Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Women of Wednesday: National Women's History Museum petition

This Wednesday I'm forwarding a message from the National Women's History Project. Please poke your congresscritter!

Dear friends,

As many of you know, the National Women's History Museum has been working for many years to secure a site for a Women's History Museum on the mall in our Nation's Capitol. Please read the following article written by Gail Collins, New York Times columnist, and then consider signing the petition to help ensure that American women will finally have our own museum in our nation's capitaol.

September 24, 2010 NEW YORK TIMES

Unhold Us, Senators

Congress is staggering toward recess. I'm going to go way out on a limb and guess that they're not going to accomplish anything major before they leave. But as long as they're still in town, taking up space, the least they could do is approve the National Women's History Museum bill.

Honestly, I would not be making this plea if everybody was knee-deep in the budget or reforming the tax structure. But they can barely summon the will to open the mail. And the museum bill always has been uncontroversial. It's a great idea; it doesn't cost any money; and virtually everybody in office has already supported some version of it in the past.

The legislation would simply allow a private group, conveniently named National Women's History Museum, to buy an unlovely piece of federal land on Independence Avenue for the site. "We will pay fair market value and pay for construction," said Joan Wages, the president. The bill allows five years to raise the money and break ground. If the group fails, the land would revert back to the government, which would get to keep the purc hase price.

The problem, Meryl Streep pointed out at a fund-raiser for the museum this week, is getting the government to take the money. At the gala, Duane Burnham, the former chairman of Abbott Laboratories, announced a donation of $1 million in honor of his four granddaughters. Streep then put up $1 million herself.

"I was a little mad that a man did it first," she later said to me. "I was just jumping on his caboose." She was en route to London to play Margaret Thatcher in a movie and was inspired to make a grand, albeit non-Thatcherian, gesture.

As Streep likes to point out, Washington already has a postal museum, a textile museum, a spy museum and the Newseum. You may be wondering why there is any problem getting Congressional support for a women's history museum. Especially since the bill has already passed the House unanimously and come out of its Senate committee with unanimous approval. And since the bill, which is sponsored in the Senate by Susan Collins of Maine, has 23 co-sponsors from both parties. The Senate itself passed a different version of the plan unanimously a few years ago when the museum people were hoping to lease a government building rather than construct a new one.

The answer - and, people, how many times have you heard this story? - is that two senators, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have put holds on the bill. A hold is one of those quaint Senate traditions that ensures that each individual member of the chamber will have the power to bring all activity to a screeching and permanent halt.

The bill's supporters seem to feel that DeMint, who is now famous as a leader of the new Republican far right, is the chief obstacle to getting the project sprung. He was raised by a single mother who helped support her family by running a dance studio. He also has daughters. P erhaps he just puts holds on things as a matter of habit, like a compulsive twitch, and does not have any actual objection to celebrating the American women's story in the nation's capital. Perhaps he will call up Collins on Monday and tell her it was all a terrible mistake.

Coburn's office said the senator was concerned that taxpayers might be asked to chip in later and also felt that the museum was unnecessary since "it duplicates more than 100 existing entities that have a similar mission."

The office sent me a list of the entities in question. They include the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Texas and the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Washington.

There also were a number of homes of famous women and some fine small collections of exhibits about a particular locality or subject. But, really, Senator Cobur n's list pretty much proved the point that this country really needs one great museum that can chart the whole, big amazing story.

Beginning in the late 1960s, the restrictions and prejudices that had hobbled my sex since the beginning of Western civilization began to be questioned, repudiated and overturned. It happened so fast that it was easy to forget all the women who had dreamed and fought for that moment but never lived to see it. And it was easy for the next generation to grow up unaware of what happened.

I lived through what was perhaps the greatest social shift in the history of our culture. You all did, too, unless you're young enough to have been born into a brand-new platform of gender equality that was created, really, just for you. There will never be a time more appropriate to celebrate this great fact.

