When does “Go for it” mean “abhor”?

What’s so funny is that this video is a commercial and the wife, who has just signed up for a credit card, is encouraging her husband to buy what he really wants—“teen drivers” rather than just a “fight role.” (Always a tough choice.)
“Go for it!” she tells him, and the captioning software interprets her encouraging remark as “abhor.”
So what were those “teen drivers”? A 19-drawer tool chest, of course. (I’ll let you figure out the “fight role.”)
I made this amazing discovery about YouTube captions when researching a Christian publishing house. I turned on the captions for one of their videos and found that “Hold your breath” was “hold yet japanese.” Checking out some other videos, I found “check sentence” for “church service” and “awkward” for “clockwork.”
Savvy video makers have either provided their own captions or left the feature off.
Thankfully, my book designer/videographer/go-to-guy had this problem solved before I knew it existed.

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More Crayons for Coralie?

Why exactly did I schedule my book launch before the book was finished?

When I first talked to the school librarian about presenting Scissortown, she wanted the launch to coincide with Family Literacy Day. Coralie was still busy coloring, but that was no problem because I intended to read only the first half of the story anyway. The bright centre page spread made a lovely stopping place. “The Slicers and Dicers left town and everyone was happy until . . . Oh no! These pictures aren’t colored! We’ll have to finish the story another time.”

So, what was I thankful for?

Everyone was prepared. The librarian had my schedule timed to the minute. She also had the technology (and the help I needed with the technology), as well as paper, crayons and pencils.

The teachers and students were prepared to meet an author. (How else would I have been taken for Robert Munsch??)

The hours I’d spent in preparation paid off, as I used almost everything I’d brought.

The librarian introduced me and provided updates as to the number of minutes I had left. This was very helpful.

The teachers kept order, allowing me to focus on the task at hand.

They also gave me free reign. At one point I had only two minutes left, and no one batted an eye when I introduced a new activity. (I also respected their time, finishing as soon as I was told the time was up.)

The teachers had read my suggestions beforehand and chosen what they wanted. Most (except those who taught very young children) wanted me to talk about being a writer. They also wanted the students to write a story together, which we did in small groups.

What would I do another time?

I’d read book blurbs and introductions and have the older students rate them as a warm-up, as I did this time.

I’d also go over the elements of a short story again before giving the students the writing prompts. However, I’d give some consideration to developing an activity (in addition to discussion) about these elements.

I’d use Coralie’s slide show with more than just the kindergarten class. (It featured 16 original thumbnails, and followed the progression of two of them from super-rough copy to final colored picture.) The kindergartners had fun seeing Katie Kat’s progress, and I think there are ways I could use the slide show for the older ones, too.

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“Are You Robert Munsch?”

asked the grade two boy at my book launch.

Should I be flattered or what? Let’s see, millions of copies of Canada and U.S. bestseller Love You Forever sold, over 50 published books to date, storytelling gigs with thousands of children in attendance . . . . On the other hand, maybe I got my hair cut a bit too short this time. But I WAS wearing a skirt . . . .

Anyway, my book launch at the K-9 Christian school was fun.

The librarian had drawn up an interesting and varied schedule–grades eight and nine, followed by kindergarten, grade six, grade two, grade one, then a three/four group, then grade five and then seven.

I told the upper level students about my longtime dream of writing books.

But–”Not everyone can write,” my grade eleven English teacher had explained kindly. And it’s true. Not every high school student can write a story suitable for high school students.

Her colleague trashed my poem. But then, not everyone is a poet either.

The dream not only didn’t die, it didn’t even suffer much. I just kept believing I could write and getting (mostly) good marks in English.

Then, after getting laid off from my job at the college, I found my writing niche–magazine articles. Editing adult non-fiction followed, and now I’m writing picture books for children.

So, little boy, I’m not Robert Munsch. But I love doing what he loves doing–telling stories to children.

In my next post, I’ll tell you what worked for this book launch–and I’ll even tell you how I managed to have a book launch before the book was finished.

