the rhinoceros because he was lowering his horn and he was going to run into him and then he said, "Oh, you're not big enough!" And I liked the elephant and he was showing his tusk and his trunk a long way out. And I liked the whale because he said nothing and I thought that the ladybug was going to run into the water going up out of the whale. And when he said, "Hey, you! You want to fight?" and the flipper said nothing. And when he asked the fin to fight the fin said nothing. And I liked when the ladybug spoke to the whale's tail and said, "Hey, you! You want to fight?" and the tail gave him a big slap and he was flying over where he started and he got to eat some aphids. And then I liked it because the ladybug said, "You're welcome." And I liked that the leaf said, "Thank you!" And I liked the fireflies were dancing around the moon and I liked the moon and I liked the stars. And I liked the green grass at the beginning and at the end. I think Eric Carle wrote nice books. I think he does his art in not a fast way, but in a slow way. I like that art best.


4.5 Christel: I liked The Grouchy Ladybug because he said, "You're not big enough!" I liked when the whale flipped the Grouchy Ladybug into the sky. And I liked this part when the lobster tried to bite him. And the skunk looked like he was going to spray. And the snake looked like he was going to eat the ladybug. And I liked this one [hyena] when he looked like he was going to bite the ladybug. And I liked the gorilla! [Christel then turns to the last double-page spread in which the ladybugs share the remaining aphids.] This is my favorite part because he let him share the bugs! And I'm all done!

3.4 Camryn: I liked The Very Hungry Caterpillar because it's my favorite. I have some caterpillars in my yard. Their backs go up and down. [Points to caterpillar on cover.] I like his back. I love his ears, too! [Points to caterpillar's antennae.] If I was a hungry caterpillar I would eat the cake and ice cream first.

3.8 Mack: I have caterpillars in my yard, you know. My mom found one and she was very colorful and she had a red head and she was so soft and she had little antlers sticking out and she had the legs that she could climb.

4.2 Kaitlyn: I liked the Ladybug book and the Caterpillar book. [The rest of Kaitlyn's commentary relates to the Ladybug book.] I liked the nice one and the grouchy one, because the grouchy one said, "Hey! You want to fight?" The nice one said, "Why don't we share?" And they didn't share. I liked that one [sparrow] because he thinked the bird was too big, but it was too small, but it was really big. That one [elephant] was definitely big. He talked to that one [whale's fin] but it wouldn't talk. I liked that it ended up back where he started.

4.0 Arthur: [Popping into the conversation.] Why did they put the clocks on the ladybug book?

Miss Murphy: Eric Carle used the clocks to take us through the whole day with the ladybug. The clocks let us see what time the ladybug met up with each animal.

3.8 Mack: I really like the Polar Bear book because the polar bear saw the lion. All the kids dressed up like the animals. I like Eric Carle's drawing about the ladybug. I like the caterpillar one because I like his green eyes. I like his legs. This one isn't attached.

CPG Children Weigh In On Eric Carle

In addition to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the CPG children read Eric Carle's "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth and My Tool Belt. The children reacted to their favorites as follows.

4.3 Julianna: I liked the Sloth. I liked it when he was boring. And I liked it when he was hanging upside down. And I liked this [indicates picture] with the monkey and tortoise.

4.8 Ryan:  I liked the Caterpillar best. I liked it because he ate so much food and he was green and that was my favorite color. Mom would like the red and she would say, "Ryan! I have that book!" And that's why I like it.

3.9 Brady D.: I liked the Sloth because him was keep staying right there and because the animals kept coming back and forth. I liked this one best. [Points to Yellow-Spotted River Turtle on the back end papers.]

3.7 Maeve: I liked the Sloth book because of the night. [I asked Maeve which animal was her favorite, and she pointed to the anteater and the caiman. When I asked why, she pointed to the caiman's teeth and said, "Claws!]

