Tuesday, July 21, 2009

An Interview with Pat McCarthy - Children's Author

Pat McCarthy has written more than twelve non-fiction children's books. Her newest, "Heading West: :Life with the Pioneers" is now available on Amazon.com. Pat's love for nature, photography and history inspire her to share this love with her readers. Pat McCarthy is also and expert author at Ezinearticles.com Please welcome Pat McCarthy to Carma's Window.

Q: Hello Pat, I understand you write mostly non-fiction for children. Your newest book, “Heading West: Life with the Pioneers” is about pioneer children and their families who traveled in covered wagons. Is this story about a particular group? What time period does this story cover?

Pat: No, the book is not about a particular group. It pretty much covers the whole pioneer era, which was mainly the 1800s, especially the last half of the century.

Q: What types of activities did you include in “Heading West”?

Pat: I tried to balance the activities, including crafts, writing activities, games, and recipes. They include making a model of a cabin, pretending you're on the Oregon Trail and writing a letter back home, playing Blind Man's Bluff and making cornbread and butter.

Q: I see that you have written biographies of Henry David Thoreau, Abigail Adams and so on. What is the most difficult thing about writing on the subject of these historical figures? You say biographies are your favorite. Tell us why.

Pat: Probably the most difficult thing about writing biographies is sifting through all the information available and trying to decide what is true. Well, we all like talking about people and hearing about what people are doing, so I guess I like learning about a person's life. It seems like everyone is interesting when you find out more about his or her life. I'm always looking for little tidbits that I think kids will like.

Q: What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual story?

Pat: I work best under pressure, so I work a lot harder as the deadline comes closer. This isn't necessarily a GOOD thing, so I wouldn't recommend it! I definitely do an outline first. I have to do one in order to get a proposal approved, but I would anyway. I do a very complete outline of each chapter, and once I plug all the info into the outline, the chapter seems to write itself.

Q: I have heard that many publishers do not encourage authors to contribute any art work or photographs with their submissions. You are an avid photographer. Do you supply your own pictures for your books?

Pat: The publishers I have worked for not only encourage, but REQUIRE the authors to provide the photos for the books. I took about half the pictures for the pioneer book. Some are stock photos of famous people and many are old ones from the Library of Congress that are out of copyright or were never copyrighted. I think this is much more common with nonfiction than with fiction, where they definitely don't want you to provide illustrations unless you are a professional illustrator.

Q: Which element of writing comes more naturally for you—plot, characterization, description, dialogue? Which one gives you the hardest time?

Pat: I write mostly nonfiction, so plot and dialogue don't really apply. The plot is already there - I just have to discover it. And in true nonfiction, there isn't dialogue unless you're writing an autobiography, where you were there to hear the conversations. When I'm writing fiction, dialogue comes easily for me. Trying to get the plot to all work together is the hardest.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring children’s writers who are trying to break into the field?

Pat: Don't give up. Perseverance is more important than talent, but it helps to have both.

Q: Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Pat: I don't really have writer's block. There are times when I don't feel like writing, but I don't think that's exactly the same thing. And a looming deadline does wonders to cure it!

Q: What type of book promotion seems to work best for you?

Pat: There wasn't a lot I could do to promote my other books, as they were sold to schools and libraries. I'm hoping to have more book signings and to do lots of school visits with this book. I also am working on a website. I'm on Facebook and have a Blog.

Q: What future goals or projects are in the works?

Pat: I'm working on a proposal for another book for Chicago Review Press. I do have a mid grade novel that I'm sending out, but no bites so far.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

Pat: They can look at my Blog, which can be found at www.patmccarthysauthorblog.blogspot.com When I get it set up, my website will be www.authorpatmccarthy.com I'm hoping to have it up early in August.

Thank you so much Pat for taking the time to answer my questions.


Monday, July 13, 2009

8 Steps to Writing Articles for Children

Article writing is a key tool for children's writers. It is a great way to get your name out there and garner some publishing credits. Enjoy Pat McCarthy's article below.

