Category Archives: Guest Blogger Post

Authors, illustrators, educators, and other industry professionals visit the blog to share their expertise.

Five Ways to Green the Curriculum

guest bloggerJen Cullerton Johnson is an educator and the author of Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace, a biography of biologist, environmentalist, and activist Wangari Maathai. We asked her to blog about ways teachers can bring awareness of nature and environmentalism into the classroom; here are her five key suggestions. We hope you find them useful, and of course, feel free to add your own suggestions and methods in comments!

Green teachers everywhere know that students can’t become stewards of the environment without hands-on interactions with nature. Describing the root system of plants puts third graders to sleep, but if you bring in several plants and allow the students to feel, see, and discuss, the room becomes atwitter with curiosity. Active learning impresses the mind. Passive learning depresses it. Green teachers facilitate a nature-based experience for their students. In each lesson they teach, in each interaction with their students, they look for ways to connect the environment with other subjects.

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How to Plan a Successful Book Signing – Part 3

guest bloggerWe’ve been asking our authors and illustrators for their tips for book signings – Part 1 included advice from Lulu Delacre, Joseph Bruchac, and Lee Bennett Hopkins. Part 2 featured tips from Tony Medina, W. Nikola-Lisa, and Anastasia Suen. More helpful advice below from those with considerable experience on the road for those who are just getting started.

Christine Taylor-Butler
Christine Taylor-Butler at ALA

Authors and illustrators are required to wear many hats if they want to be successful in the book business. Not only must they be the driving force behind the creation of their book, they also have to act as the book’s biggest cheerleader. Some may not be comfortable donning the marketing/publicity hat, but skills in this area can be developed over time. One question you should ask yourself is: Who else knows my book better than me? After all, your book is a project that has taken you months, even years sometimes, so isn’t it worth the effort to sing its praises from the highest rooftops?

What follows is a collection of tips from some of our authors and illustrators on how to make an impression when talking about your book during a signing, spreading enthusiasm, and selling books.

Open Invitation: If you are an author or illustrator and would like to contribute your own tips, please leave a comment below. Everyone benefits from passing the hat and sharing.

Christine Taylor-Butler (author, Sacred Mountain: Everest) I find marketing to be harder than writing the actual book. Somehow the fear of rejection seems much more acute after publishing a book than before it. But I don’t want my books to get lost among the thousands of others being released that year. So here’s one tip that will help you build name recognition:

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How to Plan a Successful Book Signing – Part 1

guest bloggerWhile attending ALA in June I observed the different styles that authors and illustrators employ when meeting the public. Creative folks’ personalities run the gamut from wildly outgoing to quiet and shy. I thought it would be helpful to share the opinions and strategies of those who have had considerable experience on the road with those who are just getting started.

Lulu Delacre
Lulu Delacre at ALA

Authors and illustrators are required to wear many hats if they want to be successful in the book business. Not only must they be the driving force behind the creation of their book, they also have to act as the book’s biggest cheerleader. Some may not be comfortable donning the marketing/publicity hat, but skills in this area can be developed over time. One question you should ask yourself is: Who else knows my book better than me? After all, your book is a project that has taken you months, even years sometimes, so isn’t it worth the effort to sing its praises from the highest rooftops?

What follows is a collection of tips from some of our authors and illustrators on how to make an impression when talking about your book during a signing, spreading enthusiasm, and selling books.

Open Invitation: If you are an author or illustrator and would like to contribute your own tips, please leave a comment below. Everyone benefits from passing the hat and sharing.

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Amazing Stories

guest bloggerAmazing Faces, one of our new spring books, is a collection of poems celebrating the amazing people and faces that surround us every day. We asked the poets to share the stories behind their poems. Here are some of their responses:

Jane Yolen, “Karate Kid”

A number of years ago, Lee Bennett Hopkins asked me to write a poem for a sports anthology. “How about karate?” I said. There is a dojo near my house. I had some friends who had kids in karate and a granddaughter who was just starting into the martial arts. Also, I find some of the Chinese martial arts movies fascinating in a balletic sort of way.

And so I wrote “Karate Kid.” It has taken on a life of its own. Sometimes (if a writer is very lucky) that happens.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, “Amazing Face”

I am, and will always be, fascinated by children. Especially very young children. I look at them and a million dreams and possibilities run through my mind: the person they will become, the journeys they’ll take, the hobbies they’ll choose, the crafts they’ll learn, the billowed joys they will experience, the heartache and heartbreak they will ultimately and unfortunately experience too. I want each child on this Earth to know they are loved by someone, that they are valued, and that they are truly and downright amazing. I hope my poem sends this message, whoever is listening.