3.10 Aiden R.:  I like the Caterpillar because it itches. Polar bears would like that story. If I was a hungry caterpillar I'd eat the watermelon and the cupcake and the candy and the lollipop and the pickle and the cheese and the cake.

4.3 Teagan:  I like Brown Bear best because I saw a bird and a bunny and a dog in there. My favorite animal was the purple cat.

3.6 Aria:  I liked My Apron because I do. I liked the pages. [Indicates end papers.]  I liked this one. [Indicates page with Aunt Elizabeth making an apron for young Eric Carle.] Her making an apron for her. I liked this one. [Indicates page with the house with the incomplete roof.]

This is just a small excerpt. If you're interested in continuing to research your reader, head over to The Picture Book Project.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Poetry Friday: In the Other Gardens

For the last two weeks it seems we have been plunging headlong into fall (okay, not counting yesterday and the day before, when summer put in a sticky, unpleasant curtain call). Oversleeping because the sun isn't up when I get up, running out of evening and needing a flashlight to do evening chores (flustering the chickens, who are smart enough to notice when it starts to get dark . . .). And then, last evening, whiffs of smoke drifted in the window - potent enough to send us into the yard to be sure it wasn't OUR place that was smoldering, but not strong enough to trace to its source. And so on to today's poem, a paean to a bygone era, when we were unwise enough to fill the air with particulate (not that we're much wiser now, filling the air with clean-but-deadly carbon dioxide, but that's a rant for another forum . . . )

From one of my favorite poets: Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mentor Monday: Market Research: Do you know which shelf your book belongs on?

I spent some time the other day with a new writer who has recently been to one of the big conferences. She came back very discouraged. She had paid a lot of money for multiple critiques of her non-fiction work-in-progress. Now she has several detailed written critiques of her manuscript. As might be expected, each had different items they suggested changing. All of the critiques complemented her writing (a paid critiquer is never going to say “Give it up and get a desk job.”) But four out of five made the same comment: “Not marketable.” (The fifth was a writer, not an editor.)

My friend has brought this manuscript to critique group a couple of times over the last year, and I had told her that I thought it was two different books twined together, so I was pretty sure I knew what the editors were trying to say. “Tell me again about your market research,” I urged my friend.

“There’s nothing like this book out there,” she said. She went on to tell me about the other kinds of books she had found – personal experience, self-help, scientific inquiry, religious reflection: lots and lots of books on the topic but nothing like hers.

Pretty soon my friend had figured out what all those editors were trying to tell her, and it’s an important component of market research. Her book doesn’t fit into any niche. In fact, a library would be hard-pressed to decide where to shelve it. And a book that is so very different needs to be positively brilliant in order to have a chance.

When you do your market research, you are searching not only to be able to say “there is a need for this book, there is a gap in what is available.” You also need to be able to say “this book is like that successful title except. . .” My friend understood that she shouldn’t submit her book to a publisher who already has very similar book in print, because the publisher doesn’t want to compete with themselves. But she missed the flip side: a competing publisher might be very interested in a similar, competitive book – if it offers something unique and valuable to get that established readership to pick it up. Even the first publisher might be interested in a book that covers the successful topic for a different age group, or with a religious viewpoint that hasn’t been heard (if the target age group or religious viewpoint matches that of the publisher’s market!) What niches do other books on your subject fill?

Since with non-fiction you generally submit a proposal that includes an outline and a couple of sample chapters, you can (and should) actually shape the book to reflect what you’ve learned from your market research. Fiction is a little different, both in the approach to writing and in selling the manuscript, but market research is still essential. Expectations for YA historical fiction are different from those for fantasy and differently different from those for teen romance. If you think your book fits all three, it’s likely that it won’t sell in any of those genres.

By now we’re all familiar with the “elevator pitch” method of selling a concept. A related exercise may help you figure out strengths and weaknesses of your book idea. Write the copy for the sales rep who needs to sell the bookstore buyer. Write the jacket copy that will capture the browsing book-buyer. You’re not going to submit those things, obviously – but if you can’t write them, your book won’t get as far as the sales force. Always remember that the first buyer, the publisher, is only interested in your manuscript if it can turn a profit.