Please Sign Petition Calling on Congress to Act on Stalled

National Women's History Project
3440 Airway Dr Ste F
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

(707) 636-2888

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mentor Monday: community and support for children’s book writers

Once in a while, we all need a community. Writing is notoriously solitary work – possibly even more so, now that we can do so much of our research from home.
The internet can help! (No surprise there.) Here, then, a few websites and blogs that I find inspiring, refreshing, encouraging or just fun. Note that these are not necessarily “how to” sites, although some of them have tips and publishing information as well as encouragement and community. (If “how to” is what you’re looking for, begin at Harold Underdown’s page: )

Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

CAUTION – as we all know, it is completely possible to venture into the web and get lost – or at least, thoroughly sidetracked. The search for community is not an excuse for not getting anything written . . .

A place for children's writers and illustrators to gather and share information, help each other and have fun while learning the business of writing and illustrating for children. Also a lively message board. Verla’s been supporting children’s writers since the old BBS days.

Yahoo groups – Yahoo has become the 900 pound gorilla for interest-based mail lists and groups. If you belong to any yahoo group, you can join others by going into and searching for interest areas. Each group develops its own personality, chatty or taciturn, focused or free-flowing. If you aren’t a member of a yahoo list already, you’ll need to establish a yahoo id. Don’t set up the yahoo email unless you really want another email to check! (On the other hand, if you want to join lists relating to mental health issues or other potentially embarrassing subjects, maybe a unique yahoo email just for those lists would be a good idea – it’s free. Some groups are open, and all you need to do is sign up. Others require moderator approval before you will be allowed to post to the group.

Children’s Writers and Illustrators --

Their Description
This list is for the discussion of writing and illustrating for children in all media, including such topics as creativity, work styles and techniques, dealing with rejection, and so on. We do not discuss child-related issues such as parenting or health; we discuss writing and illustrating.

The primary focus of this group is trade and educational publishing. We do sometimes discuss topics related to self-publishing and micropress publishing, and writers and illustrators who have chosen these tracks for getting their work published are welcome to join.

We do allow off-topic posts, but we ask that they grow out of on-topic discussions. Sometimes we are a very prolific list!

Please note that Children's Writers and Illustrators is a discussion group, not a critique group.

New England chapter of SCBWI -

Their Description

This forum is intended for the exchange of information among members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators in the New England region.

If you are a member of SCBWI (from any region), you are welcome to subscribe. Please start by sending a message to the address stated below, INCLUDING YOUR FULL NAME so we can confirm your SCBWI membership. This name does not need to appear in your public messages, but must appear in your subscription request. Thank you.

Non-fiction for kids --

Moderator Deanne Durrett keeps this group strictly focused on non-fiction writing, and self-promotion is frowned upon. She also started a facebook group which is more free-form.

Write 4 Kids – Description

Their Description

A home for professional and pre-professional children's writers who want to discuss the highs, the lows, (and the woes) of the writing life.

This is another old group, having been reconstituted on dejanews (which was eventually absorbed into yahoo) after the old Genie system died.

There are many other groups on yahoo, so wander around a bit and see what sounds interesting. Or, slide over to Writer’s Digest,  where they have got a full-service website that hosts a forum, blogs, and numerous groups. Note that you will have to register even to explore, and this is the first website I’ve ever registered on that required you to upload a photo – although I suppose it wouldn’t have known the difference if I’d uploaded a picture of my dog. You also have to join specific groups if you want to post to them.

Of interest on Writer’s Digest are:

This WD group started by the editor of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market welcomes all who are interested in writing books/materials for young readers

Young Adult/Crossover--

Is your heroine/hero 18+ years of age? Are you interested in reading/writing a YA manuscript that isn't about highschool and bubblegum? Then welcome to a group that supports a genre that's growing at a staggering rate!

Of course there are lots of other groups here, too, based on everything from genre to gender and from region to religious affiliation. There’s also a forum which seems to feature both general discussion and specifics related to the content of the magazine – yet another login was required and I decided I’d had enough!

Finally, I’ll mention the CBI Clubhouse, which is the online reincarnation of the Children’s Book Insider newsletter. This is a lively community with lots of information available to members as well a forum and a chat – but the membership costs $4.49/month, less if you pay for a year at a time. This includes the subscription to the Insider as well as full access to the website, and you may well decide it’s worth it. I let it go because I needed to save not only money but time, and all this community stuff can be time consuming!

