Tag Archives: author

marc and arthur…

4 May

You know Arthur right? A cute, young aardvark (with an obnoxious little sister) who’s been on countless adventures both in books and on TV.

Well, we’re pretty familiar with this character here at our house.

That’s why last night my best boy Tom and I jumped at the chance to hear Marc Brown, prolific author and creator of Arthur, speak. He was visiting Cedar Rapids as part of the Metro Library Network’s Out Loud! author series. He shared insights on how and when he created Arthur (in a bedtime story for his son Tolon 35 years ago), where he works on the Arthur adventures (he lives on Martha’s Vineyard surrounded by lots of animals with entertaining names) and what he is working on now (illustrating a heart warming new book by author Judy Sierra). He even drew a few versions of Arthur…right before our very eyes!

He was very funny and honest and I could have listened to his stories all night. I decided Marc Brown is a kid at heart.

Perhaps that’s one of the keys to being successful in the world of Children’s Literature….for 35 years…and still going!

After he spoke Tom and I waited as patiently as possible for Mr. Brown to sign our Arthur books. Tom was anxious because earlier in the day he’d drawn a picture of Arthur he wanted to give to the Arthur master. He realized when creating his drawing he’d forgotten Arthur’s glasses…no problem, said Marc Brown….borrow my marker and add the glasses. Tom did and handed off the drawing. Marc Brown was genuinely touched. I was told later by another attendee that he saves all the drawings kids make for him. Add that fact to the growing list of reasons I heart Marc Brown.

We chatted with Mr. Brown for just a moment while he signed books. We chuckled at the fact that we have a D.W. at home (Lucy of course!) Marc Brown made the point to say that even though little sisters can be a little much when you are young (he would know…he has three!), that they grow up to be fun people. Again, bonus points for the author. He knows his stuff.

We snapped a cute picture…

Aren’t they cute? Marc Brown is saying “pizza!”

…thanked Marc Brown, and were on our way. And I am sure the memories will last, like Arthur, for at least 35 years.

writing in the cracks…

13 Jan

OK, OK, OK…I know it’s been FAR too long! But I’m here now…so here goes.

I just got back from an evening spent at the OneBookTwoBook Festival in Iowa City with my dear friend Sara. We listened to twenty 4th through 6th graders read their poems and stories aloud, which was truly inspiring. As we grow older (at least in my case) it becomes increasingly difficult to stand in front of a crowd and read your own work.

Then we got to hear from author and National Book Award winner (for her book Mockingbird) Katheryn Erskine. She said many wonderful things about why we tell stories and how important it is to make sure kids of all ages and abilities feel understood and appreciated.

But the one little nugget that I know I’ll remember for quite some time came when someone asked Erskine what her writing process is. She not only said she isn’t the type of writer that sits down every day to write but she also said she is often “writing in the cracks.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard before that totally hits home for me. And I don’t think you have to have a husband, two young kids, a dog, two part time jobs and a freelance writing career to (not to mention the rest of life) to understand what it means.

The cracks may be all I’ve got at this point in my life, but I walked out of the room where Katheryn Erskine was standing and thought “you can win the National Book Award just writing in the cracks.”

Call me an eternal optimist…I’ll see you when I find the next crack.

The writing on the wall…

19 Aug

So I don’t plan to use this blog to tell you endless stories about how funny my kids are (not that I don’t have the content!) But two recent Tom and Lucy episodes got me thinking about writing and being an author…and they might even make you chuckle. So today I just have to share… 

The other night Tom and I were laying in his bed reading before he went to sleep. We have read together every night since he was a toddler and we share a true love of books. (To her credit, Lucy loves books too.) Anyway, on this particular night Tom had picked a nonfiction book about being an astronaut he’d recently selected at Half Price Books using the dollars he’d earned from their summer reading program. Now I will admit I’d rather read a fiction book any day but Tom has always been drawn to nonfiction (especially if is involves emergency vehicles, sharks, dinosaurs and now outer space.) He has an awesome hunger for knowledge. 

