Source: A Band of Babies (Hardcover)
Author Archives: carolegerber
Thank you all for your friendship and support, especially those of you who participated in the launch of my new Halloween book, Ten Busy Brooms, out last month from Doubleday. I am adding an extra special thank-you to Jason Gallaher, for all he does to organize these launches. I know I am not the only EMU who appreciates his kindness, patience, and enthusiasm.
Before I go, I want to share three bits of good news. First, two of my poems were selected by Kenn Nesbitt, editor of One Minute Till Bedtime: 60 Second Poems to Send You Off to Sleep (Little, Brown). Launch date is November 1, 2016. Kenn served as the Children’s Poet Laureate from 2013-2015. He contacted me two years ago, asked me to submit a couple of poems, and accepted both my submissions: “Time to Sleep” and “Snow Angels.” Here’s the flap copy for this book of short poems: ” It’s time for tuck-in, and your little one wants just one more moment with you–so fill it with something that will feed the imagination, fuel a love of reading, and send them off to sleep in a snap. Reach for a one-minute poem!” Here is the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/One-Minute-till-Bedtime-60-Second/dp/0316341215/
Second, my book Leaf Jumpers, first published by in hardcover by Charlesbridge in 2006, will next year be released as a board book. It “survived” multiple printings in hardcover, then Charlesbridge printed it in softcover, and two years ago Scholastic bought the paperback rights and continues to sell it at their school book fairs all over the country. This is my only title to have such a long and multi-format lifespan. Needless to say, it is one of my favorites!
Third, my picture book titled A Band of Babies will finally be published in 2017, seven years after it was accepted by Maria Modugno, who then headed HarperCollins (she now heads Random House.) Much of the delay is based on the schedule of New York Times best-selling illustrator Jane Dyer, who gets booked years in advance. I have seen Jane’s cover art of my mischievous babies, and they are adorable! I will post it on my website as soon as the editors give me the go-ahead.
And now it’s time to say goodbye! “Happy trails to you, until we meet again/Happy trails to you -keep smiling on till then/ Happy trails to you, till we meet again . . .” Here is the link to the entire song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgw_yprN_-w
I have never enjoyed going to haunted houses because I am easily frightened by costumed actors paid to scare people. That’s one of many reason I love Michael Fleming’s illustrations for my Halloween counting book, 10 Busy Brooms, out this month from Doubleday. The “bad” critters he depicted look nearly as adorable as the altruistic little witches who rescue one another, making it clear to children that this book is sweet rather than scary.
Thanks also to another talented Michael, Doubleday Assistant Editor Michael Joosten, who worked closely with me to make sure my text and Mr. Fleming’s art fit together seamlessly. An enormous thank-you also goes to Frances Gilbert—Associate Publishing Director of Random House, Golden Books, Doubleday Books for Young Readers—for accepting my manuscript. And major thanks to my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette for selling it.
I got the idea for this manuscript while thinking about my wholesome trick-or-treating adventures in the small Ohio town where I grew up. No one’s parents ever accompanied them—that would have been humiliating! Preschoolers stayed home and helped to hand out treats. Elementary school kids joined up with older siblings or friends and made the rounds. It was exciting to be out and about at night, unsupervised by adults, and feeling the occasional thrill of fear at seeing a seriously scary goblin I didn’t recognize in costume.
Most children wore simple costumes: old sheet with eye holes cut out for ghosts, and black wigs worn under witch hats. Many kids wore cheap masks from the dime store. A few painted their faces. Many wore fake wax lips or wax teeth that had to be taken out when you said, “trick or treat.” Both the lips and teeth had a sweet taste and could be chewed like gum later in the evening. Older kids carried soap in their pockets to leave their marks on homes of people who were too clueless or cheap to give out treats. Some carried bags of dry corn. Soaping windows and/or throwing corn on porches were the “tricks” if a treat wasn’t given.
None of us liked the sheriff’s prissy daughter, Beverly, and we all hated knocking on the door of their home. However, her family gave out full-size candy bars, so we put away our wax teeth and lips so we could smile politely when her mother opened the door. Getting our candy bars wasn’t a quick transaction, though, because Mrs. B. (full name withheld to protect Beverly’s privacy) always attempted to first guess the identity of each beggar, then demanded that we take off our disguises if she guessed wrong. (Hand over the Hershey already!)