But no man – or writer – is an island, so swim out and find yourself some buddies to cheer you on and hold you up as you build your career.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Poetry Friday: Shoes (Just for fun!) and A Write Sisters Contest

So, what's up with women and shoes anyway?  Not all women go Gaga over them.  I didn't for a good long time, but now (thanks to my tall, handsome shoe-loving boyfriend), I am a-flutter whenever I see a great shoe. (Lady G's do not fall into this category!)

You can always find poems -- sometimes good, sometimes not -- online  There are a number of self-published poems out there about shoes.  Check them out -- they just may look good on you.

Enter our book give-away contest below where you could win a chance to read about women who clearly left big shoes to fill.

I, The Shoe

As a shoe am I,
Textured with flesh.
Worn where I lean,
Oft without polish,
But never unclean.
I rely on my sole to carry me through,
All of my other bits rely on it too.
It withstands the hardships of any weather,
Has taken its beatings more than the leather,
It remains unseen until I look,
Reassuringly there ‘neath each step that I took.

The previous poem was written by Tina Louise (no, not that Tina Louise).  The one who publishes her poetry here.

Ode to Pablo's Tennis Shoes 

They wait under Pablo's bed,
Rain-beaten, sun-beaten,
A scuff of green
At their tips
From when he fell
 In the school yard.
He fell leaping for a football
That sailed his way.
But Pablo fell and got up,
Green on his shoes,
With the football
Out of reach.

Now it's night.
Pablo is in bed listening
To his mother laughing
to the Mexican novelas on TV.
His shoes, twin pets
That snuggle his toes,
Are under the bed.

He should have bathed,
But he didn't.
(Dirt rolls from his palm,
Blades of grass
Tumble from his hair.)
He wants to be
Like his shoes,
A little dirty
From the road,
A little worn
From racing to the drinking fountain
A hundred times in one day.

It takes water
To make him go,
And his shoes to get him
There. He loves his shoes,
Cloth like a sail,
Rubber like
A lifeboat on rough sea.

Pablo is tired,
Sinking into the mattress.
His eyes sting from
Grass and long words in books.
He needs eight hours
Of sleep
To cool his shoes,
The tongues hanging
Out, exhausted.

                --Gary Soto

Find Gary Soto's website here.

Here's the deal with the contest -- match the Write Sisters with their shoes.  Seven Sisters. Two pairs of shoes. You can find our pictures here.

You'll be entered to win a book from The Notable American Women series published by Apprenticeshop Books. Books in the series to date include New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California, Texas, with more on the way.

Ties will be determined by a drawing. If there are no correct entries, we'll enter everyone's entry in a drawing.  Somebody will win, so be sure to step up and play.  Contest closes at midnight on October 1, 2010.

Send your entry (one per person), to The Write Sisters at this address:

Poetry Friday is being hosted by the shockingly clever Karen Edmisten over at Karen Edmisten.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mentor Monday: How to Receive a Critique in a Group Setting