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A Special Book for a Special Season

At seven years old, Tina is a highly tactile little girl who loves animals and bright colors. How she’s enjoying her La Nuit de Noël experience! She’s just learning to read French, so we practice a little each time I see her. And each time we sit down to practice a few pages, she enjoys the glittering gold and varied textures. A fuzzy blanket keeps the newborn Baby warm, and the sheep’s soft wool contrasts with the cow’s rough coat. The tiny lambs don’t have the extra texture, but they’re so cute!

The Wise Men, dressed in purple, orange and green, differ not only in vibrant color but also in the texture of their capes. One even has a crinkly red turban. Which brings me to the stars, from the golden setting sun to the Christmas Star itself, all gleaming. And who would have thought to add texture to the coconuts on the palm tree by the side of the road to Bethlehem?

This book is a wonder, and so is Tina’s response to it. As a board book, it’s no doubt designed for very young francophone children. But it also serves for older children learning to read French, making their experience much more memorable with tactile and visual elements that enhance the story immeasurably.

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What of The Three Hungry Sisters?

Poor Lisa! She doesn’t mean to be impolite as she moves to the other end of the table, but she’s heard the story so many times, and Tommy’s asked for it AGAIN. Yes, The Three Hungry Sisters rates third in over-and-over-again stories for Tommy and Tina.

The hands-down winner is a true, but embellished, story of the fire at Great-grandma’s nursing home. Nothing beats that. When Tina was little we acted out the story with fireman puzzle pieces. She and Tommy still thrill at the account of the neighbours pouring out of their homes in the middle of a cold night to rescue the residents.

Arson in the Nursing Home

Spot number two goes to Black Sheep, White Sheep, made up to address a problem that appears to be solved now. I love the way that story evolved as Tommy and Tina took ownership of it.

Black Sheep, White Sheep

The third prize goes to The Three Hungry Sisters, a highly moralistic tale–so much so that adults find it tedious. But . . . it’s a winner with Tommy and Tina.

And just yesterday, while Tina’s mom was helping me add some pizazz to the Scissortown dialogue, she remembered the ill-fated sisters. Maria knows the story needs work, but she likes the lesson and believes the story has potential.

This tale isn’t politically correct. It’s trendy now to have the moral understated; children are smart, we’re told, and they will infer it. But the sisters in this story club you over the head with the moral and drag you off to the Cave of Responsible Behaviour.

And that gets me thinking.

Could I market it as a politically incorrect morality tale, or an Aesop-style story?

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A New Path through Searchland–to a More Distant Destination

I’ve been exploring no-cost and low-cost platform building. One of the pleasantest win-win strategies has been to write book reviews, leaving a reviewer profile wherever I go.

Oct. 16–Today I want to focus on my reason for platform building: to sell books when the time comes. (Coralie thinks she’ll be done the artwork for Scissortown in January, giving us a probable release date of next January or February.)

I used Weebly.com to design my little website, orchestrating the elements to produce what I think is a bright, wholesome, happy atmosphere. However, it didn’t show up in the first two pages of Google when I searched for my name.

My average number of website visitors is certainly increasing; apparently that’s still not enough for Google to associate it with my name in any significant search results.

Let’s see what happens when I Google the terms the free Wordtracker.com tool had suggested.

I chose the rather unlikely page header Stories for Children: Moral Values after checking out various phrases with Wordtracker’s free keyword tool. “Moral values” sounds a little odd to me, but it had a higher KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Indicator) than the more traditional “Christian values” or “family values.”

Here goes:

First try, searching for “Stories for Children: Moral Values”–nada for my site. Oh well, I have nothing to sell yet.

Second try, searching for “Books for Children: Moral Values”–again, nada for my site, but there seem to be some really good sites out there. I hope I’m laying the groundwork now to join them on page one or two later on!