OK get to the point already right?! So we read for a few minutes and then Tom stops me and says, “The person who wrote this book must have been an astronaut huh?!” I said well maybe, but that is the wonderful thing about writing. You don’t have to be an astronaut to write about space. You get to do research and become an expert on that topic to help you write. He thought for a second and then said “well I’m going to go to space and write a book.” “Oh, how cool,” I replied like a good mom. “That’s a neat idea to write a book while you are in space.” Tom quickly corrected me. “No mom. I’m not going to write it in space. I’ll need gravity so I can hold on to my pencil.” Of course, what was I thinking! 

Rewind a few weeks to an ordinary afternoon at our house. I was upstairs doing laundry or cleaning up the toy room or some other thankless mom task when I realized that my little friend Lucy was awfully quiet downstairs. That of course always means trouble. So I headed downstairs to check things out. When I turned the corner into my “office” (otherwise known as our living room) there was innocent little Lucy with a black pen in hand and an amazing assortment of artwork/writing all over the wall next to my desk and on the fabric of my desk chair. Busted!

Luckily we got all the pen markings off the chair. But I still haven’t cleaned the pen off the wall yet (it’s just over my shoulder as I type.) Maybe part of me likes the idea that my two-year-old is eager to be creative. 

I can see, in their own ways, that my quest to become a children’s book author is inspiring my own kids. Even if it means I have some touch up painting to do!

Coming down the line…

26 May

Earlier this week I completed my first draft of the outline for “Evelyn’s Drawings Can’t Swim”.  When I first started this process it seems like a daunting task. I had never written such an outline before and I wondered where to start—at the beginning obviously!—and if I had the whole story in me. 

I started by just jotting down all the random ideas that had popped into my head about the story. I’d get excited when parts of the story started connecting. And slowly but surely the string of ideas began to form a skeleton of the story. It felt like it was truly turning into something that other people might want to read. 

I think one of the most challenging and at the same time most interesting parts of this experience for me was that when I started the outline process I didn’t exactly know what was going to happen in the story. Well I knew some of it of course. But there were lots of events and details that hadn’t come to me easily like other elements of the story. I think I’ll kind of find that in some ways when I actually start to write and I look forward to that. I’ve heard other authors talk about this idea before, and I think it is a true reflection of the process of writing a novel and a good story coming to life. It (the story) sometimes knows better than the author what should happen next or which fork in the road to take. 

Right now, in outline form I actually have two different plot lines the story could follow towards the end. Some days I lean towards one direction and other days I am sure the other direction would be best (and more exciting.) I very much look forward to figuring that part out in coming weeks. 

I am also very grateful for the support and guidance from my editor, Angela. She has my draft outline right now and we’ll talk tomorrow to make tweaks and improvements. She’s weigh in on which direction the story should take. And so far, she’s been the one to question what I write, remind me not to make it all perfect the first time around (as if I could!), encourage me to keep going, and challenge me to think differently when I need to. 

The next part of the journey will be transforming it from just an outline to a real story. I for one can’t wait!

Call me crazy…but I’m going to write a young adult novel!

9 May

OK so I have been saying I wanted to write books for kids for quite some time (before I had my own kids even.) So I decided 2010 was going to be the year I should stop talking about it and actually start writing.

And so I’ve started writing this book. But this isn’t my first writing gig, I’ll have you know. I have, in fact, been a writer for a long time. I loved writing stories as a kid, was editor of my high school newspaper (totally cool, right?!) and got serious about it in college, when I majored in Magazine Journalism and English/Writing at Drake University. I’ve spent the last eight years writing for various publications (as a freelance journalist) on a wide variety of topics—everything from profiles of local folks making good in the community (check out page 10 and 11) to tips on installing a car seat properly (trust me, it’s much harder that it looks!)

But this is my first attempt at writing not only a novel, but a novel that will entertain kids…more specifically tweens and teens. Yikes! You, like me, may be wondering why I didn’t start out with something a little less challenging. Sure, there are moments when I think I might be crazy. But really when it comes to starting the quest of becoming a published author, I don’t think there is a non-challenging approach. Tweens and teens excluded, writing a book can be a daunting project (I am certainly not 100 percent sure of my abilities 100 percent of the time.) But I whole-heartedly believe it wouldn’t be worth doing if it wasn’t going to challenge me, push my abilities, enhance my skills and keep me learning in an ever-changing world. Oh, and tell a truly unique and special story that kids everywhere can’t wait to pick up.

So I write. And you can join me here (at least weekly) where I’ll let you in on the process of bringing my novel idea to life.