Friday, December 30, 2011

Focus Friday: New Year, New Goals

One Life Dream: To bring 1 Million Books to Gambia (I'm lucky to have such a supportive husband!)
I was all set to *finally* post my goals for 2012, when Kristi Holl posted her latest thoughts.  

Dream bigger, she pushed.

And I realized, looking at my totally "do-able" list of words to write or submissions per month, etc., that these weren't really my dreams for my writing career.  They were things I planned to do to get closer to achieving them.  Things entirely in my control (which I'll still do, but they're not all that I want).

So, today on my blog you get to see me spill all, even though I risk ridicule (or you thinking I'm full of myself in dreaming so big).  But if I only told you the practical things I planned to do for 2012, I wouldn't be telling the whole truth.  There's a lot more to me than word count or blog followers.  And there's a lot in publishing that isn't solely dependent on me - that's why goals are great and dreams are necessary.

So, here's to you, Kristi.  Happy New Year!

(things I can't always control, but will passionately work towards!)

1) To be able to say I like LOVE my current WIP, a YA novel.  And that it's DONE.

2) To snag the elusive picture book agent.  There are three of you I'm stalking.

3) To land my first traditional picture book contract.  Then many more. (Don't get me wrong, I love educational publishers and the work-for-hire projects I do.  But there's a big difference).

4) To hold my very first hardcover, traditionally-published picture book in my hand.  To smell it.  To run my fingers over the amazing illustrations crafted by the perfect artist.  Like Kadir Nelson.

5) To win an SCBWI or ALA award. A Newbery would be nice someday.

6) To see 1 Million Books for Gambia complete its mission in my lifetime.

7) To finally consider myself fluent in Mandinka, Wolof, and Creole.  At least one of the three anyway.

8) To win THE AMAZING RACE. (Ok, so that's not a writing dream but it's always on my mind!)

(things I can do - in the hopes of achieving my dreams!)

1) To finish my WIP (YA novel) - at least the first complete draft - by March 30, 2012.

2) To continue my agent research and attend my first national convention in 2012 as well as attend state and local SCBWI ones.  Since I already have a (small) list of agents I'd love to be repped by, I will simply stalk them until I know how they take their coffee and which toothpaste they prefer.   I will make notes on every agent on my list by August 2012 to see if we're compatible.  And submit to the ones I like before the end of 2012.  And I will not cry when someone tells me that the Agent Fairy isn't real again.

3) Since I write, write, write, and revise, revise, revise - I guess it's finally time to submit.  The feedback at conferences and current contest winnings, etc. have given my the confidence in my work.  I will submit at least two picture books each month to the 'right' publishers (assuming there's an open house accepting unsolicited mss).

3a) I've also decided to join 12 x 12 in 2012.  Those of you who know me are probably rolling your eyes (how many MORE picture book manuscripts could she possibly write...doesn't she have, like, a hundred already?).   The point is, participating will get me to move on to new picture books and actively seek homes for the ones that are complete and have gotten great feedback from authors, editors, critique groups - and most importantly - MYSELF.

4) I'm going to read every book by Kadir Nelson.  In the hopes that one day he'll illustrate something I've written.  No, I don't know him.  Not yet, anyway :)  Just a huge fan.  And all books by my mentor, Lisa Moser.  Once I finish reading their books, however, I'm going to try and read the same number of books I did this year (at least 100).  Reading = better writing.  No ifs about that.

5) I will take the first two weeks of February to review the list of all awards for children's books in my 2012 Children's Market and online at the ALA and SCBWI sites.  If there are any that my WIPs are eligible for, I will apply.

6)  To hold at least 2 book collection events in 2012.  And to recruit at least one other person to travel with me to Gambia (not for this year's trip, but in 2013 or 2014).

7) To speak as much Wolof as I can during Feb-Mar while back in Africa.  To print out and keep with me, my language guides.  To stop reverting to English because I hate sounding like a child.

8) To convince my husband to finally make that video application for THE AMAZING RACE before I leave for Africa in February.

Longwinded, yes.  Sorry.  What are your goals and dreams for 2012?  Comments are open below!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Is 2012 Really the End?

If you haven't already heard that the world *might* end on December 21, 2012 - you're too far inside your writer's cave.  But this post isn't about whether or not the Mayan legend is myth or fact.

It's about the crossroads between global trends and writing.  Editors and agents often call for submissions that blend "commercial and literary."  And for some authors, that means capitalizing on a hot topic by planning YEARS in ADVANCE, of course (so don't go subbing your vampire novel right now) and crafting an original spin on something that will be buzzworthy.

Have you seen the number of authors who have taken advantage of the 2012 predicition buzz, writing everything from non-fiction picture books to YA novels and even publishing kids' blogs centered around the theme of the end-of-the-world prediction?  They, like the authors who had the foresight to write stories years before an anticipated trend, such as the 10th anniversary of September 11th, or the 2012 prediction, for example, seem to be attempting to take what we're interested in globally and merge it with the literary. 

Here are a few I found regarding the 2012 topic:

NOTE: I haven't read these, nor am I offering recommendations (although Carolyn Marsden is a favorite author of mine). Just pointing out that these books exist.

Now, you tell me:

What upcoming global or worldly events can you write about in an effort to merge the literary with the commercial?

I think it's a bit too late to write and submit about 2012 events now (such as the Olympics), but how about this year's formation of a new country?  Is anyone following that story and trying to be one of the first to set a story set in South Sudan?  Or what about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? That in 2015 many places and organizations will celebrate a 100th birthday or anniversary, like the international Kiwanis Club or Balboa Park in San Diego?

I guess this post is just as much about thinking globally as it is about thinking AHEAD.  Forget all that end-of-the-world nonsense.  Jump ahead into the future.  That's a trend that will never "get old."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Terrific tuesday: Vote for My Story!!

Wow! After exciting news yesterday (being chosen for the 2012 SCBWI mentorship program), I've got GREAT news again today! My Christmas poem/story, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas: Rudolph Goes Green, was chosen as a finalist in Susanna Hill's Holiday Writing Contest! Voting is OPEN! Please take one minute to vote for me at her blog! My poem is listed as the #4 poem in the top 5. THANK YOU FOR VOTING!! Please vote by midnight tonight!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mommy Monday: SCBWI Mentorship Program

If the title of my blog post didn't give away my big Christmas news–here goes!

Last week I received an AWESOME email from Julie Schaull which read "Miranda, I hope you're ready to do the happy dance, because you have been chosen to be a 2012 mentee in the SCBWI-WI Mentor Program!"

After doing the happy dance for a day, I got an email from my wonderful new picture book mentor, award-winning author Lisa Moser.  Lisa has published five picture books and has three forthcoming.  You can read all about her amazing books here at her website.

Lisa Moser is an awesome children's author - and my mentor for 2012!

So, this AuthorMom is getting a "mommy" of her own (in the form of a mentor, of course).  I still can't believe my two picture book manuscripts were chosen for this program - as far as I know, only one aspiring picture book author among all the applicants in the state is chosen!

