Saturday, February 28, 2009

Changes in Education

Recently I've been reading McGuffey's Sixth Eclectic Reader, originally published in 1879. My grandfather may have used it as a student. Back in his time few kids went beyond the eighth grade, but he told us he'd read Shakespeare in elementary school so I shouldn't have been surprised at the reading level of this book, but I was. Many adults would find some of the  selections in this reader difficult today and many older grade school students would find them  unintelligible. 
It's interesting to see how our language has changed in a century and a quarter. For example, the authors of various selections are described as having graduated "at" rather than "from" colleges and universities. Selections in the reader, chosen to be used for practice in elocution, are often a bit pompous, but usually interesting and informative. 
Some selections in the reader are from classical works I read in college, but that doesn't mean students in the 1800s were more intelligent than kids are today. After all, they had less history and science to learn about in school and most things available for children to read for pleasure back then had been written for adults, so kids were used to more complex language. 
As an adult, I enjoyed the reader and have learned a lot about the world and attitudes in the 1800s from reading it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Writers Conferences

I haven't posted for a while because I was out of town and couldn't get internet access. The purpose of the trip was a writers conference. If you want to be a published writer, or are already published and want to move up in the profession, conferences like that are essential. 
There are lots of them, of various kinds. Many specialize in certain genres or types of writing such as the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conferences and those for people who write - or want to write - for the Christian market. There are lots of other categories, too. Some conferences are relatively inexpensive and may only last a few hours or a weekend while others cost more and last for days. Some have editors and agents available to consider your work, which may or may not cost an additional fee, and others just help you learn more about the craft and business of writing.
If you're a beginner, I suggest you start with a small, inexpensive conference and learn all you can there before moving up to the bigger ones. If you've been published frequently you may even get to be a conference speaker. I've led workshops at quite a few small conferences. That's a good way to become better known.
If you are planning to attend a writers conference of any sort for the first time I suggest you go to the website of my friend, John Vonhof at for some helpful information.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Another Oldie But Goodie

One advantage to staying home with a cold was the necessity of reading books from my own library since I couldn't go out to get other books and didn't have the energy to do much else but read. Last week I re-read Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. It had been my favorite book when I was about 13 years old and I had read and re-read it many times back then. It had just enough romance to appeal to a girl of that age while, at the same time, it was full of adventure and carried me into a new world, that of ancient Egypt.  To my surprise, last week I enjoyed re-reading it as much as I had as a kid. It's not exactly a classic, but certainly has all the qualities required to become one. The characters are interesting and believable, the setting is fascinating and real, and the plot is full of action and surprises. That book and a box of tissues were all I needed to turn a crummy day into a pretty good one.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Little House on the Prairie

     I recently enjoyed re-reading Little House on the Prairie and being carried off to the historical world of  the people who settled America. 
     The book has lost none of its charm, but it would never get accepted for publication today because there's no real plot. The protagonist is years younger than the target reader, she doesn't have a goal and there's no villain or antagonist. While there are a few brief episodes of danger involving wild animals, even the forces of nature are more often helpful than not. 
     But just getting to know the characters and experience their day-to-day life was enough to keep me reading. Laura Ingalls Wilder did an excellent job of creating a realistic world, probably because it was the world she, herself, had experienced as a young child. This book is a great resource for kids learning about American history in school and a pleasure to read just for fun.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Classics for Kids

I've been sick and unable to go to the library or a bookstore, and my brain isn't up to anything difficult. Since I can't do much else I plan to read a book from my childhood. There are quite a few of those on my shelves. Let's see....  
Somehow I must choose between The Wizard of Oz, Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, Heidi, The Three Musketeers, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Black Beauty, The Railway Children, Robin Hood, Tales from Shakespeare, and many more. How can I possibly decide which one to read first? All of them have become classics because they're good books.
Suggestions would be welcome.