Back in the day, before music videos, before CDs, even before 8-Track Tapes (if you owned one, fess up now – I never did) there was Puff the Magic Dragon and Peter, Paul and Mary. All drug culture references aside (I was too young to know of such things) the song became one of my first stories. Having memorized every word of every verse, I pondered the name “Jackie Paper,” wondered about the land called “Honah Lee” (had to be some Hawaiian island) and couldn’t quite figure out what was so special about “string and sealing wax.”
But the remaining details of this mystical song were clear in my mind. As clear as a favorite fairy tale.
With several guitar-picking siblings in the house, I grew up with folk music. And those songs make for some of the richest story-telling in my childhood. What better way to pass down a story if not in song?
I developed great passion for not only the stories – would Charlie ever get off the MTA? (The Kingston Trio)
– but also the questions – Where Have All the Flowers Gone? (Seeger)
– and the promises.
I’m so grateful to these folk masters, the stories they sang and legacy they left us. RIP Mary Travers.
Back by popular demand: Picture Book Peek Week Free critiques of select PB manuscripts – including those wretched rhymers (Yup, 3 of my upcoming PBs are written in verse!)
Peek Week #3 begins September 21st. I’ve changed up the format a bit. Here’s how it will work:
Sign up for a critique by entering your PB WORKING TITLE in the comment section of this blog post anytime (midnight to midnight Mountain Time) on September 21st. Titles submitted before or after September 21st will not be considered.
I’ll throw all titles into a hat and pick 3 for critique.
Keep in mind:
* Manuscripts must be 1000 words or less.
* I accept only fiction.
* Level of detail in the critique will vary based on my impression of the caliber of the writing.
* Please understand that I’m not an editor and will not be providing line-editing of your work. My critique will be comprised of suggestions for improving your manuscript. So please send me your most polished piece.
* The 3 critique winners may e-mail me their manuscripts as Word attachments. Manuscripts will be kept completely private. When I receive the manuscripts, I’ll let the authors know when they can expect my critique.
* As with any art form, likes and dislikes are entirely subjective. Please understand that my critiques are only one reader’s/writer’s opinion. It’s always wise to seek feedback from a few different readers. If my ideas resonate with you, they’re yours to use. If you disagree, I encourage you to compare my comments with those of other readers. But in the end, it’s your book. Stay true to your vision.
I look forward to reading your work. Jean P.S. For little “fashionistas” everywhere- TOO PURPLEY! – Preorder it now!
Darcy Pattison’s Random Acts of Publicity Week began last Tuesday and I’ve decided to focus my not-so-random acts on one of my crit buddies, Judith Snyder. Judith is a teacher, school librarian and storyteller – she knows children’s literature. And even though she’s so very talented, Judith is soft-spoken and VERY humble. Tooting her own horn doesn’t come naturally. So I’m doing it for her. Not only has she written WHAT DO YOU SEE? a darling, interactive picture book coming out this fall, but she’s also published three user-friendly manuals for school librarians – the JUMP START YOUR LIBRARY series.
Guest Post: Parenting the Nearly-Grown by Masha Hamilton (Photo by Briana Orr)
“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” Roman philosopher and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 B.C.
Not long after the second of my three children was born, I sat at the kitchen table late one evening talking to my dad about parental responsibility. It’s a big topic and we were covering lots of philosophical ground, but what I remember most is my pronouncement that my primary job could be boiled down quite simply and starkly: I had to keep safe these beings released into my charge. I needed to keep them alive.
These were the musings of a new parent, of course. The circumstances, too, should be considered; the first child had been born in Jerusalem during the intefadeh, and the second was born as I was reporting from Moscow during the collapse of Communism. In both situations, I repeatedly came face-to-face with life’s fragility.
But even in calmer times, even after the birth of my third child, I never lost the feeling that my main duty was to pass them on into adulthood as unscathed as possible, as healthy in every way as they could be.
It sounds pretty simple, on the face of it. We perform many jobs as parents: nurturers, playmates, cheerleaders, short-order cooks, nurses, disciplinarians, detectives, spiritual leaders. Keeping them safe should not be the hardest, not with the help of baby monitors, plastic devices to cover electrical outlets, pads for sharp corners, child-proof medicine bottles, the list goes on. And in fact, we passed through well, with just the usual rounds of stitches, one violent dog attack, a rabies scare and a few months when my youngest fell so often and got so many bumps on his forehead that my husband and I joked someone was surely going to call child services on us.
Now, though, my youngest is 14, and as they’ve grown, I recognize my job has been transformed. It is to give them trust and space so they can develop confidence in their ability to make their own lives. And yet the two oldest, at ages 19 and 20, are in a period of time that seems almost like a parentheses in their lives. They are certainly not children, but nor are they quite adults. Meanwhile, I say and think all the usual things parents have been saying and thinking since—well, perhaps ever since Cicero, whose words I keep taped to my office wall: it’s rougher out there than it was in my time. More chaotic. More violent. More dangerous.
And everyone is writing a book.
It was, in fact, into my latest novel, 31 Hours, that I channeled my fears. Among other things, the novel offered a chance to explore what it means to be the parent of someone on the cusp of adulthood but not yet there. The mother in 31 Hours, Carol, is strong and independent, free of empty nest syndrome, but her maternal intuition is strong and she’s concerned about her 21-year-old son’s growing emotional distance, the way he seems tense and depressed. Her fears are amorphous and hard to convey; nevertheless, as she lies awake in the dark, she decides to trust the hunch that something is wrong, and to spend the next day trying to track her son Jonas down and “mother him until he shrugs her off.”
There are many themes in the novel, but one question it asks—one pertinent to all parents and one I’m still trying to answer for myself—is this: after years of being vigilant and protecting our kids, what should we do—and what are we allowed to do—to keep them safe once they are nearly, but not quite, grown?
The amazing writer/teacher/mentor/blogger Darcy Pattison has declared September 7-11 Random Acts of Publicity Week. And I’m excited about these fun four days of spreading the word about my fellow authors and their work. Darcy will offer daily suggestions for both online and offline promotion activities. Here’s the schedule:
Tuesday: Word of Mouth Wednesday: Reviews Thursday: Links Friday: Social Media
I’ve got a friend/uncle/daughter who’s written a children’s book. She needs a publisher. Do you have any advice?
And the answer is certainly “YES, YES, YES!” Generally I respond to these queries with links to my favorite writing websites, blogs, boards and books. But the generous Verla Kay has summed up the kidlit process – from start to finish – beautifully on her blog, where she, too, offers links to handy resources. Check it out here:
If you would like e-mail notification of all future Picture Book Peek Weeks, please send your e-mail address to reidy(dot)jean(at)gmail(dot)com and write “I love PB Peek Week” in the subject line. I’ll notify you whenever a new PB Peek Week is scheduled.