So this mommy (I mean mentor) has promised to guide me in any way that she can, except maybe tucking me in at night...I'll have to ask about that.

Wow, I love moms.  I mean mentors.

Merry Christmas to me!! (Happy dance continues).

Do you have an SCBWI mentor?  A support group?  Or, did you receive an extra special Christmas gift this year?  Please share the awesome news!  Comments are open below.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Twas the Night Before Christmas - Rudolph Goes Green

This Worldly Wednesday happens to be the last one before Christmas.  So, in honor of celebrating Christmas around the world I've written a new version of C. Clement Moore's famous poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas (better known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas).

Now, to be honest, I wrote this on-the-fly in less than two hours.  Forgive the imperfect meter and rhyme, but I had to get the poem up on the blog ASAP for it to be entered in Children's Author Susana Leonard Hill's holiday poem contest.  Wish me luck!

'Twas the Night Before Christmas:  Rudolph Goes Green

by Miranda Paul

‘Twas the night before Christmas when there on the screen
Played an eco-documentary with ways to be green.
On the sofa sat Rudolph who suddenly froze
And pulled his front hooves right in front of his nose.

“I’ve got to replace this old iridescent
With an LED light–or at least a fluorescent!”
At once Rudolph dashed to the D.I.Y. store,
And the reindeer pack gasped as he clopped out the door.

“Don’t leave us,” yelled Comet. “You’ll make us all late!
It’s a good thing you’re doing but...Christmas WON’T WAIT!”
“C’mon” scoffed ol’ Blitzen, “Let’s get up and soar,
We can fly without Greenie–we’ve done it before!”

Then up flew eight reindeer with no glowing light,
Leading Santa’s big sleigh on a cold, wintry night.
But the wind and the storms blew a blinding, wet mess
So Donder unwrapped Yumi’s new G-P-S!

Their troubles were past them until Tokyo,
When Santa reminded, “That gift’s gotta go!”
Then Dasher discovered an oversized candle
In shimmery paper with a tag that read: Randall.

In a flash went their stress ‘til they flew o’er Khartoum,
When that “oversized candle” exploded...KA-BOOM!
It kicked up a sandstorm so Prancer thought quick,
Unwrapping a flashlight for young Dominic–

But the batteries died just past the Sahara,
So Vixen dug up Amy’s light-up tiara!
“You hold it,” he bickered, “Too girly for me!”
And they pawed it and clawed ‘til it fell in the sea!

“Now stop it, you guys!” bellowed Santa in back.
“We’ve got presents to give, so no talking smack!”
They straightened right up and squinting their best
Took strange routes from Cape Town to old Budapest.

Eventually they made it, but sore and pooped out,
And when they got home they gave Rudolph a shout:
“You lazy, green-washing...WAIT...that’s the SAME nose!”
Rudolph casually shrugged, “Yeah...the merchant was closed.”

“Well I guess we don’t need you!” the reindeer yelled, peeved.
And to their surprise, Rudolph felt...quite RELIEVED!
“That’s perfect!” he sang, then rushed out the door.
“See you guys in two years, I've joined the Peace Corps!”

(Now...Should I happen to be chosen as one of the 3 finalists, voting will occur online on Monday, December 26th.  Stay tuned here for updates and feel free to comment below.  Happy Holidays to all!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mommy Monday: Princesses Learn Spanish

My "princess" learns Spanish weekly at school - and I'm thrilled to have her enrolled in a school that values language education during the preschool and elementary years.  But in between her weekly lessons, it's nice to practice.  This app, Princesses Learn Spanish, is an interactive way for her to keep up the enthusiasm and performance in Spanish.  

It's especially fun to have it now in my household as I was a contributor to the fairy tale adaptations, and my daughter LOVES the fact that her mommy is writing princess stories (I don't do it too often!).  It's a lot like their other releases, Princesses Learn Chinese and Princesses Learn French which were big hits with my daughter.

I suppose I'd better go practice or she's going to be more fluent than I am!

Do you write for app companies?  Do your kids play app games or read books that are Android or iPad apps?  How about their schools - do your elementary-aged children have the opportunity to learn a second language?  Comments are open below!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Focus Friday: Going With Your Gut

This week I've been obsessed with polishing a finally-finished manuscript that has been in the works for eight years. 

Before Monday, no one but me had seen any draft of this story... ever (which is unusual because I belong to two critique groups and run a fantastic free critique site called Rate Your Story). 

But with this story, to be honest, I didn't care that no one had seen it while it remained a WIP.  This book is one rooted so deeply inside me and my experience.  I am the only person I trusted to guide me as I wrote and polished the first drafts.  I didn't ask for input, advice, or what I should write next from anyone but myself.  And my muse came through.

I finished it over the weekend and was ecstatic with what I'd written.  It was nearly perfect.  I'd gone with my gut and written the narration and voice exactly the way I'D wanted it. 

So then came the test...would my "gut feelings" hold up when others saw it?  I sent it to the three harshest critics I know–two editor-friends and my husband.   Great reviews.  (My gut was relieved).

Today I'm still polishing a word here, a phrase there, and tightening it up overall, but I'm really glad I went with my gut.  The book breaks a few standard picture book "rules" but the manuscript is better for it.  I will be proud when this book gets published--it has become my favorite story.

With confidence, I go forth preparing my submission.  And I've got a gut feeling, it will bring back an acceptance.  Even if I have to wait another eight years.

Have you ever gone with your gut?  Trusted yourself as your own best critic?  And it paid off?  Comment below!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mommy Monday: Meet My Hubby

Isn't that one cute family on the cover
of Children & Libraries' current issue?

Behind (or next to) every good AuthorMom there's usually a supportive spouse, right?  Well, in my case it's very true.

Today, I invite you to meet my husband, Baptiste Paul.  He has just put up his very own one-page website at

I'm sure you'll love him as much as I do!

Now, do you have great family support?  If so, give your spouse, kids, or whomever a shout-out for helping you accomplish your writing goals and dreams!  Comments are open below.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Focus Friday: Cutting the Fat

It's only the ninth day of December and already I feel weighed down by celebratory feasting.  I'm still dragging after a great Thanksgiving meal and my birthday, when I gorged myself on cake and cocktails.

Also, since December 1st we've been opening advent calendars at home, so every morning I pop a chocolate into my mouth.  Add in the leftover St. Nick candy from the family stockings and a 12-0 Packers season with more tailgating to come and it's clear...

It's time to cut the fat.

Today, as I vow to eat lean and mean through the weekend, I'm also going through a few manuscripts and cutting the fat.  This morning, I turned a 1,400-word story (one of my longest - I'm really into the 500 word PBs as of late) into an under 1,000 word picture book manuscript.  Then, I combined two chapters in my work-in-progress novel into one, realizing the redundancies.

My number one strategy?  Edit line by line.  If I can cut one word out of every sentence, or rephrase wordy clauses, I can generally cut 10%-20% of a picture book manuscript that's still in draft mode.

Why am I doing it?