Okay, so how am I going to wind up this trip down memory lane? Hmmmm. How about with this: Trick or treat/smell my feet/give me something good to eat. And, if you get a chance in October, read 10 Busy Brooms to a child who loves Halloween.
I was intrigued by this title of a weekly column by Leo Babauta who writes on the topic of “Zen Habits.” Translated from the Japanese words ware tada shira taru, the phrase “all you need, you already have” are words we should aspire to live by. As Mr. Babauta says, “It’s a lovely way of looking at life.”
He urges people to expand our appreciation of what we have instead of always wanting more. “Chances are, you have enough food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities in your life. You might also have loved ones who care about you. You are without any desperate needs.”
I believe his words apply especially to writers. As EMUs, you already have one of the basic necessities of being – or becoming – a published writer. You have an imagination. You have a computer. You have manuscripts. You have an agent. In Mr. Babauta words, “All you need, you already have.”
But many of us don’t recognize this. If we haven’t yet been published, we worry that it won’t happen. If we have been published, we briefly celebrate and then begin stewing about whether we’ll ever get another manuscript accepted. If we’ve had multiple books published, we worry that the streak is about to end.
I thought of the need to appreciate what we had after reading a lengthy and heartfelt obituary last spring in my local paper. (Yes, I’m a writer who is intrigued by how families and friends sum up the lives of their loved ones.) Here’s an abridged excerpt:
William H. Lewis, “Popcorn,” age 91, passed peacefully in the warm spring sunshine of Monday, April 25 after planting his final garden. . . Reared on the family farm, he grew and sold vegetables. Following high school graduation, Popcorn served in the Pacific from 1943-1946. He returned to farming when he retired from B.F. Goodrich in 1986. Popcorn lived a full life of adventure, bewilderment, achievement, misfortune, and joy. He was a farmer, WWII vet, marathon runner, humanitarian, dancer, freshwater angler, musician, hunter, and artist. Friend to many delightful (and peculiar) characters. . . Popcorn showed us that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
What a great tribute! What loving and insightful writing! I wish I had known this man. Popcorn clearly savored and appreciated his imperfect life. He lived as Leo Babauta urges us to live: By remembering that we already have enough, “we can appreciate the beauty, the preciousness of every moment of being alive.” Whether we publish a hundred books, one book, or none at all, we already have what we need.
Last week was action-packed for me – a writer whose usual day consists of trips to Starbucks, the library, the grocery and periodic lunches or dinners out with my husband and/or friends. On Tuesday, I drove 180 miles round-trip to and from a school author visit. I have no clue about how this principal stumbled across my web site, but I am glad she did. It was a long but fulfilling day spent with lively students. They were great listeners, excellent questioners, and good readers who laughed in all the right places at my PowerPoint presentation about my books, Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices (for grades 3-5) and Little Red Bat (for grades K and 1).
The older kids were excited to step up to the microphone in pairs to read my poems aloud. The younger ones were fascinated by my slide show about the amazing characteristics of red bats, and the devotion of the man featured in my presentation who feeds and rehabilitates injured bats before releasing them. The little kids also loved petting my life-size little red bat puppet. Later, using my lesson extension activities, all the students worked with their teachers on brainstorming and writing their own (non-rhyming) butterfly and bat poems.
On Friday, I spent the morning with a group of kindergarteners celebrating Earth Day at Stratford Nature Preserve, a 200-acre working farm where I volunteer one morning a week. It was a dreary, muddy, sloppy day. But that didn’t stop us from pulling on our boots and planting a tree before moving onto other adventures: visiting the new piglets, tossing bread to the fish in the pond, playing on a makeshift teeter-totter, and petting the baby goats.
Saturday was the Ohioana Book Fair downtown, where 120 Ohio writers and illustrators who’ve had books published in the current year gather to sign and sell their wares, serve on panels, and meet our readers. I sold a fair number of books, met the Cincinnati illustrator of my book, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Ohio, and shared a table with a woman who illustrated my Little Red Bat and Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer books. Despite editors attempts to keep us from directly communicating while the books were in progress, we became friends and have kept in touch via email. We hadn’t spent time together in two years, though, so it was fun to spend eight full hours catching up.
