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Gratitude Sunday 79

By any measure — physical, mental, emotional — this was not a “good” week. However, I’ve said before that it is even more important to practice gratitude when life doesn’t seem so great on the surface. So in the spirit of practicing what I preach, here is this week’s Gratitude Sunday post.

Quotes on Gratitude

“To get up each morning with the resolve to be happy is to set our own conditions to the events of each day. To do this is to condition circumstances instead of being conditioned by them.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you allow yourself to breathe into the depth, wonder, beauty, craziness, and strife — everything that represents the fullness of your life — you can live fearlessly. Because you come to realize that if you just keep breathing, you cannot be conquered.” — Oprah Winfrey

“There’s always going to be bad stuff out there. But here’s the thing, light trumps darkness every time. You can stick a candle into the dark, but you can’t stick the dark into the light.” — Jodi Picoult

Gratitude list for the week ending April 21

  1. Lovely spring weather
  2. Reading one of my childhood favorites, Hurry Home Candy, to the kids
  3. My mother
  4. Meeting deadlines
  5. Rescuing ANOTHER baby bunny – this time from the window well, and this time big enough to survive on its own
  6. Getting a babysitter and going out to dinner on Saturday night
  7. A baby lamb born to the sheep in the field behind our yard
  8. Jay learned to tie his shoes in one day.
  9. The tomato plants are sprouting.
  10. Long-standing conflicts on the road to being resolved

What are you grateful for this week?

Today’s PPBF selection is from one of our April Author-Palooza authors – Sandy Asher.

 Too Many Frogs

Written by Sandy Asher, Illustrated by Keith Graves

Philomel, February, 2005

Suitable for: Ages 3+

Themes/Topics: Friendship, Habits, Animals, Bedtime, Reading, Books, Manners

Opening/Synopsis: From Booklist: Rabbit settles in his cozy wing chair by the fire and starts to read a book until he is interrupted by Froggie, who invites himself in and asks to hear the story. On successive nights, Froggie shows up again, makes himself snacks, and plunks down on a pile of pillows to listen to more reading aloud. Then Froggie brings his huge family to the evening storytime, and Rabbit has had enough: “Too many frogs! Too much fuss!” He tells the Frog clan to leave, but guilt catches up with him, and he invites the family back. The humorous, repetitive text is well matched by the funny, expressive illustrations.

Activities: I found this great activity sheet for the book which includes extension activities and discussion topics. Here is another website that lists more than 50 activities for frog-themed picture books, including TOO MANY FROGS! I think this could be very funny as a drama exercise, even with just two kids – one being rabbit and one the first frog. In fact, I think I might just try that with my kids this weekend…

Why I Like This Book: I am a lot like Rabbit in this story. When I cozy up with a good book, I just want to be left alone… most of the time. In fact, I can be quite a curmudgeon about it. But since my kids were born I have come to appreciate group reading time and sharing stories together. Reading them their bedtime stories is easily my favorite part of the day. My kids love the silliness of the frog and the fact that he is oblivious to Rabbit’s feelings. As a writer, I have to say I love the few rhyming parts in the story. This book is an excellent example of how to stir a little rhyme into your prose.

For more fantastic picture books and resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books.

Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author is Dana Carey. When I was in Bologna, I met one of her critique partners, which made me feel one step closer to knowing her in person. Dana is the Associate Regional Advisor of SCBWI France, and as such, she has kindly made me an honorary member. I hope to one day make that more than honorary and visit them all there! Please welcome Dana!

Balancing Acts

One of the things I love about the 12 x 12 challenge is getting to know people who share an interest in picture books. Something you may not know about me is I’m an American living in France with a daughter I’ve been raising as a bilingual. I wanted her to know both families, French and American, to keep things balanced. Or at least as balanced as possible.

To do this, I speak to her exclusively in English and her father speaks to her in French. I swing back and forth between the two languages on a daily basis, sometimes within one conversation. It probably seems weird to others looking in but as a family, we’ve gotten used to it. I don’t live immersed in one foreign language and my French is fine but keeping both languages up to snuff is a concern.

We all strive for balance in our lives between family, job, friends and more with writing. Or illustrating. Or both. Some of you 12x12ers may be like me an author/illustrator. The dream is to have lots of great dummy books of our stories. And the hard part is doing both things at the same time and getting better at both.