Eight Easy Steps to Writing an Article for Children

Have you thought about writing an article for a children’s magazine? Maybe you have an idea, but you’re not sure how to go about it. Here are some tips.

Step One. Choose a topic. It should be something that many children will be interested in. But it should also be something you know about or are interested in learning more about. Animals, sports, famous people, science and how-to articles are all popular choices..

Step Two.
Narrow your topic. Concentrate on just one aspect of it. I wanted to write an article about birds. I’d just returned from Florida, so I decided to concentrate on the birds I saw in one place, Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. This was still too broad a topic, so I honed in on how different birds there eat. The article, “Dinner at Ding Darling,” was published by Children’s Digest.

Step Three. Research your article. Use both online resources and books and articles. Editors like a mix of print and Internet sources in a bibliography. Look for interesting little tidbits that will appeal to kids. Find facts with wow appeal and yuck appeal. Kids like the amazing as well as the gross.

Step Four. Organize your research. Jot down the main points you want to make, then go through your notes and plug them into your outline. It doesn’t have to be a formal outline. It just needs to get your thoughts in order. I love outlines. Once my outline is done, the article seems to almost write itself.

Step Five. Write the article. Decide what age you are writing for, then try to keep your writing on that level. Don’t talk down to kids but try to use words that age child would know and understand. Keep your sentences simple and fairly short. Use short paragraphs. Children are intimidated by large blocks of type.

Step Six. Revise and edit your article. To make sure it flows smoothly, read it aloud to yourself. That will enable you to notice the rhythm and to find repeated words. Be very sure there are no errors in spelling or grammar.

Step Seven. Research the markets. Get a copy of Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market or research children’s publishers online. Make sure your article is the right length, for the right age, and on a topic the magazine uses.

Step Eight. Submit your article. Then get busy writing another one.
Sound simple? Try it! With a little work and practice, you can be successful at writing articles for children.

Pat McCarthy is an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature and the author of over a dozen books for children. Learn more about her books at her blog, http://www.PatMcCarthysAuthorBlog.blogspot.com If you have a question about writing for children, e-mail Pat at patmcbirder@woh.rr.com. More resources for children's writers will soon be up on the blog. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Pat_McCarthy

Write it down,

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Book Review
A 2007 Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book; Winner of the 2007 Bank Street/Josette Frank Award; A Child Magazine Best Book of the Year

Title: Clementine
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Reading level: Ages 7 - 10
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (February 15, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0786838833
ISBN-13: 978-0786838837

Clementine knows the layout of the principal’s office as well as she does the art supply closet. In fact she is so comfortable in the principal’s office that she helps out whenever she can. But going to Principal Rice’s office is not a highlight of Clementine’s day. Instead of sending a note home every time she visits the principal’s office, a note is sent home when Clementine does NOT visit Principal Rice’s office. Clementine was so used to being sent there that one day she showed up on her own.

Trouble starts when best friend Margaret gets glue stuck in her hair and Clementine obliges to help by cutting all of Margaret’s hair off and then fills in the gaps by drawing hair back on the scalp, forehead, and neck with a Flaming Sunset permanent marker. Clementine remarks in her witty fashion, "It looked beautiful, like a giant tattoo of tangled worms,"

Everyone thinks Clementine does not pay attention. Everyday her teacher and principal tell her “Clementine, you need to pay attention.” She pays so much attention that she can “tell everyone right in the middle of the Pledge of Allegiance that the lunchroom lady was sitting in the janitor’s car and they were kissing, Again! No one else was paying attention out the window.” Clementine pays attention.