Yesterday I took a stroll into my local, independent bookstore, and picked up a few hardcover titles.  It was obvious to me right away which ones lacked editorial "cutting" - because the huge blocks of text and the images that suffered because of the words were totally off-putting.  I did happen to notice that several of the "wordy" titles were self-published and one, though traditionally published, was a celebrity-suddenly-turned-author.  Regardless, they were books that 1) I wouldn't be buying for my children, and 2) the author probably had regrets about because they could have been better.

Anyway, it reminded me that as children's writers we have to be on top of our game.  If we choose to traditionally publish, we have to cut out what can be inferred or represented in the images.  We have to consider every phrase and every word.  We have to polish.

If you write picture books, open one up and look at the word count.  Challenge yourself to cut 10% in one edit of the story.  You'll be surprised how easy it is if you do it!  And, the more you do it, the easier it gets to write more concisely in first drafts.

What's your strategy for cutting the fat?  Are you ready to trim down this holiday season in preparation for the New Year?  Comment below!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: My Clearest Me by Claudine Gueh

My Clearest Me by Gueh Yanting (Claudine) was just released by Carry Us Off Books (Singapore) as an e-Picture Book.

Now hush...

...and let me tell you about it:

Quiet Wynn overhears his teacher saying he's too shy, and might not make friends, or worse–might let his Dreams pass.  Ought he be a different boy? he wonders.

In search of self, Wynn ventures out into a dream world searching for his clearest voice.  But can a quiet boy play in a loud dream?

My thoughts?  
Gueh's story, crafted like a silk blanket of poetry, sends young listeners and readers drifting along with Wynn through beautifully-illustrated pages of self-discovery.  I'm not giving it five stars–I'm giving it an entire sky of stars.  It stands apart from so many other picture books of its kind.  And the price shines, too (.99 cents for the iBook).

My Clearest Me by Gueh Yanting (Claudine) is available on iTunes, Kindle, and Nook and through the publisher's website at Carry Us Off Books.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mommy Monday: Hip Mama

Today, I learned that a colleague of mine–Caroline Wood–was published in Hip Mama: The Parenting Zine.  Her article, "Love and Life in the Himalayas," chronicles the relocation of her family–including her 16-month-old daughter, Poppy–to the rice-paddies of Nepal. 

A story of itself, Caroline's experience is made all the more diverse and unique in that her family also includes her wife–Poppy's other mother. 

The story begins...

Download the Article / Current Issue
You can download (or request a print copy) with Caroline's article in "Issue #50: The Home Issue" at the Hip Mama website.

About Hip Mama
Hip Mama has been in print since 1993 and is a worker-owned collective publishing a thematic quarterly of the personal stories of radically diverse experiences of parenting to promote solidarity and compassion across all boundaries, resisting the powers of silence.The mission of Hip Mama is to give a voice and platform for mothers to express their parenting choices styles that are otherwise not covered by mothering magazines. 

Submit to Hip Mama
Are you a "hip mama" that would like to submit to the magazine?  Upcoming themes include space and time, support for pregnant women/mothers, and race and gender issues.  The submissions information for Hip Mama can be found online at:

Comment Below
Have you ever had a "hip mama" moment?  Done something radically outside the norm of parenting?  In the name of raising your child(ren) to be honest, free-thinking individuals?  Comments welcome!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Focus Friday: Presenting and Speaking to Kids

This Focus Friday, I'm Presenting!

As part of the gig being a children's author, we get the joy of playing around with kids sometimes.  Today is one of those days for me.  If you live in the area, come check out the program!

December 2, 2011 - "Apps Around the World"- 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Join children's author Miranda Paul for a kid-friendly eTrip around the world!

As Part of the Cormier School Toddler Diversity Playgroup, Mrs. Paul will be showcasing top storybook, game, and language apps that are fun with an international focus.  Snacks will be provided, and a couple of digital iPads and/or devices will be on hand - but please feel free to bring your smartphones, tablets, and more so our toddlers can explore the world in a digital way!

The group meets in the APPL room of Cormier School (lower level) in Ashwaubenon, WI from 9:30-11:00 a.m.  For more information, visit the TDG - Toddler for Diversity Playgroup page on Facebook.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Gambian Folk Tale Kumba Am and Kumba Amul

Recently, iStorybooks released the second of three West African / Gambian Folk Tales in a short series authored by Cornelius Gomez and myself.

This folk tale from The Gambia, called Kumba Am and Kumba Amul, is one of the country's most popular tales.  The story is about two stepsisters who each take a magical journey to wash a calabash bowl in a faraway sea.  As each girl takes her turn to travel, their kindness (or their selfishness) determines the outcome of their trek.

The project was a bit challenging, as the original folk tale of Kumba Am is quite long and also contains Grimm-esque violence that has made it much more suitable for an adult audiences in the past.  But Cornelius and I made a few adaptations that really transformed the tale into a fun and appropriate story for kids ages 4-8.  It's our hope that one of the most popular West African folk tales will now reach more young audiences and American children will know a bit more about Gambian oral history and culture.

If you haven't already downloaded the iStorybooks App for your iPhone, you can download it in iTunes (now with bug fixes)!  If you don't have an iPhone, you can see the online version of the story Kumba Am and Kumba Amul here.  You can also view our first Wolof folk tale, The Fish Snatcher, through iStorybooks - as well as nearly a dozen other stories adapted and/or originally authored by Miranda Paul.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mommy Monday: 37 FREE Books!

Apparently, parent demand for all of my 'I Like Books' series to be packaged as a set has prompted my publisher to release a new, combined app of them!  GrasshopperApps recently packaged every title - PLUS a few NEW ones that were previously unreleased - into one App of 37 stories!  And, the compilation of digital stories is currently being offered for free!

I don't know how long GrasshopperApps will make my books available for free and packaged together as 37 books-in-one, but if you've got early readers at home and want to download some awesome interactive books, check out the latest I Like Books app on iTunes.

The new, previously unreleased titles that are ONLY available by downloading this app include:
I Like Dad
I Like Winter
I Like Letters
I Like Montessori
I Like Shapes
and I Like My Body.

It's always fun to see new 'versions' released of something you've written, but I'm incredibly excited at the warm reviews of my toddler books and how so many parents and educators have really found them useful at home and in the classroom!

(I would suggest buying the I Like Books App for someone for a holiday present - but right now you don't have to buy it since it's free.)

Happy Holidays! And, if you 'like' these books, don't forget to 'Like' GrasshopperApps on Facebook or tell them you love the new App!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: 1 Million Books for Gambia

Kayira Be and Nanga Def? 
(Peace be with you and How are you?)

Those who know me well know that I don’t like asking for help, so I’ll keep this letter brief.

Since 2003 I’ve been very involved in charity work in The Gambia, Africa’s smallest mainland country.  This year, I’ve had the great fortune to connect with Hand in Health and Books for Africa, two organizations running a campaign called 1 Million Books for Africa.  Together, they set up the country’s first 7,500-book medical library in 2010.