What can we do to keep to everything balanced and progressing at more or less the same speed?

The 12 x 12 has been great in providing some balance for me. Instead of thinking about writing, I write. Every month! Especially when the 12X12 deadline looms: I have to get something down on paper. It swings the balance back.

A monthly critique group complements the 12 x 12. Through my SCBWI France chapter, I found a group that meets in Paris. One problem I live about 6 hours from there. But thanks to my Virtual Identity (I skype in), I’m part of the group. They put me on a sideboard while they gather round the dining room table of our host. Again, it may seem weird to others looking in but it works for us. And each month I have a rendez-vous with writing.

What about swinging back to illustration?

While I find time and distance a great help to revising texts, I find this to be less true with illustration. Breaking the chain of sketching page layouts or painting spreads slows progress. The more time I spend illustrating, the better it is. If I get sidetracked for awhile, diving back in is slower than diving back into writing. Much like if I were to stop writing a first draft of a picture book halfway in and let it go for a week or two. Doesn’t work for me but if I finish and come back to revise 2 weeks later, that’s perfect.

A skype meeting on Monday mornings with an illustration partner helps swing the balance back to illustration. To prepare, I scan in sketches or finished work from the week and email it. This makes me conscious of what I’m doing each week. Come Sunday night, I assess how I’ve spent my time. Sometimes all I have to send are rough sketches but this helps. For one thing, I realize I did do something. And I won’t forget those sketches by showing them to my partner I’ve legitimized the effort and can continue to push that work forward. All those sketches eventually add up to layouts, character studies, ideas for a portfolio piece.

We are all familiar with the “To Do” list (that daunting document that mocks us all week long). I’ve taken the Sunday night prep scanning a step further: writing the “Done” list everything I’ve actually accomplished during the week. I’m learning that a big part of balance is mental. I feel like I haven’t done enough but I did push things forward. Acknowledging my weekly accomplishments, however humble they may be, helps create
continuity and keeps me on track.

Swinging back and forth between French and English got easier over time. Happily, it has provided balance to my family my daughter loves talking to her American family and they are so happy that she can.

And I’m so happy Julie came up with this great challenge because it helps me even the scales between writing and illustrating. Imagine the “Done” list we’ll have at the end of the year! In the meantime, what do you do to maintain balance in your lives? Writing and illustrating? Or writing picture books/middle grade/young adult? Verse and prose? Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Dana Carey was a graphic designer and art director in New York and then Paris, and later taught English in Versailles (Architecture School) and Paris (Art School). Now living in Brittany, she’s a pre-pubbed author/illustrator of picture books. She reads MG/YA books in English and writes reports in French for a French publisher as well as doing some translation and painting. Find her on twitter: @danaFR; facebook and at her blog: http://danacarey.blogspot.fr/.

Gratitude Sunday 78

This week’s Gratitude Sunday really started last Sunday when we got together with my mom, my Aunt and my cousin and her family and we shared an Easter dinner that included the best prime rib I’ve ever eaten. That set the tone for a very good week.

Quotes on Gratitude

A week or so ago, Orna Ross blogged about a retreat she attended with Thich Nhat Hahn and shared these quotes.

“Don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy. Smile, breathe and go slowly… Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

“The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth… Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

“Because you are alive, everything is possible.”

Gratitude list for the week ending April 14

  1. A hyacinth in a vase next to my bed, such that I fell asleep and woke up to its lovely scent.
  2. Attending a fascinating talk by Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works
  3. Making plans to see Les Mis with a college friend this summer, which has special significance for us
  4. Outdoor runs
  5. Lilacs in bloom
  6. Tulips blooming on Pearl Street
  7. Getting to see the movie Titanic on the big screen again – and in 3-D!
  8. Reading my book with the sound of rain on the roof
  9. Another helpful and supportive meeting with my in-person critique group
  10. Laura Backes helped me solve a problem in one of my manuscripts – a problem I’ve been trying to fix for TWO YEARS!

What are you grateful for this week?

Today’s PPBF selection is from another one of our April Author-Palooza authors – Jennifer Ward. If you like this book, I suggest you read others in this series. Set to the tune of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, they are great fun!

