Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Signings

I've heard many times at writers' conferences that book signings are no longer good ways to sell books, and that might be accurate. I've had two signings lately and didn't sell huge numbers of books at either one, but I still think my time was well spent.

I got to meet dozens of nice people at both signings, spent time with other writers at the group one last Saturday, and had fun at both events.

The photos below show my tables as they were set up in advance.

The first photo shows the one at the Prospector's Nursery in Nevada City, CA. The staff there was friendly and helpful, including bringing out some live worms for the kids to handle since the book I was offering there, Slime & All, is about a giant talking worm. The worms were in the black compost bin next to the table and in the dish on the table.

 The second book signing was at the Art Center in Auburn, CA where I was one of a dozen authors who belong to the Gold Country Writers. We all dressed up to fit the Halloween theme and I had all my books available there.
I hope to do lots more book signings in the future.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Prisoner 88

Lots of historical fiction books for kids have been written, but Prisoner 88 is unique. It's the story of a boy in the 1880s who is arrested and put in a penitentiary.

Jake was trying to protect his father when he shot a man, but is convicted anyway, and sent off to a life without freedom that is full of hard labor and bullying. Sounds depressing, doesn't it?

But this book isn't depressing at all.

Jake manages to establish some positive relationships, face his fears, and endure his life in prison and his character develops as a result.

I don't want to give away any more about the plot, but I will say Prisoner 88 is well written, believable, and we really care about the characters.

While everything in the plot is wrapped up at the conclusion of the book, I'd like to know what happens to Jake after this story is over and hope Leah Pileggi will write a sequel.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just Curious

When I was a kid public schools in California could celebrate Christmas as long as they only talked about Santa Claus and not the birth of Jesus. My Jewish classmates were often sad because Santa never brought them presents even though they tried to be good. That wasn't okay.

In many public schools today Christmas and other religious holidays are no longer celebrated, partly because of the Separation of Church and State, and partly to avoid offending people.

But one religious holiday is usually celebrated: Halloween.

What? How can that be a religious holiday? Well, it is in the religion called Wicca. While only a small percentage of people in the US belong to that religion, schools stopped sharing "fairy tales" that refer to a "wicked witch" to avoid offending people who believe in that religion. So, why is Halloween still celebrated in the public schools?

Probably because nobody has complained about it yet. If even one parent complains a religious celebration can't be observed in the California schools.

But if we eliminate all religious celebrations we'll be eliminating a lot of fun.

I wish our public schools would allow kids to learn about various religions and cultures without encouraging them to change or question their own families' beliefs. And the kids should have fun doing that.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Book Signings

I'm excited to be doing two book signings close together for books that have been out for a while.

Today I'm at the Prospector's Nursery in Grass Valley, CA signing copies of Slime & All. Since the book is about a giant worm they thought it would be appropriate to have me come in during their children's event and there are some real earthworms for the kids to handle and look at through a magnifying glass. Of course the real worms arent giants and don't talk like the one in the book does.

Next weekend I'll be participating in the Fall Book Affair with the Gold Country Writers at the Arts Building in Auburn, CA with eleven other authors. That event will have a Halloween theme and we'll be giving out free candy. 

I'll be in the section of people who write for kids even though I'll also have one book for adults available. It's the Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I Can't Believe My Dog Did That and contains one story by me.

My kids' books are The Peril of the Sinister Scientist, Secret Service Saint, Signs of Trouble, and Slime & All. I'll also have a workbook for kids called Book Places available.

It's always fun to do book signings and spend time with people of all ages who enjoy reading. If anyone reading this lives nearby I hope you'll drop by.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


What a fun book! John David Anderson wrote a middle grade novel with all the good stuff: characters we care about, scary evil they must fight, relationships that have problems, and an ending that's hard to predict.

Sidekicked is about Andrew Bean, a boy with unusual powers who has an ordinary life while secretly training to become the helper, aka sidekick, of a super hero.

Like the Harry Potter books, a lot of the story takes place in a school setting so kids can identify with it, but the powers these characters have aren't magic and the plot is entirely different from those in that other series. And this book is funny as well as exciting.

I could go on and on about why I like this book, but instead I'll just say, for kids who love action and adventure it's a must read.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Average No More

I used to be as average as it's possible to get.