In Clementine's mind she is helping and fixing problems with her “spectacularful ideas which are always “sproinging” up in her brain. Kids and parents alike will laugh out loud. I highly recommend it. You will exclaim Oh my darling Clementine!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sara Pennypacker When I was a kid, I loved books and I loved art. Books and art didn’t care that I was shy. Books and art didn’t care that I was really tall. So I read and made up stories, and I drew and painted and did mosaics and carved things (there were a couple of years when I spent my entire allowance on bars of Ivory soap for carving) and I read and made up stories. In school, I used to do all my work as fast as I could so I could get extra time for free reading or to work on art projects. Even as a grown-up, I am still happiest reading, writing, and making art.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Marla Frazee has created illustrations for a number of award-winning books for children, in addition to writing her own self-illustrated titles. Her expressive ink drawings capture every nuance of Clementine’s emotions, from bemusement to anger to dejection. Frazee once told SATA that illustrating children's books was a childhood career goal. "I have wanted to be a children's book illustrator for a very long time,"

Write it down,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing -

Book Review

Tales of a fourth grade nothing
Author: Judy Blume
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Puffin (April 5, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0142408816
ISBN-13: 978-0142408810

First in a series of five Fudge books, Judy Blumes’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a timeless story revealing trials and tribulation of sibling rivalry. Blume takes the scenario of “good kid” “bad kid” and turns it into enlightening prose. Peter Hatcher is nine years old and must deal with little brother Farley’s (aka “Fudge”) repulsive cuteness and constant meddling among other serious offenses, which are almost too much for Peter to bear at times.

All of these enlivening episodes are dealt with big-hearted humor from Blume. Fudge is lively and has limited vocabulary as most three-year olds do. His two most over-used words are “No” and “Mine”. It’s pretty hard for Peter to communicate rights of ownership when Fudge cannot comprehend. Everything is theirs for the taking: like leaping from large rocks; throwing temper tantrums in shoe stores; and refusing to eat until Peter stands on his head.

Each chapter in this book is a small vignette of daily interactions and adventures between Peter and Fudge. As the story progresses, you may think poor Peter, will he ever get a break? Peter is understandably jealous of the amount of attention his little brother gets but at least when he is allowed to get a pet turtle named Dribble, Peter feels a small sense of comfort. However, when Fudge ends up breaking his own two front teeth after flying off a rock, which is his own fault, Peter’s mother takes her anger out on Peter. He begins to wish Fudge had never been born.

Blume is a master at creating suspense for her 9 to 12 year old audience. As the story builds on each chapter to the happy ending, the main position held throughout is family values. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing demonstrates the importance of family values and the role that humor plays in our lives. We must never lose that sense. This is a must read for any kid you know.

If you are considering writing for this age group (8 – 12), reading a Judy Blume book will inspire you. Blume’s insight into the elementary school mind is awe-inspiring because she is so on target. As writers of children’s books, it is recommended to study the craft in addition to reading the type of book you wish to write. To be a good writer you must first read, read, read, and then read some more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Blume spent her childhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, making up stories inside her head. She has spent her adult years in many places doing the same thing, only now she writes her stories down on paper. Adults as well as children will recognize such Blume titles as: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Blubber; Just as Long as We're Together; and the five book series about the irrepressible Fudge. She has also written three novels for adults, Summer Sisters; Smart Women; and Wifey, all of them New York Times bestsellers. More than 80 million copies of her books have been sold, and her work has been translated into thirty-one languages. She receives thousands of letters a year from readers of all ages who share their feelings and concerns with her.

Write it down,

Monday, July 6, 2009

The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs! - By A. Wolf -

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
Author: Jon Scieszka
Illustrator: Lane Smith

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Puffin (March 1, 1996)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0140544518
ISBN-13: 978-0140544510

If you or your child have ever been bored buy the Three Little Pigs story, “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! By A. Wolf” is a must read. However, I think the satirical humor is lost on kids under the age of six. The publisher says reading level is for 4 – 8. The reading level is fine but it is the content I am speaking about.

The story by A. Wolf proves there are two sides to every story but that doesn’t make either side good or bad. Everybody has a story. However, realistically, somebody’s gotta be the “bad guy”. The author indicates A. Wolf is just an ordinary wolf who wants to borrow a cup of sugar. Never mind that two pigs die in the process. According to Alexander Wolf the dumb little pigs shouldn’t have built shabby houses. How dare they!