One of my Google+ contacts led me to this info from Conductor.com: “Our analysis showed that natural search drives the most traffic of all channels, responsible for nearly half (47%) of all visits.”

So what’s a new children’s book writer to do? I’ve added another page to my site, with links to my book reviews. We’ll see if that makes a difference to my visitor stats and maybe–just maybe–to my search results.
Interesting Books for Children and Adults

By the way, on checking out this page, you’ll notice a review of She Does Not Fear the Snow at LibraryThing, which claims to be home to 1,700,000 book lovers.

Also, my About.com review is live now (I’d submitted it Sept. 23 and it went online early this month).

Let’s see if these big sites have an impact!

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Another Piece to the Puzzle?

A trip to Value Village a couple of years ago may have provided another clue as to why certain books work so well, at least for Tommy and Tina.

Be Patient, Little Chick by Claude Clement has been a consistent favorite.

When Tommy was younger, he loved acting out the story again and again. As the “spunky chick,” newly hatched and still wearing part of his shell, he demanded to know the locations of the garden and the great woods. His mother suggested taking things slowly, but he objected, “I already know everything I need to know.”

But a little chick can’t really eat dog bones, fly high, swim like a duck . . . and is more than a little unwise to confront the biggest rooster.

Tommy really enjoyed role playing that part of the story, but he got nervous when I was the big rooster, and very quickly had me revert to being Mother Hen.

Now that they’re six and seven. Tommy and Tina wonder how the little chick knew enough to ask about the garden and the great woods when he was newly hatched. But they still like the story.

I think I may have found a piece of the puzzle, at least for Tommy and Tina–they like stories that inspire them to role play. Now, why do they see some stories as screenplays and not others?

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The Searchland Chronicles: Part Two

Morning, Sept. 23: I Googled She Does Not Fear the Snow by Bobbie Cole. My Wattpad review is back on page one :), followed by my Booksie review and the other person’s Goodreads review.

I’ve just joined About.com and posted a new review of Bobbie’s book. I’ll let you know if it gets approved and how long that takes, and where it shows up in the search.

Morning, Sept. 24 Google yields the same results as yesterday for She Does Not Fear the Snow.

On a whim, I decided to Google my name. The results are quite different from last month’s, when I got a few mentions on page one and two, as did another person with a similar name.

Here’s the current order on page one:

1. my google+ page (nice work, Google!)

2. five images, including one of a friend I share a wordpress blog account with (I’d known about that and had changed the picture); another of Perry Stone of Biblestudyspace.com; and one of me when I was an English as a Second Language instructor.

3. my Smashwords biography page

4. my Ezinearticles biography page

5. the Booksie review of Bobbie’s book

6. a possible Twitter account, perhaps belonging to another person with the same name

7. my YouTube page, with my comment about Bobbie’s video at the top

8. my Goodreads page with the two reviews I’ve written

9. a possible LinkedIn account, perhaps belonging to another person with the same name

10. my Wattpad author page

11. people with similar names on Canada411.ca

Page two has a few interesting things, including two links to Biblestudyspace, some career info at Zoominfo.com, a comment on http://selfpublishingadvice.org/blog/reach-new-readers-book-evaluation-sites/, and Madi Predda’s reblogging of a post at https://authorspromotion.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/free-and-other-strategies/.

Please forgive me if this has seemed egotistical–it’s not meant to be! I offer it as a summary of results I’ve obtained within the last month or so by being relatively active on google+, writing book reviews, uploading a free e-book on Smashwords, blogging, and working with Madi Predda.

Perhaps some of these will work for another author who’s working in low- or no-budget conditions.

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Adventures in Platform Building: Another Win-Win

Reviewing Bobbie Cole’s book, She Does Not Fear the Snow, has helped me to develop another strategy for enhancing my online profile.

I am, of course, promoting her book because I feel that it’s a beautiful true story, well worth reading. However, wherever I post a review, I also post a profile for myself with a link to my website and one or both blogs.

I first posted my review on Goodreads, and then posted a different one on Booksie.