A while back, my Mentor Monday post offered advice on how to give a critique.  Today, I offer up suggestions on how to receive a critique.
  •  Always bring a piece that has been buffed and polished to perfection -- to the best of your ability so far. If you haven't done all the work associated with this draft, we're certainly not going to put a lot of effort into it because we already know you can do better. Some may disagree with me on this, and probably there are exceptions to when this rule can be broken, but I think those times are rare. What do you think?
  • If you have one (or two) things you'd like to get out of the critique, let the group know before they start reading. Do you wonder whether you've used transitions well or if the dialogue rings true? Give your readers a job to do. We love to help!. Expect that most of us will still comment on your piece as a whole or on other things we feel you need our (so totally) expert opinion on.
  • DO NOT use this opening to give a lengthy explanation of or apologize for your work.  The piece must stand or fall on its own. We can 't emphasize this enough. Well, we could, but it would mean hiring Guido again-- and trust me -- you'd rather that we not.
  •  Being the language-type folk we are, we'll have plenty to say. Jot notes. 
  • In our collective experience, The Write Sisters find that it's always preferable to bring several copies of a manuscript for members to read.  It's just easier for most readers to absorb a piece by reading it. In some groups (ours for example), someone also reads the piece aloud.  Expect and encourage your readers to mark up their copies of your work and return them to you at the end of the session.  
  • In general, make as few comments as possible during the critique of your manuscript. You'll have a chance to speak at the end.
    •  As you listen, try to keep an open mind about what's being said. I think writers should own most comments for at least 24 hours. You may violently disagree with what a reader said, but by at least considering its truth you might learn something from it. If, after all that 'think' time, you still find it's a bunch of horsepucky, by all means, cast that little sucker aside.  
    • Don't assume that all opinions are relevant or even good. Find voices you trust, and listen carefully.
    • Understand your feelings of resistance to things your readers have said. Try something out even though it may be past your skill level or something you really believe won't work. What have you got to lose by just trying it out? Writing is fairly easy to undo. You could possibly be stretching and strengthening a writing muscle you didn't know you had.
    • Don't be paralyzed by what may seem like an flood of negative criticism. There are times when the best of us feel hurt by comments. As long as they're not purposely mean, a comment is meant to help you be a better writer. If you're getting more negative responses than you can handle, ask your critiquers to tell you what they feel actually works in your piece. If your group tends to always focus on the negative, it may be time to find a new group.
    • Try not to explain or defend anything you've written. Of course, there are exceptions to this as, for example, if a critiquer asks for an explanation or if you're trying to illustrate your thinking behind the way you wrote something. But be careful to recognize a fine line here. Remember, no one will accompany your submission to the editor's desk.
    • Be gracious, and don't hog your meeting. It may be your group has no moderator to help bring your session to a close.  Do not let the comments go on endlessly (as they sometimes can . . .).  After a reasonable amount of time, thank everyone for their help, then promise yourself you'll use their advice to make your manuscript totally kick-ass awesome. Bring it back again when you have.

    Friday, September 17, 2010

    Poetry Friday--Write Poetry?

    Many people write poetry, and yet, relatively few books of poetry are published by trade publishers. Small presses pick up the slack, but there aren't enough to publish all those who wish to see their poems in print.

    Some poets, though, have no desire to be published widely. They would be perfectly happy having a few copies of their work made available for family and friends.

    In both above cases, the internet is the new knight in shining armor. It is now amazingly easy to have your poetry collection bound, with a not-horribly-embarrassingly-amateurish cover, and made available to the world, or, to just a few of your friends, through print on demand (POD).

    One internet source (and there are many more) is offers a whole range of services for a writer, some of which are outlined here here. Some literary organizations, and micropresses, use the services of, rather than engaging in the complex and time-consuming business of hiring a printer.

    The reason I'm singling out is because I've purchased several books of poetry from their online store. The books I purchased were printed and arrived quickly. The quality of products I've received has been good.

    This week, two of my poems appeared in a new anthology edited by M. Kei, Catzilla!: Tanka, Kyoka, and Gogyoka About Cats, which is published by Keibooks (a micropress) through (FYI: tanka, kyoka, and gogyoka are 5-line poems.)

    Of course, if you are an individual using to publish, the resulting work is going to be considered "self-publishing." I'm sure I don't have to tell you the stigma that is often attached to a self-published work, so do some serious thinking before committing your work to a POD publisher.

    As the old computer adage goes, "garbage in, garbage out," but, if you've had your work critiqued, and/or edited by a competent editor, then perhaps this new world of online publishing is for you!

    I welcome your opinions, and/or tales of your dealings with any of the online publishing services that exist. Please use the comments section below.

    Head on over to the Poetry Friday Round-Up being hosted by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader.


    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Mentor Monday: Getting it Right/Write

    If you're going to be a Top Chef, you have to know how to cook. If you're going to be the winner of Project Runway, you have to know how to design and sew. If you're going to be a published author, you have to know how to write.