In February/March of 2012, I have been invited to travel with Hand in Health to The Gambia to help set up the next round of libraries with books generously donated by American individuals, schools, and companies.  My volunteer tasks will include transporting, shelving, and organizing a shipment of 22,000 books to placed in rural villages near Njau, Gambia. 

The six libraries I will help establish will be the first ever in the region.  As a former teacher in The Gambia, I can’t stress to you enough how books are a very real solution to battling low literacy rates.  In short, I really believe in this project.

For those of you who’ve traveled to such remote places, you know that the cost of travel is high.  My volunteer trip will once again be self-funded and will cost nearly $3000.  Although I have raised a small portion of the funds already, I’m still hoping that through your generosity I’ll be able to raise the remaining amount and fulfill my promise to volunteer with this project.

If you’d like to contribute to my personal travel expenses, you can send a check made out to me (email me for address), as Books for Africa and Hand in Health do not yet take donations earmarked for certain travelers/volunteers. You can also donate to my volunteer fund through PayPal online by clicking the donate button here:

If you’d like to contribute to the shipping and expenses for the library supplies, please visit: and make sure to click on The Gambia (1 Million Books for Gambia) so that the money will benefit the project I am volunteering for.  Funds donated directly to Books for Africa will not help cover my personal travel expenses, but your gift is tax-deductible and will go toward the overall library project in The Gambia.

Jerejef and Abaraka baake
(Thank you and thank you very much),

Miranda Paul

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mommy Monday: Like Mother, Like Daughter

When I had my daughter, I hoped she'd be a reader.  So, I read to her every night and filled her room with books.  We attended storytimes at the library and painted scenes from books with watercolors. 

She began reading simple sentences at age three, and finished her first chapter book (with a little help) a few months ago at the age of five. 

This morning, I went to wake her up (her LEAST favorite thing to do - wake up in the morning), and found her light on.  I opened the door, only to see my daughter with two stacks of books.  "This pile I read already this morning," she said, "and these I want to read before school today."

I grinned from ear to ear.  Of course, I told her I didn't think we had time to read fourteen more books before school, but that I'd leave them waiting there for when she came home from school.

My daughter loves to read.  Now, it's my hope that she'll stay a reader for life.

And, that I can repeat this with my son.  While I have the same dream for him, I'm not sure I'll take the same approach with the boy.

Do you have kids?  Boys or girls?  Are they readers?  Strategies?

Comment and help me raise TWO lovers of books!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Focus Friday: Making a List, Checking it Twice

Have you ever made a list of everything you've ever written?

Well, I haven't.

At least not yet - but I'm in the process of making that list, and checking it twice right now. Ho, ho, ho, my deadline is Dec. 25th. Merry Christmas to Me.

Spending a few minutes each day, I'm cataloging each polished manuscript, computer file, and/or work-in-progress. The excel file currently is about 3 pages long, and I'm only on the letter M in terms of titles. Eesh. I write a lot. I've been doing this for about a week now during my self-allowed "break" time.

Am I a masochist? No.

I knew this needed to be done when I began assembling packets for agents, and writing query letters. Those of you who are picture book authors know how difficult it can be to land an agent. To make sure I stand out (because we all also know you only get one shot per agent, and don't want to muck it up), I realized I needed to know EXACTLY what was (and wasn't) in my body of work.

How many stories have I really published? Written? How many are actually in shape and, if an agent requested, I'd hit the send button on TODAY? How many are picture books? Board books? Short stories? Rhyming? Middle grade? Young Adult? I can guess, but that doesn't sound professional.

I need these answers if I want to understand who I am as a writer, and pitch that to an agent. Though this process is really tedious, it's absolutely essential for a writer like me who writes across genres and age groups. My excel file has everything from keywords to target age to whether or not the piece has ever been submitted and in what year I began writing it (and the year it was finished). There is also a column for "Status," which is my subjective indication on whether or not the piece is ready to be seen by an agent or editor, if it's a draft, or simply unfinished.

For the record, I am not including "story ideas" or character sketches that haven't been turned into actual stories yet. Ideas remain scrabbled in a notebook on my bookshelf and for the time being, will stay there. They don't count yet :) (Thank goodness, or I'd have at least 70 more catalog items). I'm also not counting anything that is very, very unfinished (I found one story where I had written about three sentences) - those are being labeled as "ideas" also for now.

So, I ask again - have you ever made a list of everything you've ever written? Let me know! Then, let me know if you're "checking it twice," like my next step - I'm prioritizing a revision schedule. Unless I know what I've got, how do I know what I want to make with it?

All in all, this process is the way in which I can be clear about my body of work with an agent. Saying I have 7 polished picture books, for example, is more concrete than "I have written dozens of picture books, and several are final drafts" doesn't cut it. I want to have titles, keywords, and word counts right there. I'm even considering sending a "body of work" spreadsheet file with an agent submission. Anyone ever done that?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: Special Post Celebrating RSS

Thanks to a good writer-friend, Melissa Gorzelanczyk, I've finally gotten around to figuring out how to add an RSS feed subscription button to my blog!  If you want to get the updates from my blog as they happen, just click the Subscribe to RSS options on the sidebar at the top.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Focus Friday: Intensity

Now that my official stint as a long-term substitute high school teacher is over (an intense experience of its own), my focus today is simple: intensity.

I've often called myself a binge reader and a binge writer. It's sort of my personality, and as long as I'm not applying it to controlled substances or gambling, I consider it an asset to be 'intense.'

Why? This week, I finished the third book of The Hunger Games series, Mockingjay. The best word I can use to describe the series is intense. I imagine Suzanne Collins must have been thrown herself into a state of intensity while writing it.

And with a novel to finish, I've decided that the next three months will be nothing short of intense for me. Fiery. Passionate. Intense.

Today, I'm burrowing back into the hole of the author and getting deep into my work. Surely, I'll come up for air once in awhile, to report (and hopefully inspire), but I've decided that without intensity (and a little bit of madness?) good novels aren't written.

So, picture book manuscripts will be sent out today and the weekend promises full focus on the deep, intense project of novel writing.

May the odds be ever in my favor.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: The Fish Snatcher and Other Wolof Folk Tales

Very recently I got to see the first finished product of a long-term project of Cornelius Gomez's and mine - adapting Gambian oral folk tales into accessible picture books for American and English-speaking children around the world.

Cornelius Gomez is a Gambian educator and one of the few who have published Wolof folk tales from his native country of The Gambia in West Africa.  Working with Cornelius, who currently lives and works in The Gambia, has been instrumental because I feel as though our collaboration has helped us acheive the goal of remaining both culturally authentic while still adapting the stories for new audiences (and target age groups) abroad.

Of the first three Wolof folk tale adaptations contracted by iStorybooks, The Fish Snatcher was the earliest release from the publisher.  Originally dubbed with the English title "The Old Woman and the Thief," this Gambian folk tale combines fear, humor, and common-sense morality into a short tale that interlaces cultural (Wolof) words and images.