This is a very funny book but I would not read it to a pre-school or kindergarten age child since Alexander T. Wolf blames his penchant for cute little animals, like bunnies and pigs, on the fact that it’s not his fault because “That’s just the way we are.” He is just a poor misunderstood wolf who only wants to make a cake for his granny. Victimized by three dumb pigs and the media.

About the author:
Jon Scieszka: He is the author of some of the best known and funniest books written for children, including The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, the Time Warp Trio chapter book series, the Caldecott Honor Book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales and the newest Trucktown series (Simon & Schuster, 2008).

About the Illustrator Lane Smith: After illustrating his first children's book, Smith met aspiring author Jon Scieszka and agreed to illustrate his parody of The Three Little Pigs. Once Smith found a publisher who didn't think the story was too sophisticated, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! became a bestseller.Lane Smith’s tabloid type illustrations are what set True Story apart from all others.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Learn to Write for Children in Six Weeks!

Writing Coach and award winning Children's Author, Suzanne Lieurance has done it again. Suzanne has developed a concise and rewarding E-course for serious writers who want to learn how to break into the children's lucrative market. No excuses here. Learn all the Tricks of the Trade in the comfort of your home.

This is a perfect summer course and you can even download the audio to your mp3 player and take it on the road. It will be like having Suzanne in your pocket. In addition, you will also receive a text file of written materials to accompany the audio. Whether you are a visual or audio learner, this course is made for you and affordable. For only $147.00 (that's only $24.50 per week) you can become a children's author. And there is much, much more. So what do you say?

OH! Did I mention the Bonus you receive when you sign up for this 6-week E-course?

When you register for the course right now!! you'll also receive 2 months membership in the Children's Writers' Coaching Club (a $54 value), which will give you the opportunity to have at least one of your manuscripts professionally critiqued once a week every single week for two months. As a member of the Children's Writers' Coaching Club you'll also receive email invitations to weekly teleclasses presented by successful published children's authors.

Hurry up and click on the link below and begin learning Tricks of the Trade today.

Tricks of the Trade: Learn to Write for Children in Just 6 Weeks

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Five Ways to Write After a Crash!

Three weeks ago I clicked on my computer screen to remove the screen saver. All I could see were multi-colored dots and lines. After rebooting twice and restarting once, it was obvious my modest computer knowledge wasn't gonna cut it.

A trip to the Geek Squad confirmed my fear. My HP is going in the shop. However, there was good news. I had forgotten I had purchased an extended warranty three years ago so repairs cost nothing.

Five ways for a writer to survive without a computer:

1. In case you forgot how to hold a pen or pencil. Open your writing hand and place forefinger and thumb around the barrel of a pen or pencil.
2. Touch the point end of pen or pencil to paper and begin to move your hand. The act of writing will come back to you rather quickly.
3. Use a voice recorder to “write” your article or story. This is great if you have arthritic hands like me.
4. Take a trip to your local library and use their free services to surf the Internet, check email and transcribe notes from your voice recorder. Be prepared to work and think like the speed of light because there is always a long line and not enough computers. One hour time limits, per day, apply to most libraries. Unless you know exactly where to surf, one hour is not long enough. (Note: libraries are not open at 10 p.m. when you are on deadline)
5. Throw yourself on the mercy of your adult child or best friend (who do not live with you) and promise to cook them dinner if they will lend you their computer and office space in their home.

I admit I am addicted to computer technology and have long since discarded any manual writing methods. Physically it is too difficult for me to hand write for any length of time. Short notes are about all I can do without pain. Typing on a keyboard uses different muscles and the pressure required is light. Also, the curvature of my hands is natural.

How would your writing survive without modern technology? Would you want it to? Are we destined to commemorate our “feathered writing quill” into an icon reminiscence of the past?

I'm Back!
Write it down,