    Most people cook well enough to keep themselves alive. They can sew on a popped button, or stitch up a fallen hem. They're able to maintain hundreds of Facebook friends through their daily posts. Most people, however, will never be a Top Chef, or a Christian Siriano, or a Margaret Wise Brown.

    I am not a literacy snob. I understand that grammar and spelling is a challenge for some folks, and I would never want to silence anybody with an off-hand or cruel comment. That said, I've read more than a few blogs by aspiring authors that only serve to showcase their poor writing skills. If you are serious about publishing, your writing has to be first-rate. There are no second chances or do-overs in the slush pile.

    Pretend for a moment that you're an editor. You're overworked, underpaid and facing a slush pile that reached unmanageable proportions forever ago. You take a chunk off the pile and start mining for diamonds. Although you don't really expect to find anything that sparkles, you're a bit of an optimist. Besides, it's your job. You tear open the first envelope and glance at the cover letter.

    Dear editor,

    Enclosed is my manuscript which would be very suitible for you're company. Its about a little boy who lost his dog which every child can relate to. It actually happened to my son so I know how a story like that goes. You don't have to worry!!! LOL We found the dog and so does the boy in the story;) 

    You stop reading the cover letter and turn your attention to the story, much in the same way you'd turn your attention to a dead animal on the side of the road. You don't want to look, but you have to.

    Jack walked sadly into the big house. He was wearing his favorite red sneakers but that didnot make him feel good. He had his best friend in the whole world Jason with him but he was still sad. When he saw his mom he bursted into tears. "What's the matter with you! Are you hurt?" His mother said. She was very scared. "No but I lost Kahlua!" He said. "How did you loose you're dog? Didn't I teach you how to take good care of a dog? What if he gets runned over?" Jack felt worst than before. Mom gave him a great big hug and said not to worry. Even though you lost the dog we will find him. "Supermom to the rescue!" Said mom. That always made Jack laugh. "Your so funny Mrs. Daniels!!" Said Jason.

    I'm not going to point out what's wrong with the cover letter snippet, or go into a critique of the story excerpt. You can pull on your editor panties and have at them.

    Proper grammar and correct spelling alone do not make a story great. However, your reader will never get to the heart of your story if he or she is distracted by poor grammar and spelling. In fact, you'll probably never have a reader because you won't make it out of the slush pile.

    You have to know your weaknesses. That way, you'll find your errors before sending your work off into the world. Spell check can't catch every spelling mistakes, and proofreading you're own stuff can be tricky. Even if you have a reliable proofreader, you should proofread your work several times before letting it go.

    Don't let bad habits become ingrained by reinforcing them over and over in your casual writing. It's not that difficult to hit the shift key to capitalize proper names or the first word in a sentence. Take a minute to proofread everything you write, even if it's just a quick comment on Facebook. And pay special attention to your/you're personal demons. You never know when they'll raise their/there ugly little heads. 

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Poetry Friday: In Memoriam

    Tomorrow is the 9th anniversary. Let’s keep it in mind.

    New York American Spell, 2001

    by Tom Sleigh

    5 / from brooklyn bridge

    Sun shines on the third bridge tower:
    A garbage scow ploughs the water,

    Maternal hull pushing is all out beyond
    The city, pushing it all out so patiently—

    All you could hear out there this flawless afternoon
    Is the sound of sand pulverizing newsprint

    To tatters, paper-pulp ripping crosswise
    Or lengthwise, shearing off some photo

    Of maybe a head or maybe an arm.
    Ridiculous flimsy noble newspaper,

    Leaping in wind, fluttering, collapsing,
    Its columns sway and topple into babble:

    All you’d see if you were out there
    Is air vanishing into clearer air.

    To read the rest of Tom Sleigh’s poem, go here:

    This week Anastasia at Picture Book of the Day (
    is hosting. Stop in and visit.

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    Women of Wednesday; Looking for Stories

    I’m always on the lookout for more inspiring stories of women’s firsts. As the publisher of the America’s Notable Women series, I continue to develop lists of women who went above and beyond the expected norm.

    My fellow writers have become very adept at suggesting names of accomplished women to add to our lists. Almost every week I get a short e-mail from someone saying “How about adding_______ to the _____(Fill in the state) list?