Two more Wolof folk tales will be released in coming months from iStorybooks.  Cornelius and I are also seeking a publisher for the bilingual version (Wolof and English) of a compilation of adapted folk tales so that our stories can be used in both Gambian and American classrooms.  It's not an easy task, but as they say in Wolof:

Naka ligey be?
("How is the work coming along?")

Ndanka, Ndanka.
("Slowly, slowly." And don't forget to laugh while you respond).

I hope you enjoy The Fish Snatcher!  And, I'll keep you posted on the publication of other Gambian folk tales.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mommy Monday: Interview on Thoughtful Reflections Blog

Although I typically feature other moms on Mommy Monday interviews, today I'm writing to tell you that Sylvia Ramsey's recent interview of me is now posted on her Thoughtful Reflections Blog!

Please stop by and learn more about me, some of my 2011 releases, and current projects.  Thanks for taking a moment to read and comment on the interview, Happy Monday and safe Trick-or-Treating!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Princesses Learn Chinese

Recently, another App company for whom I write (Early Languages, LLC - a member of Moms with Apps) has released a new interactive book for kids (well, girls, mostly) - called Princesses Learn Chinese.

I'm excited about the Princesses Learn Chinese App for a number of reasons (other than the fact that I helped adapt the fairy tale stories in them).  First, the company's founders have a genuine love of languages and an inspiring background rooted in education.  Secondly, the App comes with so much more than just stories - there are games (like Bingo), songs, and even fun drawing pages (that teach the colors in an ingenious way!).  Thirdly, considering the fact that within three decades or less, the majority of Chinese youth will be speaking English, the App isn't just a great tool for those learning Mandarin - but it can easily serve both Chinese and English-speaking populations.

Enough analysis, though - what did my kids think?

It was a huge hit with my 5-year-old, plus there are several activities suited for my 2-year-old as well!  My daughter hasn't stopped singing the "Ni hao ma" song (How are you, Snow White?) since we downloaded the App.  And, she memorized it in a single sitting.

The illustrations are bright (and girly) and my daughter is once again excited about learning Mandarin (she took nearly a year off where she 'wasn't interested' in practicing).

If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod, download Princesses Learn Chinese in the Apple iTunes Store (FREE) and let me know what you (or your kids) think!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Mommy Monday: I'm Pooped

Don't let my kids know I used the word "poop."  Although right now, I'd welcome a "time out."  At least I'd get to sit down!

These days are a bit hectic - as many of you know, I'm back in the classroom full-time for awhile.  So, on some nights, that translates to 150 essays to grade.  On other nights, lesson plans or fidgeting with Skype to make sure tomorrow's distance guest-speaker presentation goes on without a hitch.

Top it with the usual writing assignments, serving on two committees, and trying to be a good mommy and wife and voila!

I'm pooped.

There's no lesson today.  Just the raunchy smell of being too busy.  (I hope to clear the air soon).

Sorry for the rant.  Three weeks until I can take a fresh breath again :)

Thanks for listening (or reading...whatever blog fans do).  I appreciate it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Focus Friday: So Many Books, So Little Time

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Good writers READ.

This week, I'm focused on reminding myself to find time to read -- something difficult for me right now since I'm back in the classroom full time.  No, wait.

If my freshman and sophomores can read material from 8 daily classes, and be in sports, find time for friends, etc., why can't I find the time to read one book at a time (in between only 5 classes and a study hall)?

I don't allow excuses from students.  So I won't make any for myself.  I'll get my homework done.

Now, how?

1.  Set aside specific time for reading - I have a long lunch break that will suffice.

2.  Have a "to read" book list ready and waiting.  At Bat:  Hunger Games.  On Deck:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid (yes, I've yet to read it!)

3.  Set a due date for each book.  I'm giving myself two weeks per book.
4.  Have a reward/penalty system.  If I complete the task, I get to buy a new book at my local independent bookstore, The Reader's Loft.  If I don't, I have to admit it to all of you on my blog.  I'll check back in about 6 weeks (three books) to let you know how I did.

Wanna know my top 3 "to read" list right now?

1.  Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (reading it this week in honor of Banned Books Week)
2.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
3.  Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Cheer me on! Post your comments below.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: A Taste of the Moon

Recently, our family got our first "taste of the moon."  That is to say we had our own mini Moon Festival celebration. 

The Moon Festival (also called Mooncake Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival) is a Chinese tradition - and since my daughter's best friend recently returned from China, and our family's newest member (exchange student) is from China, I made it an after school activity for the kids about two weeks ago.

What did we do?

Well, we tasted mooncakes.  (Luckily, said friend brought back more than a dozen from China). 
Luckily our host son can read all of the ingredients: so we knew which ones were which. :)

Although I was impressed with the diversity of flavors, the kids really didn't care for the exotic choices of mooncakes (pepper and peanuts?).  The fig mooncake was rated "acceptable," but unfortunately they weren't a huge hit overall.  I'm proud my children tried something new, anyway.

After mooncakes, we read the story Round is a Mooncake by Grace Lin.  Fortunately, the book was a big hit!

Lastly, we looked at the full moon through the clouds.  Another hit!

So, did you celebrate the Moon Festival?  Have you ever heard of it?  Post your comments below!

Want to know the story behind the Moon Festival? 

You can read more at publisher and author Claudine Gueh's website, Carry Us Off Books.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Focus Friday: Remembering Why I Write

Last weekend, I spent three days in writing utopia. Although I'm not about to reveal the secret location, I will tell you another secret.

The reason I write is that I have to.

When I write, my world seems in order. I'm a better wife, mother, and human being when I write. Why? When I'm writing, I'm also reading. When I'm writing, I'm listening. I'm researching, learning, considering details.

I like myself better when I am writing.

I write because it's a way of life I don't want to give up. When I wake up and write, I'm making sense of the world and the characters within it. I'm connecting across borders and through time with others. I'm living.

Remembering this allows me to slow down; getting books published isn't my first goal. Living a good life is. In writing, telling a story the right way is my first goal. If I tell a good story, I believe it will get published.

Do you have the same faith in your works in progress?

If not, consider why you're writing them. Everything else seems easier when you do. And there's a lot less pressure.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mommy Monday: 10 Reasons Why Writing for Children is Easier for Moms

Today is a "glass half full" day.

While there are plenty of reasons why a career in writing is harder for Moms, that's not my focus today.

So, if you're a mom and children's writer, I'm sure you'll find a bit of inspiration in this list of my experiences.

Miranda Paul's List
10 Reasons Why Writing for Children is Easier for Moms

10.  Your house is already "cloudy with a chance of meatballs," etc. - take advantage of being surrounded by great setting ideas and interesting characters.  You don't need an imagination, really, just eyes and ears.

9.  You've got built-in cheerleaders who don't roll their eyes when you jump up and down if there's a bear card from Highlights in the mailbox...they jump for joy with you!  (I'm told these bear cards are a good sign...dunno...first one came Saturday!)