We even found time to befriend a large mouse. Not sure whose book he was attached to, but he was certainly photogenic! It was also fun to meet in person the parents and teachers who buy my books and the children who read them. After thumbing through the five titles on my table, a grandmother bought Tuck-in-Time for her toddler grandchild who has night terrors. She felt the loving words spoken by the mother in my book, that ends with a goodnight kiss, would help make bedtime less of a struggle.
Please understand that the purpose of this post is not to talk about myself. (Since I’m the writer I know best, it is – by necessity – all about moi.) The point is that all of us need to be reminded that our work matters. Whether our books are funny or heartfelt, true or figments of our imaginations, adults are reading them to young children and older children are reading them for themselves. Now and again, it’s nice for introverted writers to meet and greet our “peeps.” It makes all those hours of sitting alone and thinking, writing, and revising (and revising some more) worthwhile.
Being a children’s author, I’ve concluded, is a lot like being an actor. Like actors who attend multiple auditions hoping to land a role, we authors write multiple manuscripts, hoping that – after auditioning with various editors – our work will eventually find an editor who wants to publish it.
I am skipping a discussion of the lengthy time from idea to writing, rewriting, rewriting and more rewriting. We have all mastered, to varying degrees, the necessity of persevering in this solitary discipline. The amount of time and effort we spend is within our control.
The rest – alas! – is not. You send it to your agent, who will read it when she has time and choose to represent it – or not. If she does send it off to editors, there’s usually a long lag between sending it out and getting it published, if you are talented and lucky enough for this to happen. Rarely does the first editor accept it, and it may take weeks or months for her to even look at it. If she rejects it, the process begins again with another editor. In the meantime, how do you feel? Mad? Sad? Powerless?
I know I do, because I have felt all these emotions multiple times. As a journalist, I was respected for my quick turnarounds on assignments, for always meeting deadlines, and for following up and being thorough. It is a field that rewards type A behavior. Getting a book published appears to require exactly the opposite. After it’s published and the excitement dies down, the long wait begins again on another manuscript.
In a yoga class right after the New Year, we students were asked to choose a word to guide us during 2016, and to write it on the card we were given. Some looked meditative and thoughtfully gnawed their pencils. Not me! I instantly printed PATIENCE in all capital letters. I know I need to find a different way of dealing with the publishing process, and I am working on it.
While browsing through back issues of Yoga Journal (seeking poses that promote patience!), I came across an article about the “yoga of work.” The most useful, profound and difficult teaching states: “You have the right to the work alone, not to its fruits. Therefore, do not set your heart on the results of your actions.” The author, Sally Kempton, acknowledges that this is a difficult teaching. However, she wisely adds: “When you do the work for the sake of the work itself, rather than for a desired result, you’re much less likely to be anxious about the outcome. You’re also less likely to feel crippling disappointment if things don’t go the way you had hoped or planned.”
Further, she urges us to learn to release our attachment to outcomes without becoming jaded or pessimistic. Finally, she concludes: “Remember that your contract with life doesn’t specify that you will always get what you want.” To that, I must add, if and when we do get rewarded for the fruits of our work (as most of us have or will), let’s cultivate the grace to be humbly and sincerely grateful. (Instead of thinking “It’s about time!”which was my reaction upon learning that a manuscript I sold in 2010 would finally be published in 2017.) Clearly, I am still not as patient as I should be. But I am working on it. Really!
named Penny Parker Klostermann, my wonderful friend and discerning critique partner. Her debut picture book, There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight (Random House), illustrated by Ben Mantle, was chosen Best in Rhyme 2015 by the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution conference committee. This is a brand new award, developed by writer and blogger Angie Karcher, founder of Rhyming Picture Book Month. In April, Angie will dedicate her blog, RhyPiBoMo, to the celebration of rhyming picture books through posts by authors, agents, and other lovers of rhyming PBs.
The 450 members of the RhyPiBoMo Facebook group nominated about 50 books for the award. Book criteria included: written in rhyme; be a story, not a concept book; and traditionally published between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015. Twelve committee members took nominations and individually scored each book with a comprehensive rubric that included elements found in an outstanding rhyming picture book: character, rhyming pattern, meter, language fluency and several others. When the scores were tallied, Penny’s book was ranked #1!