Mary Cronin, “Firefighter Face”

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Armando and the Blue Tarp School Hits the Stage!

guest bloggerToday we’re bringing you a guest post from authors Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson, authors of Armando and the Blue Tarp School. Their book tells the story of a young boy who spends his days picking through a trash heap in search of anything useable or sellable, until he is given a chance to learn when Señor David—a real-life volunteer—spreads a blue tarp on the ground and calls it a school. Now Armando and the Blue Tarp School is also a musical! The authors are here to tell us how their book was transformed into a play, and to share their experiences watching the production. Take it away, Edith and Judith!

Watching our book Armando and the Blue Tarp School transformed into a children’s musical has been magical for us. The sneak preview took place on November 14, 2009, at David Lynch’s Responsibility fundraising gala. With fresh, earnest faces and clear, bright voices, four eighth graders and one tenth grader presented the show to a large crowd of Responsibility supporters. It was a smash hit!

The songs drew directly from our book, with clever additions: Flaco the rat wove the narrative between the songs, with comic interruptions by his flamboyant sidekick, Gordo the rat, who elicited laughs from the opening moment when she threw a tortilla scavenged from the dump into the air. In “We Are Pepenadores,” the actors sang about the flies, heat, and stench, and of working the dump all day as pepenadores, trash pickers. The poignant “Someday, Maybe,” a duet between Isabella and Armando, conveyed his deep longing to learn at Señor David’s school. In “We’re Going to Build a School,” staccato music and lyrics pulsated as the whole colonia, the neighborhood by the garbage dump, worked together to construct the school. The actors mimed hammering and sawing as they sang, “Bam, bam, bam, hit that nail, bam, bam, bam . . . saw, saw, suh-saw, saw.” In “Fuego!” their worried faces portrayed the urgency of the fire with their waving arms representing flames. In the jazzy, upbeat “Blue Tarp School,” the audience clapped along, and in the finale, everyone joined in singing the chorus with the actors.

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How to Plan a Successful Book Launch

guest bloggerToday I am conducting a joint blog with author/illustrator, Christy Hale. We are going to talk about the nuts and bolts behind planning a book launch.  A successful book launch doesn’t just happen all by itself. It takes a significant amount of planning, organization, and coordination. Over the years, we have sponsored many book launches and although they are a fun reason to get people together to celebrate a joyous occasion they are not usually very profitable for any of the parties involved. Yes, profitability is one of those subjects that people don’t like to discuss, but selling books acts as the unquestionable measuring stick to tell you if your book launch was successful or not.

East-West House cover

Recently, Christy held a book launch for her new book The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan. It was successful in both the amount of people who turned up and the amount of books sold. The launch also led to other connections and events that Christy was able to follow up with after the book launch had ended.

JL: Christy, can you detail for us some of the initial planning you conducted to get the book launch started?

CH: I’ve received invitations to launch parties at other Books Inc. stores in the Bay Area, so I knew the stores were open to this kind of event. I did not have an existing relationship with the local store, but two of the members of my writer’s group attend a book club meeting there regularly, and knew the person I needed to contact to set up my event. I e-mailed and together we selected a date.

JL: What kind of promotion did Books Inc. do for the launch?

CH: Though my book was published Sept 1, I didn’t contact Books Inc. soon enough for a September event—unless I wanted an event without the store’s publicity. 
I opted to postpone my launch until October. Books Inc. ran ads in newspapers. In addition they have their own newsletter that highlighted events for the whole month. They posted the event on their website, plus my book was reviewed on their blog prior to the event.

JL: What kind of promotion did you do for the launch?

CH: I designed an e-vite and e-mailed people in my address book. I created an event on Facebook, and sent out invitations to Facebook friends. Both of these are FREE ways of contacting people. I designed simple postcard invitations and sent them snail mail to people I could not contact through e-mail or Facebook. I also gave family members and friends stacks of these postcard invitations to give to their friends.

I contacted local elementary school librarians, and asked the librarian at my daughter’s old elementary school to put an announcement in their e-mail newsletter. I sent invitations to the public librarians. Members of my writer’s group extended invitations to their friends and their children’s school communities. I enlisted lots of help! My near and dear ones were excited for me and wanted to do what they could. I felt enveloped in good will.

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