Saturday, May 31, 2014

I Did It!

Anyone who knows me is probably aware that I'm a techno-idiot. While I can do things that seemed impossible 10 years ago and wouldn't even have imagined twenty years ago, I'm far behind a lot of other people.

But last week I did something that makes me feel good.

I wanted to look at an old manuscript I'd worked on about ten years ago, but it was an obsolete Claris Works document. (I use a Mac.) I tried changing the name to something newer and the whole thing turned into a list of tech stuff I couldn't understand. All I'd written was gone!

But then I got an idea.

I pulled out the old computer I'd used back then and found the document. Then I changed it to .txt and it opened. I had to erase many pages of gibberish before and after what I'd written, and remove a lot of strange symbols that had been inserted randomly into words throughout the document. That took some time, but wasn't difficult. Spell check helped a lot.

Since the old computer no longer has internet access I put the document on a memory stick, brought it to my current computer, and was able to copy and paste the whole thing (about 40,000 words) into a new document.

I don't know if changing documents in outdated software to .txt would work on a PC, but it certainly does on Macs.

Most of the people reading this probably think what I did was obvious but, as an official techno-idiot, it made me proud.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Wednesday Wars

I recently reviewed a book by Gary D. Schmidt . It was so good I got another of his books from the library and loved it as much as the first one. That man has got to be one of the best writers for young adults in this century!

And, no, I don't know him personally, though I'd certainly like to.

The Wednesday Wars is about a kid back in 1967 who is the only one in his class who doesn't leave school for religious classes on Wednesday afternoons. He's stuck with a teacher who seems to hate his guts and insists on making him spend their time together reading Shakespeare's plays.

Of course the boy, Holling, must also deal with the usual teen problems of being bullied, not getting along with his sister, wanting a girl to like him, and living with a domineering father. And those are just the beginning of his problems because he gets into some of the most embarrassing situations a kid could imagine.

But it's not only those conflicts and the believable characters that make the book great. The style of writing lets the reader feel what it's like to be Holling and to experience life in his world. And (gasp!) kids who read this book will even learn something about Shakespeare!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Behavior From the Sky

As a substitute teacher there were days when I'd have a difficult class and when I went to the lunchroom nearly all the regular teachers were saying their classes had also been unusually difficult that day.

When that happened it was almost always either when a storm was brewing or there would be a full moon that night.

I don't remember noticing the same correlation with my own children's behavior as a parent, but it might have happened. It's easier to notice a pattern involving dozens or hundreds of kids than with only a few.

Anyway, I'm sure ominous weather and full moons do influence children's behavior.

I wonder if those things influence adults as well?

If I were a scientist I might research the number of crimes occurring at those times and compare them with the crime rates on other days, but I'm not a scientist and I'm too lazy to do that research.

I've seen some superstitious explanations for kids' behavior being influenced by things in the sky, but I believe the behavior changes are due to the change in air pressure or gravitational pull. Perhaps children are more susceptible to those things than adults.

Did any of you watch the meteor shower last night?

I wonder if that had any influence on the behavior of children.

Of course if more kids misbehave today it might just be because they stayed up past their bedtimes to watch the falling stars.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Those Needles!

When a doctor or nurse sticks a needle into someone's arm, that hurts.

Lots of kids  - and even quite a few grown-ups - are afraid of getting shots. But the injections often necessary for things like immunizations, medication, and conditions like allergies and diabetes.

When I was a kid I had to get allergy shots for about two years and I learned a secret to keep them from hurting. At least to keep them from hurting much.

It all depends on what you're thinking.

If I was worried that the shot would hurt when the needle went into my arm it would hurt a lot more than if I was thinking about other things. That was probably because being nervous makes muscles tense up, and an injection into tense muscles hurts more than one into relaxed muscles.

It's psychological.

Just as actors try to think what the character they're portraying would be thinking and that shows in their facial expressions and body language, if someone thinks about something happy or peaceful their whole body becomes calm and relaxed.

It's a good idea to encourage kids waiting to get shots to think about the most wonderful thing that could happen to them, or to imagine a magical world where everything is perfect and to tell you about those ideas while the shot happens.

There's no guarantee the shots won't hurt, but the pain will be much less if they think about things like that. It works for grown-ups, too.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


This is my post number 603 to this blog. I've written six-hundred-and-three posts!

When I started blogging in 2009 I wondered if I'd be able to think of anything to say after the first week or so. Obviously that hasn't been a problem.

Even when I was seriously ill, grieving, or dealing with other major problems and had "writer's block" when it came to working on other things, I always managed to post something here twice a week.

Since this blog is about words, books, and kids there's plenty to say. I've always been interested in the science of Linguistics, and that's why I named this the On Words Blog, though not many posts have been on that topic.

But I love kids, I'm a grandparent and substitute teacher, and usually read several middle-grade novels every week, so there's always something to talk about on the topics of books and kids.

And I hope my regular readers don't mind if I slip in an occasional post on a different subject.

While not many of you make comments on the blog itself, the posts also show on Facebook and lots of people comment on them there.