My friend is ready, now, to think about untwisting the strands of her book and writing just one of them really well. Perhaps another one will become a second book later. Unfortunately, she spent hundreds of dollars to get to that point, because she couldn’t bear to give up her first vision of the book when it didn’t match the market. Writers need to have a vision, but we can’t stay starry-eyed. We have to be hard-nosed and practical, just like our publishers. We need to do our research, and then, to use it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Poetry Friday

I think perhaps this is a dance we've all done at one time or another.

Danse Russe

If I, when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees, --
if I, in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
if I admire my arms, my face
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades, --

who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

William Carlos Williams

Today's poetry round-up is being held at Becky's Book Reviews

Thursday, September 17, 2009


It’s coming, folks. The day we’ve all been waiting for is just around the corner. September 24, 2009, is just seven days away. So get out your oven mitt and your Strunk and White, and get ready to celebrate National Punctuation Day!

Yes. It’s for real. On September 24, the nation will celebrate the ubiquitous Period, the shapely Question Mark, the elusive Comma, and let’s not forget the exciting Exclamation Point! Wow!

But that’s not all! Joining the celebration will also be the Colon, Semicolon, Quotation Marks, and Apostrophe, with special appearances by the Brackets and Parentheses, the Dash and the Hyphen, and the Ellipsis. That’s right! All our favorite punctuation marks that we use and abuse will be honored on this illustrious day.

And the oven mitt?

That’s for the contest. That’s right. There’s a contest. Bake something in the shape of your favorite punctuation mark and win a prize. But you only have until Spetember 30, so get those photos in.

Boy, this is going to be exciting!

Book Buzzr

Not as exciting, but probably more useful, is something else I came across, which might prove a great marketing tool. Book Buzzr is simply a widget you put on your web page, blog site, Facebook or Twitter page. It allows you to upload an extract of your book for people to read and view.

The nice thing about it is that the book extract shows up in book form. You not only get to see the cover, but when you click the corner, it opens and the pages turn, and you get to see a bit of what's inside. There’s no scrolling involved. And it comes with a navigation bar that allows people to purchase your book, as well as learn more about you, or the book, or any other information you’re willing to put out there.

Book Buzzr is a free service of It doesn’t cost anything, but you do have to join fReado, also free. When you upload your extract, it also becomes available on fReado, which makes another place folks can find, and purchase, your book.

Book Buzzr comes with a lot of other features, too, mostly for Twitter users right now. They plan to expand to Facebook in the future. It seems this might be a neat little thing, especially for those who self-publish.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Tension. It’s what keeps a reader reading. If there is no tension in a story, then it becomes just another walk in the park. It’s nice, but nobody wants to sit and listen to you talk about it for four hours.

So how do you create a walk people will be interested in?

Imagine a rumbling volcano.
A crazed gunman in a busy shopping mall.
A town banning a book.

You might think all of them would be great for creating tension in a story. But it’s not the problem that creates the tension. It’s the human element. Without that, your rumbling volcano is just a bit of excitement.

Now imagine John. He lives in the valley below the mountain. John is a paraplegic who can’t get himself out of bed. John’s wife just ran into town to pick up a few things. Now the volcano rumbles.

Tiffany is shopping in the mall with Mom. She nags mom to let her hang out in the pet store while Mom browses books across the way. Mom lets her go. Now the crazed gunman enters the mall. Right between the pet shop and the book store.

Mary loves her job as a librarian. Mary also loves freedom. Now the town tells her to take a certain book off the library shelf.

In all three scenarios, the question the reader now asks themselves is, ‘What will happen next?” That is tension. The need to know what will happen next.

Will John’s wife save him in time, or will he get himself out of his predicament?

Will the gunman kill Tiffany or her mom, or both, or will they be able to save themselves and each other?