8.  When your kids try to tell you to get out of their rooms, you can simply say you're "doing research."

7.  Hmmm...Isn't that a work expense?

6.  You don't have to make special trips to a bookstore, library, park, etc. to observe how "kids today behave."

5.  When you get a rejection, you've got built in support more than willing to dish you up a bowl of ice long as they get one too.

4.  Bedtime story + quick notes = two birds with one stone.

3.  When you win stickers and book prizes on author blogs and Twitter, your kids are happy (and they'll defend you when hubby says the Internet is a waste of time...).

2.  Motherhood is a time of real "roll up your sleeves" humility; would you really have done so much work on a 300-word story in college?  Take advantage of your work ethic - it's what makes you stand out above other writers.

1.  If you ever feel like giving up, just picture the dedication line of your next book.  Works every time.

Now, your turn:

Why do you love being a mom and writer?  Or grandmom?  Daddy?

Or, if you don't have kids, what aspects of your lifestyle make children's writing easier for you?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Focus Friday: Opening the Door

Stephen King advises to write your first draft with the "door closed."

Then, open the door.

How do you know when you're ready to open the door?  Well, if you've got a beginning, middle, end, and feel as though it's a complete story, you're probably ready. 

Now, to whom do you show it?

For me, the writers in my critique groups are the ones to see it first.  In fact, as this post is going live I'm away in the Northwoods with my writer's group critiquing and getting my work critiqued at a private, in-person retreat. 

For you, it may be a spouse or family member.  But what if you don't have anyone standing outside that door when you open it?  Or a group as lovely as mine secretly meeting in the woods like Dead Poets Society?

I've been working with a lot of new writers lately, and I find that many of them don't have a go-to person or group of professional writers to get feedback from.  That's why I started Rate Your Story, a new website in which you can get a first opinion when you decided to "open the door" and let someone else read your story.

The site, which offers a free rating service by a published author, will be opening for submissions very soon.  Beginning October 1, 2011, you can submit your story to Rate Your Story and get feedback from a professional.  It's confidential, free, and designed to be a first-step in your path to revision (and eventually, publication).

If you've got stories written and you're ready to open the door, consider submitting one or more at Rate Your Story.  There, you'll also find information on how to join a critique group, get a professional critique (with in-depth line editing and so forth), and helpful tips and info on writing, revision, and publishing.

Opening the door to experienced, friendly professional writers will help steer you on the path to publication.  You'll get honesty, and find it easier to "kill your darlings."

If you have no idea what "kill your darlings" means, I suggest Stephen King's On Writing.

Peace out, I've got woods to explore and manuscripts to revise on the beautiful cabin porch.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Tag...I'm It!

Have you ever played a GLOBAL game of tag?

Well, I'm It

I've been tagged by children's author Kelly Hashway.

Rules (if you're tagged): You must be tagged by someone; list 10 random facts about yourself; tag four more people. 

Ready or not, here I go!

1.  I once ate 13 helpings of mashed potatoes in a single sit-down on Easter Sunday (I think I still hold the record at Whipp's Dining Hall).

2.  My full "Gambian" name is really:  Mariama Sibo Janke Sillah.  Say that ten times fast.

3.  Although I have many stories (40+) published online and/or as apps...I've yet to snag a contract for my own single-author traditionally printed picture book.  I have edited three, though.

4.  Last night I celebrated my son/exchange student's 18th birthday.  It was his first birthday in America.  We ate hot dogs, pizza, and french fries.

5.  Sometimes, I dream in Spanish.

6.  The most hilarious Gambian folk tale I know is one called The Three Men of Tangana.  The heroic trait is foul air seeping from one's bottom.

7.  I have traveled to 11 countries.

8.  I don't have a traditional landline/house phone.

9.  I started Tweeting this year.

10.  My favorite book of all time is The Giver by Lois Lowry.

OK!  Passing it on...

1.  Anne E. Johnson
2.  Susan Manzke
3.  Melissa Gorzelanczyk
4.  Terrie Hope

OK - You four are it!

But I'm copying Kelly -- so the rest of you aren't off the hook. In the spirit of getting to know each other better, I want to know one random fact about you. What's something most people don't know about you?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Focus Friday: Keeping in Good Company

A Night Like Last Night
It's a little hard to focus after a night like last night (and a week like this week), but I'll try.

After all, that's what Focus Friday is for.

(Hint:  Espresso helps.)

Although I was up far too late and have little speaking voice - I sure do have a lot to talk about.  For starters, I was in the good company of 70,555 people last night.  Together, we cheered for a common goal.  We were focused.  We succeeded (Packers 42; Saints 34).

And this morning, as the espresso kicked in, I had a realization.  I'm quite often in good company.

I'm referring to my writer's groups–local and online.  Though the number of my writer pals isn't as staggering as Lambeau Field at full capacity, the quality of my writing 'company' is amazing (and they've never spilled beer on me).

Upon pondering a few recent milestones and successes in my writing, I'd like to pass on my revelation:  to stay focused as a writer, keep yourself in good company -- the company of other focused writers.  The ones who are passionate and share your interests.

I'm glad to say that I've made it a point to be in good company.

Amidst all the chaos and celebration this week, two of my local writer-pals received some excellent news:  Melissa Gorzelanczyk and Susan Manzke were awarded Grand Prize and Runner-Up of this year's Marsha Dunlap Memorial Scholarship from the SCBWI-WI.  I'm proud of and motivated by their passion and diligence.  My 'good company' inspires me.

I also received my first official rejection this week.  No tears.  Only the words of Pat Schmatz, an author whose revision workshop I attended earlier this year: "Thank you, Highlights, for rejecting my unfinished manuscript."  And on I write.  I appreciate the good company, Pat.

I'm also headed out in six days to a writer's retreat, and between now and then have two opportunities to meet with a close-knit group of local writers.  Three days of good, focused company.  And group help in researching markets and getting pieces submission-ready.

You're starting to get the picture.  Good company = way to keep yourself on track.

Now -- if you're reading this post and feeling a bit glum about not having the same 'company' I have, remember that I began alone, just like most writers.

At first, I joined several critique groups.  Two of them never worked out.  The writers weren't focused, or weren't focused on the same types of writing.  Although I wouldn't say those groups were 'bad' company, the groups didn't offer 'good' company.  I moved on and am glad I did.

People who call themselves writers are a dime a dozen.  Find yourself the ones who LOVE writing, study the craft, and actually write.

Also consider that not all writer company is local.  I belong to an online critique group and have several 'virtual' writer friends.  The ones I stay in contact with most are ones who post regularly.  The writers who are not just chatting about being a writer or the books they've published -- but the writers who actually write in their spare time.

So, find some good company.

Critique Cafe is a great place to start (online).

Locally, sign up for your area's SCBWI chapter or Writer's Union.

There are writers in your city, I guarantee.  If you don't have a group that meets in person, start one.  Scan the bylines of your local magazines and send Facebook invites to a meet-up.  Offer your help to new writers, and accept help from experienced writers.

You'll not only find a path to publication, you'll find fellowship and friendship.  It's an amazing thing.