I was middle aged, average height and weight with mousey brown hair, neither beautiful nor hideous. I was married with two-and-a-half children. (At least that was true statistically since we had one birth child and three foster kids and one plus three halves =2 1/2.)

We were middle income and lived in a medium sized, middle class community in Central California.

But all that has changed.

Now I'm government certified old (in other words I get Social Security,) my hair is turning grey, my kids are all grown and gone, my income is lower, and when my husband retired we moved a small town in Northern California.

But, you know what? I'm still the same person on the inside.

It's so easy to judge people on the basis of how they look, where they live, and how much money they have but none of those things really matter. Everybody knows we shouldn't judge others on the basis of things like race, national origin, or if they have special needs or not, but our society still focuses on things like status symbols to determine people's...well, status.

In many ways our current culture in the USA reminds me of just before the fall of the Roman Empire.

There are millions of people here and in the rest of the world who may not be average or rich, but it's just as wrong to be prejudiced against people who are rich or average, as it is to be prejudiced against people who aren't either of those things. 

It's what's inside each of us that counts. Maybe if we all try to see past the things on the outside and really get to know each other we can help make the world a better place one relationship at a time.

And, yes, maybe I am more optimistic than average. But it can't hurt to try.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Rantasy

Once Upon a Time, not far away there was a land governed by a bunch of spoiled brats. They constantly quarrelled and refused to cooperate. All of them insisted that things be done their way or not at all, so the country had great problems.

The people voted them out of office and elected - another bunch of spoiled brats who were just as quarrelsome and uncooperative as the first bunch.

Finally the citizens got a brilliant idea and at the next election they chose a preschool teachers to run the country.

The preschool teachers knew all about things like cooperating, listening, and taking turns. They even got everyone in the country to share and share alike so the problems were solved and they all lived happily ever after.

The End.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Why Teach Reading?

Anyone who reads my blog posts knows I often review books for kids. Why do I think those matter?

Because they open kids' imaginations and involve their intelligence and imagination.

In our modern world where so much is done by texting, Skype, and other visual media it would be easy to think only minimal reading will be important for future generations.

That's wrong!

Nobody will ever know how much the world has been influenced by the things people in the past read that shaped their minds and attitudes.

I could go on all day about how wonderful books are, and how important, but that's enough ranting for now.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Learning to Read

When I was a kid parents were told they shouldn't try to teach their kids to read because they'd probably do it wrong and the kids would have to unlearn what they'd been taught before they could "really" learn to read. My parents did teach me to write my name and the alphabet when I was a little kid, but they "knew better" than to try to teach me more than that.

Because because most mothers stayed home only some rich kids went to "nursery school," which was just about playing together and not academic anyway.

Kindergartens didn't teach reading and writing either. Instead those students learned things like how to get along with others, take turns, stand in line, raise their hands and wait to be called on, and play games, etc.

So, like most people my age, I learned to read in First Grade. When I started second grade I was one of several kids in my class reading at Fifth Grade level.

How did that happen?

Our first grade teacher was newly graduated from teacher college and there were 42 kids in our class, half of whom hadn't gone to Kindergarten. Since half the class wasn't learning from the sight reading method used at that time, she had them chant the letter sounds over and over again while the rest of us worked at our desks on other subjects. Somehow hearing the letter sounds in the background made them sink into our minds.

As a teacher I once tried playing phonics records and tapes while my preschool students fell asleep at nap time, and some of them spontaneously started to read even though the only academic teaching I did was to point to the words as I read them big books and tell them the sound of one alphabet letter each day. (Kids become ready to learn at different ages and I don't believe in trying to push academics on little ones who may not be ready.)

Of course another thing that had helped me and the others in our First Grade class learn to read well was that our parents had read to us every night from the time we were toddlers.

Years ago I read about a scientific study seeking to discover which method of teaching reading worked best. They questioned the highest functioning students at the most respected universities in America and discovered the only thing they had in common was that their parents had read to them every night when they were little kids. Of course maybe more intelligent parents were more likely to do that and the students had inherited the ability to learn easily.

However I'm sure the fact that I read picture books to my preschool students every day did help the ones who were ready to learn.

If you're a good reader as an adult do you think either background phonics or being read to as a young child was a factor in helping you learn to read?