I hope to keep blogging for a long time to come. If there's anything you'd like me to blog about, please let me know.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What's in a Name?

For the last few weeks people have come up to me and asked about the Common Core Curriculum. I am a substitute teacher, but that hardly makes me an expert on the subject, so why were they asking me? It turns out there's another Jan Collins in a nearby town who has been in the news because of her stand against the Common Core Curriculum.

And she's not the only Jan Collins in our area.

About two months ago I sent Facebook Friend requests to about a dozen other people named Jan Collins and they blocked me for spam. (When I stayed blocked I discovered someone had hacked into my Facebook account and, through there, my computer, but that's a different story.)

When I began writing professionally I had to go by Janet Ann Collins (even though nobody ever called me "Janet Ann" except my mother when she was mad at me) because there was another writer named Janet Collins. She was only one of many fairly well known people with that name, including a dead ballerina.

And I can't even imagine the number of people in the world with first names similar to mine. Janet is a feminine form of John, and, according to one of my baby name books, there are 125 variations of John. And that's only the masculine forms! Let's see, we girls have Jane, Jean, Juanita, Jeanette, Joanne, Shawna, and dozens more.

Why are so many people given similar names?

My mother named me Janet because she was proud of her Scottish heritage, and many babies are named after other people. But one reason there are so many of us with similar names is the meaning.  I understand the original Hebrew name means "gracious gift of God" or just "gift of God." Apparently lots of people in the world are grateful to have their babies.

Do you know what your name means?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Okay For Now

Okay, I had to blog about this book. Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt impressed me so much I can't resist telling everyone about it. The book is much more than okay. (I couldn't resist the redundancies. Sorry.)

The book is a great story about a boy, Doug, in a disfunctional family who discovers the joy of using his artistic talent.  But that's only the tip of the iceberg.

The plot is exciting and the dangers and conflicts are real and realistic.

The book is written in a comfortable, easy style and involves characters and situations any young reader will identify with. It's fun to read.

And, in my opinion, it should become a literary classic. The depth and richness of the plot and characters is amazing.

I was drawn into the story and couldn't put the book down until I finished reading it.

I hope our library has Schmidt's other books because I can't wait to read them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Blog Hop Tour


I’m Janet Ann Collins and this post is part of a blog hop tour. That means various authors will take turns telling about themselves and how they write.

I want to start by thanking Penelope Cole, the previous writer to post, for inviting me to participate. Her blog is:

Here’s what I look like:

And here are links to my website

And Facebook page:

I used to write feature articles for a newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area and my work has appeared in many other periodicals and some anthologies. I’m the author of four books for children. The most recent one is called Slime & All and it’s an early chapter book (second grade reading level) about a giant talking worm who wants a friend.

You can get the book at: 
or at other online bookstores and some local “brick and mortar” ones.

I’m currently working on a book that’s unusual since it’s Christian speculative fiction for middle grade readers. As far as I know, there aren’t many new books in that genre, but some older ones, like the Narnia books have become classics. However mine doesn’t involve a fantasy world. Instead it’s about time travel. I won’t say more about that book because it’s still in process and things may change.

Why do I write for kids? Well, I love kids, I enjoy reading books for that age group, and I’m still a kid on the inside. And I want to give back some of what the books I read as a child gave to me.

A few years ago I attended a school reunion and someone told me they remembered me as being brave. I was shocked! I had often felt scared as a child. But then I remembered times when I had stood up for what was right in spite of my fears because the protagonists in the books I read always acted that way.

They say some writers are planners and others just write “from the seat of their pants.” Those are sometimes called pantsers. I don’t fit into either of those categories. I guess you could say I’m a framer. I need to have a general plot plan, but knowing too much detail before actually writing makes me bored with the project before actually writing it. What works best for me is to know the basic story line and fill in the details as I go along.

The next author on this blog hop will be Marci Seither, who will be posting in about a week.  She is a writer, a public speaker, a talented seamstress, a wife and the mother of six kids.

Her website is here:

Saturday, May 3, 2014


I was six years old when my father died. One of the bullies at school told me, "He probably died on purpose just to get away from you."

That was only the beginning of the tormenting and bullying I experienced through most of my childhood. Most of the time the attacks weren't physical, but words can really hurt you.

I tried tattling, trying to avoid the bullies, or saying mean things back, but nothing seemed to help.

One Saturday a tough girl in our neighborhood shoved me down on the sidewalk, sat on my chest, raised her fist, and said she was going to "punch my lights out."

For some strange reason instead of reacting with fear or anger I calmly explained to her that the reason she had no friends at school was because she was a bully, and if she would be nice then people would like her.

She got up, walked away, and never bothered me again.

I've seen that sort of reaction to bullying work in other situations, too.

The website, explains why. The person in charge, Izzy Kalman, is Jewish, but he bases his information on how to handle bullies on the teaching of Jesus Christ to turn the other cheek.

There might be exceptions, but that method is far more likely to have good results than tattling or fighting back, so I certainly think it's worth trying.

Except, of course, by people who think they know better than Jesus. ;-)