And so is witnessing a Packers win at Lambeau Field.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Which Comes First, Writing or Research?

First of all, forgive me -- I am blogging from a smart device today...

In a recent online chat, many fellow children's writers were in a "chicken and egg" type of debate. The question -- which comes first, the writing or the research?

The original post suggested to write the story first, then do research. And I just finished reading Stephen King's memoir of the craft, On Writing, in which King suggests a similar approach (write with the door closed).

However, I'm not convinced that there is a right answer to this question (much like the actual chicken and egg debate). And, I even speculate that King would agree -- if you are writing about a subject largely unfamiliar to you, basic research must come first.

Of course, King's experience and advice is rooted in fiction writing. As someone who writes both fiction and nonfiction, I'm inclined to say that research almost always comes first when writing non fiction. The reason? The details you find out often change the entire course of an article or even present the "angle" you'll want to take.

The reason this question resonates with me? I'm working on a few multicultural tales from cultures I'm not as familiar with. Usually, I like to write 'what I know' -- but sometimes, assignments come along that offer the opportunity to explore a setting, culture, or character that's new to me. So, research (at least a little) often comes first.

How about you? Which comes first? Does the process change if you're writing fiction set in New York vs. a short story set in Nairobi?

Let's debate. And pardon me if it takes a moment to respond -- remember, I'm using a tiny keyboard and completely preoccupied with my new son's first day of school in America.

Wonderful world, indeed!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mommy Monday: New Adventures

First of all – sorry I missed a post on Friday.  We had a nasty storm which blew down trees in our neighbor's yard and the fire department was warning of power surges and cutoffs.  So I stayed far away from the computer.

Instead - I had two new adventures.

First, I helped my husband put up a door.  Yes, finally, a door on the room in which I write.  Hello productivity, goodbye distractions.  Writing adventures await.

Second, I got a new kid.  No, I didn't have a baby – we welcomed a high school exchange student into our home.  Real life adventures await.

If there's one thing about my life I love, it's that there's always an adventure going on.  Be it a storm, a door, a person living with us from halfway around the world (believe it or not, this is a commonality), you'll not find dull moments in the Paul family household.

Now, back to writing...while the door is shut.  See you on Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Joining Authors Worldwide

So I've decided to join a campaign of writers from around the globe in a platform building venture. 

I'm not entirely sure I understand what I'm getting into -- but I do know that meeting other writers and professionals in the industry has been a tremendous help to me as a writer and in figuring out the entire business aspect of writing.

So why not meet a couple hundred more?

Through the process of learning about this online campaign of writer networking, I've come to realize that writers truly are special people.  In other industries, individuals within the same trade view and treat each other as rivals.  But even though other writers are technically my "competition," we don't treat each other that way (at least the ones genuinely interested in producing great literature).  We work together, keeping slush off the store shelves.  We share writing tips, critique each others' manuscripts, and even share inside information on publishing houses

I guess, in that respect, it takes a village to write a book.  So I'm becoming a more active part in the global village of writers.

Interested in learning more about Rachael Harrie, the Australian Writer behind the massive worldwide campaign to connect writers?  She's got more than 1,000 followers on her blog and tons of useful information for writers. Visit her website and learn more about blog hopping around the world.  Then join us, if you can -- August 31 happens to be the official deadline.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mommy Monday: Meet Artist/Illustrator Terry Howell Stanley

With a slight change in Wisconsin weather this Monday to cool, fall-like breezes - my Mommy Monday guests also offers a slight change from the ordinary AuthorMom interview.  Terry Howell Stanley is not only a mom and grandma, but she's an illustrator!

Terry Howell Stanley:  A Self-Portrait
Terry Howell Stanley has been a full-time artist for 15 years. She's had the opportunity to study with some of today's best artists and specializes in portraiture -- although she enjoys painting still life and landscape as well.

Now, let's see if I can ask her some questions that will 'paint the picture' of who she is.  (Ok, puns are done.)

Miranda:  So -- give everyone the scoop.  Whose that adorable little one in your life right now?

Terry:  I have 3 kids and one adorable, genius grandson.  *smile*

Miranda:  I know you've painted hundreds - maybe thousands? of portraits and landscapes.  But tell us more about the children's books you've illustrated.

Terry:  I've illustrated 4 "readers" (schoolbooks), two childrens books (one in progress) and technical illustrations (like step-by-step guides).

Miranda:  You mentioned that one book is in progress.  What can you tell us about that project and other things you're working on at the moment?

Terry:  Working on a book about pups and pirates right now and taking orders for portraits of people and pets for holiday gift-giving.

Miranda:  Oooh - gift giving and pets. Do you incorporate real people (and real pets) into your artwork?  What about your children and grandchildren?  Do real people and animals inspire you, then?

Terry:  My 32 year-old daughter has MS: She inspires me by her perseverance and determination to live a "normal" life. I have been known to sneak people and pets I know in as characters/"supporting casts" in some of my projects - the one I'm working on now will have quite a few of them. 

Miranda:  What advice do you have for moms with young children or who are just starting out on the path toward a career in children's writing or illustrating?

Terry:  Keep it light but have an underlying message. Remember your audience may turn out to be large and sensitivity to social issues can be important in getting your book published and/or distributed.

Miranda:  Great advice.  That seems to come from years of wisdom and experience.  Speaking of which, I know art came a little later in life for you.  What were you up to before being an artist?

Terry:  My first career was in law enforcement and I received advanced training as a police artist/forensic reconstructionist at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA. How many people get TWO careers they love in one lifetime? My work is much more pleasant now! 

Miranda:  Thanks for stopping by my blog.  It was great to have you!

You can view more of Terry Howell Stanley's amazing illustrations, oil paintings, portraits and landscapes at her website,

Thanks for reading - and feel free to leave Terry a comment or question!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Focus Friday: Distracted Driving

Every night this week, I've been haunted by vivid (mostly terrifying) dreams.  My days have been filled with endless ideas for picture books, chapter books, novels, etc. have been pouring into my head as though a Muse is swimming inside my cerebral cortex.

That's the best way I can put it–what a wacky week of inspiration.

The majority of daytime thoughts haven't hit me while sitting at my computer, though (the Muse needs to work on her timing, I guess).  Mostly–they've been while driving.  Try and write on a sticky note when you're making a left (all while directing a two-year-old how to reach for the sippy cup he's thrown on the floor)...not so good.

I haven't been very good at rushing to write them all down.  And, to be clear, it's not just ideas pouring in.  The words...phrases...sentences...entire scenes of dialogue between characters seem to seep from the humid air of the car into my mind. (Good thing there's no law against "Inspired Driving.")

By the time I'm back at my desk, the idea is still there...but the words are gone.  The rush is gone a bit, too.  Frustration sets in.

What do you do?  How do you regain those amazing moments of clarity...those beautiful passages that unfold in your head and seem to float right out the car window? 

Rather than offering advice this Friday on how I've focused, I'm seeking it.  How do you take those divine moments of inspiration and strap them in a seat belt to keep them safe from flying through the windshield?