Sunday: To my surprise, Google placed the Booksie review above the Goodreads one on the first page.

I then posted the Goodreads review on Wattpad.

Monday: I just Googled her book again, and my reviews were in this order: Wattpad, Booksie and Goodreads.

An experiment: I’m going to post a review on another site, then see what happens. Watch this space!

Tuesday: I’ve just posted a link to the Goodreads review on Bible study space (please scroll down in that site).
Now I’ll Google Bobbie’s book again . . . .

My reviews are in the same order: Wattpad, Booksie and Goodreads. Biblestudyspace does not appear. I’ll check again later. It may have something to do with the fact that Biblestudyspace appears to be a relatively new site. I have read that Google favors sites that have been around for awhile.

Yahoo has my Goodreads review first and my Booksie one farther down the page. The other two are not to be found on the first four pages.

Bing lists my Goodreads review on page one, Booksie on page two, and that’s it for the first four pages.

Wednesday’s Adventures in Searchland:

1. Google.ca was nothing short of fascinating. I did four searches in a very short period of time. Two turned up my Booksie review followed by someone else’s Goodreads review. The other two turned up Booksie followed by my Goodreads review!

2. On Google.co.uk, page one had my Booksie review followed by the “other” person’s Goodreads review.

3. On Yahoo.ca, page one had my Goodreads review before my Booksie review.

4. Bing.com had my Goodreads review on page one and my Booksie review on page two.

Please note that I’m simply noting the order of the reviews, not what comes before, after, or between them.

That’s it for now, folks, but I do have another review written, quite different from the last two. Will the next site appear in my search? If so, how long will it stay on page one or two?

Stay tuned!

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Plot and Subplot in Eight Words

Margaret’s top picks:

“Superdog!” exclaims Tina when she sees the cover of Barnaby the Bedbug Detective, by Catherine Stier. Indeed, Barnaby is the first superhero I’ve ever met with a bedbug-bedecked cape.

My granddaughter and I thrill to the story of a too-bouncy-for-a-family shelter mutt who rises from zero to hero after his adoption by Martha and graduation from training school. Alas! When Barnaby sits proudly, head held high, at his discovery of bedbugs in a family’s home, the family doesn’t cheer. Has he done something wrong?

Take your child on Barnaby’s journey from zero to hero, with a brief hiatus back in zeroland, before his “best doggy smile” ever. Enjoy the beautiful artwork by Karen Zapp, whose warm, gentle pictures complement the gentle text, making this a story to enjoy as much as to learn from.
**
“Do you want to be my friend?” asks the little mouse of a long-tailed creature.

Not really. Turning the page, we see that the tail’s owner is too busy munching grass.

Perhaps the owner of this tail . . . .

Oh no! This tail’s owner is hungry!

What’s interesting about Do You Want to Be My Friend? by Eric Carle is that the pictures are mysterious enough not only for the three and four set, but also for the five and overs. And, of course, the fact that the author has rendered a complete plot and sub-plot in just eight words.

The conclusion is highly satisfactory. It ends with the right word (just one), danger, suspense, and . . . . Oops! No spoilers!
**
Another winner, but of a very different sort, is The Mitten, a classic tale retold by Jim Aylesworth. I’m not surprised it’s a classic when I see the fascination of the children. The story is simple enough: a boy loses his mitten, which is inhabited by one animal after another until finally the last one causes it to explode. One little boy looks SO serious, I just have to tell the children that the woods are full of places for animals to keep warm in the winter.

The back cover has a recipe for hot cocoa, a nice tie-in with the sub-theme of a grandma who makes cocoa and knits mittens.

My volunteer reading stint at the day care is over for now, as I’ve gotten a very welcome, and enjoyable, part-time job. But I hope to go back and kid-test covers if Coralie and I decide to test another cover for Scissortown. Although I can’t quite put my finger on what I’ve learned at the day care, I know it’s been beneficial as well as fun, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity.

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