Will Mary comply with the town in order to keep her job, or will she refuse to remove the book and risk losing her job?

Now technically, tension isn’t the need to know what happens next. It’s the opposition of forces, which is also in each scenario. But in order to make that opposition work, the reader has to care. Asking, ‘What will happen next?’ is a sign that she does. Having an opposition of forces that doesn’t create that question in a reader means all you have is an opposition of forces. You haven’t created tension.

An easy way to create tension is to give your characters what they want. But you do have to be a little sadistic about it. Getting what they want should create a problem. So if we go one step further back in each of our scenarios . . . .

John hated being coddled all the time. He wanted his wife to leave him alone. He wanted to prove that he’d be fine on his own for an hour or two. So she left him.

Tiffany is thirteen, big enough to wait in the pet store while mom browses books. She doesn’t need a constant babysitter. Mom lets her go.

Mary loves her job. Mary loves freedom. We gave her both. She has to choose one.

Just remember that tension for tension’s sake, won’t work in the long run. Whatever happens in your story has to be relevant to the overall plot or it doesn’t belong there, no matter how cool an idea it is.

volcano J. D. Griggs click effusive eruption

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cra a a a ck!

The Write Sisters are breaking form!

After a year of blogging, we have decided to take a step away from the same old, same old, and diversify, change, branch out, alter and vary our weekly words of wisdom. Or blather.

The world of Children's Writing is still our purpose, and we'll still be offering writing tips and advice, as well as insight into some amazing women. Poetry Friday will not disappear. But the format won't be so rigid, and you're likely to find a variety of other offerings in the mix. You might even find a post on a Tuesday or Thursday!

So stay tuned, and let us know how you like the change!

Photo by Amir

Friday, September 11, 2009

Poetry Friday--"Still Here"

A simple poem from Langston Hughes to help me get through anniversaries like today's.
Still Here

I been scared and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
      Snow has friz me,
      Sun has baked me,

Looks like between 'em they done
      Tried to make me

Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin'--
      But I don't care!
      I'm still here!

Yes, we're still here--and hopefully all still laughin'.

Check out the Poetry Friday Round-Up being held today at Wild Rose Reader.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Women of...Wednesday--Margaret Fuller

Margaret Fuller was born in Massachusetts in 1810. Her father, a lawyer, taught her at home, since only men could attend college at that time. As an adult, she became a teacher and was compelled to further educate the public. Fuller wanted to lecture, but women weren't allowed to lecture, so, instead, Fuller held "Conversations." She was considered an excellent conversationalist!

Fuller was an editor, a writer, an investigative reporter (for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune). She was a member of the Transcendentalists and was a beloved friend of both Emerson and Thoreau.

Margaret Fuller lived an incredibly full life which ended a few months after her 40th birthday. She, her husband, Giovanni Ossoli, and her baby boy were drowned in a sailing ship accident off the coast of Long Island, NY. Her body was never recovered, but a monument was erected in her memory in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Watertown, MA. Its brass plaque sums up her life,
By birth a child of New England
By adoption a citizen of Rome
By genius belonging to the world

In youth
An insatiate student seeking the highest culture
In riper years
Teacher, writer, critic of literature and art
In maturer age
Companion and helper of many
Earnest reformer in America and Europe
Margaret Fuller is not a name familiar to many, but, if you do an online search, you'll find numerous sources containing information on this remarkable woman, one of America's first feminists. If you visit the Project Gutenberg site, you can read two volumes of her memoirs as well as other of her writings. Here's a small sample from Women in the Nineteenth Century Woman and Kindred Papers Relating to the Sphere, Condition and Duties, of Woman:
Man is as generous towards her as he knows how to be.

Wherever she has herself arisen in national or private history, and nobly shone forth in any form of excellence, men have received her, not only willingly, but with triumph. Their encomiums, indeed, are always, in some sense, mortifying; they show too much surprise. "Can this be you?" he cries to the transfigured Cinderella; "well, I should never have thought it, but I am very glad. We will tell every one that you have 'surpassed your sex.'"