Or, am I the only one that gets those moments of inspiration at the strangest times, drunk on imagination while behind the wheel (in the bathroom, at the grocery store checkout, etc.)?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: The Seed by Isabel Pin

 Several years ago, I came across The Seed, a picture book by French author/illustrator Isabel Pin (North-South Books).  Loved it, bought a copy, and refer to it again and again when teaching writing to kids.

What do I love about it?

  • It has a folk tale style (by now you all know I love cultural tales...).

  • The illustrations are unique and amazing (albeit maybe a little edgy/scary for small children...but mine really loved the scarabs).

  • The language isn't kiddish.  Part of this can be chalked up to Rosemary Lanning's translation, of course.  But the big words and terms used in the book (inventiveness, summoned, etc.) are appealing to me as a mother and teacher–I like a challenge for my kids.

The downsides to the book were, perhaps, an oversimplified ending (although this is a kid's tale, and I love seeing war avoided) and the fact that a few darkly illustrated pages make text a bit hard to read.

Now, in recommending this book - here's the tricky part:  it's very hard to come across copies of it!  You'll have to scour eBay and Amazon used listings, etc., to find it.  But if you're looking for something a little twisted and different, and with BOY appeal (yes, a book boys will like!) - it's worth searching out a copy.

What out-of-print, worldly book do you just love?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mommy Monday: Meet Kelly Hashway

It's Mommy Monday!

In honor of this week's National Dog Day (Thursday), I'm welcoming the Author-Mom of May the Best Dog Win to my blog.  Kelly Hashway taught language arts for seven years before resigning to raise her daughter and become a full-time writer. In addition to her debut picture book, May the Best Dog Win, she has another picture book under contract and has published over seventy-five short stories.  

Miranda: Did you always want to be a children's author, or did becoming a Mom inspire that goal in some way?

Kelly:  I've always wanted to be a children's author, but before my daughter was born, I was focusing on middle grade and young adult. Ayla loves books, so we spend a good portion of every day reading picture books. And that started to make me wonder if I could write picture books. Ayla put me to the test for this age group one day when she asked me to read her a story about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I didn't know of any, so I wrote one and sold it to a magazine. After that, I wrote more short stories and eventually picture books. I thank her by dedicating all my books to her, since she's my inspiration.

Miranda: Being a Mom and a writer can be an interesting combination.  What's the funniest Author-Mom story you've got?
Kelly:  Ooh, this is a toss up. At my first signing, my daughter was helping me by handing out flyers to get people into the store. She was outside with my mother who was watching her for me. A group of people came into the store carrying a flyer and my daughter came running in after them, shouting, "Mom, I got them to come in for you!" It was precious... and a little embarrassing. 
My other funny story was more of an embarrassment averted. I was doing my first radio interview from home. I had my mother come watch Ayla because the interviewer said we needed complete quiet or the recording would be ruined. So my mom and Ayla went in the playroom and shut the door. The interview went well, but afterwards my mom and I had a good laugh imagining all the funny and embarrassing things Ayla might have yelled had my mom not been there. The best--or maybe worst--was, "Mom, I pooped!" which she feels the need to announce to me every time. Thank goodness my mom was there to save me from that!

Miranda:  Your first published picture book, May the Best Dog Win, isn't just about a 'dog' problem.  What themes and ideas are especially familiar to parents and children?
Kelly:  The main character in the story is a dog named Dash. He loves spending time with Mom, but when the Sweeper arrives, Dash worries that he's losing his place in Mom's heart. The story is really about wanting to be loved. I think children and parents can easily relate to Dash and how he worries about not having a place in Mom's heart. It would be a great story for children who are welcoming younger brothers or sisters into the family. It reassures children that Mom (and Dad) will still love them just the same even though there's an addition to the family.

Miranda:  When writing a story, it's easy to get into "mommy mode" and want to teach a moral or lesson.  But kids these days seem to be able to detect preachy books, and prefer books that just have good stories.  It's pretty clear in reading your published stories for kids that you're pretty successful at escaping "mommy mode" when you write, in order to tell a great story. How do you do it?
Kelly:  Well, thank you! I think my background in teaching helps me here. From working with kids everyday, I know how smart they are. You can't talk down to them or you will lose them. I think people, kids included, will respond to you in the same manner in which you talk to them. I've also learned that a little humor can go a long way. I try to include humor in all my stories because it's something that appeals to everyone and it can really help a lesson come through without having to be preachy.

Miranda: What does your daughter think about your stories?
Kelly:  She's my biggest fan, and I love that. I keep a scrap book of all my published stories, and I have a bookshelf for my books and anthology publications. She "reads" them all the time. She has the characters and stories almost memorized. And every time I get a new acceptance she throws her arms around me and congratulates me. Of course she then tells me that she's had more stories published than me. She even had an imaginary agent before I found my agent! (Hmm, I may have ruined her.)

Miranda: If there's one thing I know from being an Author-Mom myself, it's that we like to keep busy.  So, what's up next for you, fellow Author-Mom?
Kelly:  *Deep breath* I'm working on a young adult manuscript, a middle grade manuscript, five picture books, a story for a horror anthology, and I write a short story a week for an educational publisher. On top of that, I'm busy promoting May the Best Dog Win. Oh and did I mention I have another young adult manuscript idea floating around in my head?

Miranda: Okay, now it's time to really get to know you–besides loving your work as a mother and author, what are three things about you that people would be surprised to know?
1. I can recite the alphabet backwards--faster than I can recite it forwards!
2. I'm obsessed with vacuuming. I have to do it everyday.
3. Before I had my daughter, I could run a 5K race (3.1 miles) in 18 minutes. Now I run on the treadmill while reading a book. :)

Thanks, Kelly!  What an awesome Author Mom story!  To learn more about Kelly Hashway, visit  For a preview of her latest picture book, May the Best Dog win, visit this fReado site.  Kelly is also a frequent Tweeter, so you can link up with her on Twitter using @kellyhashway.
Coming up Next Monday:  Illustrator-Mom Terry Howell Stanley!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Worldly Wednesday: Animal Characters from Different Countries

In English folklore, there are many well-known animal characters–the tortoise, hare or rabbit, fox, and wolf.  But what about other places in the world?

Travel with me on an animal adventure around the world–and please add to my cast of characters!  IF you know of an animal character used commonly in a particular country or culture's folklore, list it in the comments section below.

Then, if you rewrite a worldly folk tale or legend, or adaptation of a fable, send a note and tell me about it, I'd love to feature it here.

Anansi - a tricky spider

Charley - 100+ year old Crocodile (good luck)
Bouki - Hyena

Zhu Badjie (a.k.a. "Pigsy") - half human, half pig

Mapinguari - a Yeti/sloth-like furry animal (now extinct()
Boi Bumba - an ox

Silche/Silkie - a seal-like animal with the ability to transform itself into a human

Kitsune - fox-like spirits that turn into witches

Now - share your favorite animal characters from around the world!

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