Three Books, Many Messages

Eight-year-old Tina likes to see the books I read to the kindergartners at her cousin’s after school care. This time she’s particularly taken with Wilderness Cat and Clancy The Courageous Cow.

Wilderness Cat highlights God’s provision to a pioneer family–through their faithful cat. Most young children–Tina and the kinders included–like animals, but this quiet story held them all particularly enthralled. I think they strongly identified with the heroine, who obediently but with great difficulty gave her beloved cat to a neighbor before the family began their 50-mile trek to Canada.

Life was hard that winter, especially when Papa came home empty-handed from a hunting trip. There was a catch in my voice when Serena offered Mama her own dinner, and Mama refused. That night, Serena dreamed she heard her cat crying. Or was it a dream? She opened the door to find that her pet had not only returned, it was dragging a snowshoe hare with it. A feast followed, as well as a promise from Mama that they would never leave their faithful kitty behind again.

There’s nothing quiet about Clancy The Courageous Cow, and nothing subtle about its messages. Tina leafed through the book in the car, studying the pictures and announcing the very clear “lessons”: God made us all different and we’re all the way we’re supposed to be; just because someone is different, we don’t have to be mean; and even when others are mean to us, we don’t have to be mean to them. I have no idea whether author Lachie Hume would have attached the spiritual emphasis to the first point that Tina did; it is, of course, a reflection of Tina’s faith and the teachings of her mom and the school.

Which brings me to Scissortown and the fascinating reactions of the adults who read it. Stay tuned!

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Peek-a-Boo Round the Pillar and an Airport Book Sale

The little one-year-old on Dad’s shoulders shrieked with delight as Mom disappeared and reappeared around a pillar in the airport.

When the dust had settled, I offered Mom a little “coupon” that I give out to parents and caregivers of little ones:

Free E-book
How to Prepare Your Young Child for Success in School
Smashwords.com

A grade two teacher as well as a parent, she was interested in the content of the book: stimulating language development in children pre-birth to four years old.

I asked if she’d like to see Scissortown, and found that she, like many others, was happy to support an author directly as well as to buy a bright, colorful storybook for her little one. This simple scenario represents my absolute best way to make sales—one on one to parents and grandparents of little ones.

Second best are local venues like art shows and farmers’ markets, followed by sales in local stores. (Shipping charges make stores out of our area reluctant to carry the book.)

Internet sales are not going well, but I’m hopeful that will change with the enhanced e-book and a video.

So—when I started this blog I said I’d tell you what works and what doesn’t, and here you have it: for the paperback, direct, one on one sales, often preceded by a gift, work the very best. And—they’re so rewarding and so much fun!

When the enhanced e-book is up, I’ll tell you how that goes. My experience will be different from that of many indie authors because I fear the giant, and do not want to deal with Amazon. Said giant can most certainly thrive without me—and I hope to do well without it!

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Goodwill Abounds

People are so kind to this new children’s book writer. Case in point: the Museum Gift Shop manager.

I left a copy of the Life Application version of Scissortown (please see grandmasbookshelf.net for the difference between the versions) for her consideration.

She called and ordered four more of the Life Application and five of the Faith-Based. When I delivered them this morning, Netta was at a table outside the Gift Shop with a book stand. We placed my “Debut Picture Book by Peace Country Author and Peace Country Artist” poster at the back of the stand and put five copies of each version in the stand.

Would I like orange, pink or purple felt buttons to indicate the version? I chose orange, having just read about orange sales buttons.

It started to sprinkle, so we took the items into the Gift Shop. Netta’s an artsy craftsy person, and shared her happy ideas about how she’s going to arrange things.

She’d been so kind in providing a stand and allowing me to put it near the entrance, I hesitated to ask–but might there be a place for my business cards? How about on the table beside the stand?

Not so. Netta opened a cupboard and produced a business card stand for me.

And this afternoon, I got a call. Scissortown‘s first Gift Shop customer had met Tommy, Tina and Katie Kat.

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Names in a Blender: Dictionary.com and a Surprise Gift

Ah, speech! One of the wonderful features that sets us apart from the rest of creation! Without speech, where would be the puns and poetry, the stirring oratory, and the mundane daily communication that helps us understand each other so well?

Or not. For without speech, where would be the MIScommunication, rich in humour and drama?

Take the humble blender, for example. Did Tommy’s after school care program coordinator really say she was going to put the children’s PICTURES in a blender? No, she said their names.

However, the key word here is not “pictures” or “names,” but “put.” Dictionary.com gives us a generous 24 meanings for this little word, not one of which is “blend.”

And the coordinator did indeed put little bits of paper with the children’s names on them in a blender container. I mixed up the little bits by hand and had a child draw out the name of a delighted kindergartner.

This little girl had just turned six, and joyfully claimed Scissortown as her gift. There’s a birthday party planned . . . let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out like Tommy’s in the story!

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Scissortown Grand Opening . . . and Children’s Pictures in a Blender

An appointment with 54 children, Scissortown pictures and a blender

Let me explain . . .

The Scissortown Grand Opening Ceremonies (step aside, Sochi) took place last Monday, complete with a “Welcome to Scissortown” sign and marching band consisting of Tommy, Tina and yours truly. T and T each opened a box of books (one of Faith-Based Application versions and the other of Life Application versions) and passed them around to the dignitaries.

Honoured attendees included Tommy, Tina and Katie Kat (heroes of Scissortown), Scissortown CFO (aka my husband), T’s and T’s moms, Coralie and her husband, Steven (aka videographer, book designer, IT guy), our daughter and her friend, and my brother and his wife (aka the Scissortown Express Delivery Team).

What fun! As my brother kindly explained, he had learned during his publishing career that the only way to catch a typo is to make 1,000 copies of the document. Bingo–and I challenge you to find it!

Guests took book(s) to give, sell or use in promotion, and everyone had a good time except Katie Kat, who eschews noisy crowds and book launches.

Oh yes, back to the blender.

But let’s start with our local hardware store. With nothing to lose and no bookstore in our town of under 3000, I looked around our local hardware store. Hmmm, there might be some shelf space beside the toys. Perhaps the owner would consider selling Scissortown on consignment. When asked, he took me to the portion of the front counter dedicated to local works! And there went Scissortown with a stand and poster supplied by me, happily featured with books by another local author and a CD by a local musician.

Oh yes, the blender.

On Friday I read the story to 54 well-behaved children and an entirely adequate number of supervising staff at Tommy’s after school care program.

I’m to return for a draw for a free book this Friday, which brings us to the blender. The children have colored line drawings of Scissortown pictures, which their teacher is going to BLEND as per page 9 of the story!

I hope I get some good pictures . . . watch this space.

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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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