Two honor books were also named: What About Moose?, written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi; and Interstellar Cinderella, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Meg Hunt.
Penny flew to New York City on Friday, December 4th to receive the award in person, where – first thing – she met up for a tour of the publishing company with editorial director of picture books at Random House, Maria Mondugno. “She kept saying, ‘I want to show you something exciting,’ Penny says, “and I kept replying, “You don’t understand. . . everything about this is exciting!”
That evening, Penny attended the award ceremony, which was streamed live from Julie Gribble’s KidLitTV Studio. “Julie was an amazing host and the award ceremony was spectacular!” Penny exclaims. “It was followed by a reception with yummy food and drink—all named for my book: ‘BuRRRP Juice, Guaca-Moat-le, Salsa de Squire,’ and more. They also got artwork from Ben Mantle to make a big dragon tri-fold.”
On Saturday, December 5th, Penny presented at a PB teaching conference focused on the elements of writing in rhyme. Other faculty included editors Rebecca Davis and Justin Chandra, agent Kendra Marcus, and authors Karma Wilson, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Lori Degman, and Cory Rosen Schwartz. The last part of the conference was a “poetry card schmooze,” in which attendees designed their own postcard with a short poem and exchanged them. On Sunday, following brunch with Maria Mondugno, Penny participated in a panel with authors Corey Rosen Schwartz, Lori Degman, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and Karma Wilson. “This great event was titled ‘Rollicking Rhymes’,” Penny explains. “We had a nice little crowd. Many were attendees from the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution conference. The store had quite a few customers and some of them came over to see what all of the excitement was about.”
I am a long-time reader of a free weekly newsletter titled “Zen Habits” by Leo Babauta, which offers advice on becoming – well – more “zen-like” and calm in the face of adversity and disappointment. On my October 5th birthday, Leo’s post was “Letting Go of the Need for Control.” My reaction was, “What a great birthday gift that would be! Come on, Leo. Tell me how to do that!”
First, Leo admits relinquishing control is a problem for him. “One of the things I struggle with in life is wanting to feel in control of how things will turn out – control of a trip I’m on, of a project I’m working on, of how my kids will turn out.” Yep, sounds like a universal issue. It’s certainly one of mine.
He continues: “I don’t think we ever really control how things will turn out. . . . What’s more, I’ve found that when I want to control the outcome of things, I become more anxious, more tense. I’m less happy with how other people do things, less happy with myself, less relaxed in the moment.”
I am not a control freak. I don’t always have to get my way. I play nice with others and do my best to be thoughtful and kind. I’ve received enough rejections to be humble and enough acceptances to know that some big publishing houses believe I have talent. However, like most writers, I struggle with feelings of powerlessness about my work. When will my agent send out the manuscripts she likes? When will editors respond? Why do things in this business move so slowly? (I had a manuscript accepted seven years ago by HarperCollins that still hasn’t been published!) Why? Why? Why?
Here’s Leo Babauta says: “I can’t stop myself from wanting to control things,” he writes (thus proving that he’s human!) But he has learned to handle it: “I have to just notice the desire to control things, and let the urge happen. Just sit there and see the urge, feel it, be with it.
“Next,” Leo continues, “I turn to the moment and see the beauty of what’s in front of me. Of the ever-changing situation I find myself in. There’s joy in this situation, even if it’s uncontrolled. I don’t need to control things to enjoy them. I can just let things happen.” I warned you about the zen, right? However, I’ve found Leo’s advice to be practical. I continue to find joy in the process of writing. Some of what I write does eventually sell.
In the meantime, I find joy in being with my audience – children – one morning a week as a volunteer nature guide at a 200-acre farm and nature preserve. Last Thursday, while gathering eggs, a kindergarten student got scared by a chicken and threw his egg on the ground instead of putting it gently back in the nest (for another child to discover later.) The egg cracked, the chickens began gobbling it, and the little boy – whose name is Alex – looked stricken.
He was cheered by my zen-like response. “Don’t worry Alex. It’s just an egg. Plus, their behavior proves that you are SO much smarter than those hens! If they were smart, chickens would peck their eggs open and eat them for breakfast, instead of letting humans eat them!” Alex laughed, let go of his worries, and we all went off to visit the pigs. Zen in action! I do wonder what his mother said when he told he learned on his field trip that he is smarter than a chicken!