There's no doubting her tone! You go, girl!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Mentor Monday--Happy Labor Day!

I know a writer never gets a day off. How can you turn off your imagination or your curiosity? You can't, but perhaps you can cut yourself some slack today. Force yourself NOT to read anything writing related, unless it's strictly for fun.

Let me give you a few "fun" titles to consider, starting with Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life, edited by Monte Schulz [F & W Media, 2002]. Interspersed with Snoopy strips is advice for Snoopy from real writers. Included are Julia Child, whose books have suddenly become very popular again since the movie Julie and Julia opened last month, and Catherine Ryan Hyde, whose Pay It Forward [Simon & Schuster, 1999] makes a great book discussion group choice. Here's Hyde counseling Snoopy on editors,
Yeah. What is it with editors, anyway?

They send form rejections. They don't deign to comment. Or they scribble a mortal wound of an insult. Or you hear nothing for nine months. Or your story disappears entirely.

Who are these people? Don't they appreciate what we go through?
And speaking of rejections--visit your favorite used book store (I like the online vendor, and look for a copy of Rotten Rejections edited by Andre Bernard [Pushcart Press, 1990]. As one who has collected hundreds of rejections, I know that reading this book always puts a smile on my face! For more rejection fun, head to the Literary Rejections on Display blog. You'll find yourself asking, "Who are these people?"

Remember Snoopy's favorite opening line, "It was a dark and stormy night..."? It was originally written by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton in 1830. It continues thusly, "the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness." Bulwer-Lytton's horrendous prose lives on and is imitated annually in the "Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest." Check it out here.

It's Labor Day, so put the real work away, read, and relax!


Friday, September 4, 2009

Poetry Friday: In Honor of Labor Day

So, it’s Labor Day Weekend. The word “labor” has a lot of negative connotations, don’t you think?

Giving birth requires labor. Hercules was forced to perform twelve sweaty, back-breaking labors that involved slaying, stealing, or capturing various monsters and things. The Department of Labor has to deal with all kinds of negative numbers these days.

I like the word “work” better. I think most writers do. After all, we talk about our latest “work” and famous writers get to put out collections of their “complete works.” But “Work Day Weekend” just doesn’t have the same ring to it just like “The Complete Labors of John Updike” sounds a bit off.

Donald Hall, in his book Life Work opens with these lines:

“I’ve never worked a day in my life. With the trivial exceptions of some teenage summers, I’ve never worked with my hands or shoulders or legs. I never stood on the line in Flint among the clangor and stench of embryonic Buicks for ten hours of small operations repeated on a large machine…
“I stay home and write poems—and essays, stories, textbooks, children’s books, biography…but because I loved my work it was as if I did not work at all.”

Lorine Niedecker sums up the same idea in the following poem:

Poet’s work

advised me:
Learn a trade

I learned
to sit at desk
and condense

No layoff
from this

So, happy Labor Day—to all of us who choose to work instead of labor.
This week's Poetry Friday roundup will be held at

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Introducing Some Golden California Ladies!

Some of the Write Sisters were pleased to participate in the creation of the third title in the America’s Notable Women Series. Women of the Golden State: 25 California Women You Should Know is now available.

As in the previous titles, this book features some pretty accomplished women. One ran a successful 4400-acre cattle ranch. Another was the first woman in space.

Some worked to protect the rights of others and the lives of endangered species. They wrote, painted, broke color barriers and glass ceilings.

The writers who provided the profiles of these women are pretty spectacular in their own rights. The children who read this book won’t know that while it was being produced, one writer lost a family member. Another cares for an elderly parent. One has her own physical issues to deal with. Some others handle multiple jobs, family struggles, the poor economy and the general unexpectedness life throws at us. As a publisher, I am indebted to all of them for their contributions.

It’s no accident that I decided to use the subtitle “America’s Notable Women.” It applies to both the contents and those that provide it.