There Was an Odd Princess Who Swallowed a Pea

Written by Jennifer Ward, Illustrated by Lee Calderon

Marshall Cavendish Children, September, 2011

Suitable for: Ages 4+

Themes/Topics: Princesses, Rhyming, Silliness, Fractured Fairy Tale, Humor

Opening/Synopsis: From KirkusThe exuberant princess in this tale begins her day by swallowing the titular pea, which had been under her mattress. From there, the things she ingests get more farcical and less foodlike (as well as a lot bigger)… Observant readers will pick out items and characters that belong in other fairy tales—Cinderella’s glass slipper, the Frog Prince and a prince who could be from Rapunzel’s tale. Spot-on rhymes and rhythms keep the pages turning.

Activities: Jennifer’s website includes a Lesson plan for another book in this series – There Was an Old Monkey who Swallowed a Frog. Many of the activity ideas in that plan could also be applied to There Was an Odd Princess. For example, comparing Ward’s tale to the original. Jennifer’s website indicates that a lesson plan specifically for this title is coming soon, so check back. Another activity my daughter enjoyed was finding all the references to traditional princess tales. There is also a scroll at the bottom of each page revealing the previous items the princess has eaten, so kids can “read” along and chime in as the story unfolds.

Why I Like This Book: This book is just plain fun to read out loud. Even though it’s a spinoff of the popular song, it is unexpected and fresh in its approach. When a book spoofs two well-known stories, you don’t expect to be surprised, but I was! The illustrations go right along with the hilarity of the text. My daughter belly-laughed when I read it to her. Now we want to get the other books Jennifer has written in this series and compare them all to see which one is our favorite.

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books.

BAWK & ROLL – WINNER!!

I know Elvis Poultry likes to make a grand entrance and all, but it’s been so hectic this week I have to keep it simple. I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

I mean… *cough*

Anyway, let’s just get right to the chicken winner shall we?

The lucky winner is…

Elizabeth Stevens Omlor!!!!!!!  Congratulations Elizabeth! With this book, you won’t be lonesome tonight.

Having grown up in Michigan, I have a soft spot for Michiganders, especially those who write for children. So I am pleased to welcome one such woman as today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 author — Jennifer Rumberger. Jennifer is an active and helpful contributor to the 12 x 12 Facebook group and does a great job of supporting other authors by participating in Perfect Picture Book Friday and Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. Welcome Jennifer!

It started with PiBoIdMo 2011. I don’t even remember how I came across the challenge. Probably one blog lead to another and there it was! Coming up with one picture book idea a day seemed fairly doable, so I signed up. Through the month of November, I came to know many new published and pre-published writers. When Julie started floating the idea of the 12×12 Challenge, I couldn’t resist. Having goals and deadlines definitely does help me stay more focused. And the close-knit community is so helpful and caring, and that was before the challenge even officially started!

But let me backtrack a little. I’ve been serious about my writing for almost three years now. My first step was to take the introductory course with the Institute of Children’s Literature. I learned so much and started to dip my toe into the writing pond.

After about six months, I joined SCBWI which was one of the best decisions I ever made. The conferences I have attended in Michigan have been so inspiring, and the writing community I am now a part of truly has been a blessing. Many say writing can be lonely, but being a part of a community of writers takes care of that.

This past fall I started my blog and another community of writers opened up to me. I have met some wonderful writing friends and critique partners. Someday I hope to meet them all in person!

I definitely have to thank my husband and two sons for supporting me through this journey. They have given me the time to write when I need it, and my boys love to listen to the story ideas I bounce off them. Having a built in critique group at home definitely helps too, even though they can sometimes be TOO honest!

As I continue on my writing journey, I look forward to strengthening the relationships I have already forged and meeting many more new writers. And to all you fellow 12×12’ers, best of luck the rest of the year!

Jennifer Rumberger is a wife and mom of two very active boys. She is an administrative assistant during the day and a children’s writer in her free time, which can be at home or at one of her boys’ many sports practices (never during games!). She has been published in a handful of children’s magazines and is working on a middle grade novel and her 12 x 12 picture book manuscripts. She also loves to read! You can find out what she’s reading by checking out her blog www.jenniferrumberger.com.

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