    When we create the lists of women to be profiled, we start with a list of 50 names per state. After that, we sequence the list by date of birth to see how our ladies fall in the state’s historical timeline. Next we look at why the women are notable and try to have representatives of 2 to 4 women per career. Sometimes that can be difficult. The list can seem heavier in one area or another. Massachusetts is known for its women writers. Texas women are big into politics. Minnesota women are dedicated activists.

    It’s always nice to feature women who overcame odds to become the first—first female governor, astronaut, professional race car driver. I’m always looking for contemporary women.

    So this Wednesday, I’m asking readers to make suggestions. Have you heard of a woman you feel deserves to be profiled? Would she inspire children to try harder, overcome obstacles, or attempt a new career?

    Send your suggestions to and we’ll add them to our lists.

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    Mentor Monday: The Success of Persistence

    Successful (read: published) writers have one major thing in common. It is not talent, or luck, or good connections—though all or any of those things might play a part. True writers are persistent.

    Successful writers write regularly. For some people, this statement might translate to “every day.” To others, it might mean “as often as possible.” And to the majority it might mean “when I get a chance.” The difference between wannabes and successful writers, however, is that they make that chance happen. They get up an hour before the household awakens and write. Or, they carry notebooks and write while waiting for softball practice to end. Or they turn off the TV and turn on the computer.

    Successful writers rewrite. They are humble. They do not consider their words unmoveable, unshapeable, but rather loose and replaceable. They believe whatever has been written can be written better.

    Successful writers submit. They look at their work honestly and compare the work to similar pieces. They study the markets to see who is publishing nonfiction, or history, or funny animal stories and when they find out, they send their work out into the world.

    Successful writers manage time. They turn minutes into sentences, days into chapters, and weeks into books. They read the contracts that eventually arrive and make note of due dates and complete the work on time.

    Successful writers are persistent.

    Persistent: stubborn, determined, obstinate, tenacious, relentless, dogged, steadfast, resolute, unfailing, unswerving.

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    Poetry Friday--"Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor"

    I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I woke up in the middle of the night last week with the lines, "Give me your tired, your poor..." running through my head. When I was in elementary school, I sang in the chorus and one of the numbers we sang was based on the poem by Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus." (The music was composed by Irving Berlin.)

    Lazarus's poem is inscribed on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty and expresses America's welcoming attitude to the immigrants coming into the country in the later part of the 19th century.

    America's arms opened, and closed, for immigrants over the course of our history. Her welcome has depended upon economics, fear, and any number of other factors. Right now it seems her arms are clasped tightly across her chest. For how long?

    Photo by Amuised

    The words of the poem/song are colorful--"huddled masses yearning," "wretched refuse," "homeless, tempest-tost"--and obviously quite memorable since I can still sing the words 50 years later!

    I'm sure when my school chorus performed the song, it must have sounded a little like this:

    SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL, don't you think?

    Check out this week's edition of the Poetry Friday Round-Up found at Susan Taylor Brown's blog.


    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Women of Wednesday--Suffragettes

    In August we marked the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
    The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

    Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    Here are photos from the Library of Congress collection that will illustrate the suffragettes' journey:

    America's first Suffragette parade, New York, February 1905. Where are the women?

    The suffragettes did a LOT of parading. As time went by, there was no doubting who was doing the parading!

    New York circa 1916.

    April 5, 1917.

    There was "grunt" work involved--always the women behind the scenes keeping the movement going:

    Between 1910 and 1915.


    A LOT of politicking:

    June 1917.

    Between 1910 and 1915. PLEASE NOTE: One of their goals was equal pay for equal work. Here we are, nearly 100 years later, and women only earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men.

    Some of it wasn't pretty:

    1919. Yes, suffragettes were imprisoned.

    And some of it looks like it was fun!

    Alice Burke and Nell Richardson in the "Golden Flyer" in which they embarked on a cross-country trip. April 7, 1916.

    But this photo says it all:

    August 30, 1913.

    We ALL need to work together for social justice! That's as true today as it was 90 years ago.