Saturday, February 28, 2009
Today - February 28th - is National Tooth Fairy Day.
Everyone knows the Tooth Fairy. This mischievous little fairy is as popular as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. She leaves money for children in exchange for their lost teeth. While this legend is based on the exchange of baby teeth, I have to admit that I did try to get money for a wisdom tooth once. Lesson learned: she isn’t easily fooled.
But where did this popular belief come from? Although similar legendary figures do exist elsewhere in the world, the fairy as we know her is believed to be a totally American phenomenon. She made an appearance in the early 1900s, probably a result of stories brought to America as people immigrated from other countries. Always depicted as a "good fairy", she is still definitely a “fairy with a purpose.” Her popularity has grown steadily over the decades. Today we see her in books, cartoons, greeting cards, dolls, pillows and even TV commercials. The storybook about "The Tooth Fairy", written by Lee Rogow in 1949, may be the first children's story written about the impish little pixie. Her popularity has soared since then, with parents cheerfully embracing the whole idea. Today the tooth fairy is a regular visitor in almost every American family.
What’s the going rate for a tooth? With the passing years, the value of a tooth has increased dramatically. When I was a child, I was thrilled to find a nickel or dime under my pillow. For my kids, the fairy generally left about fifty cents. What’s one teensy baby tooth worth today? My lucky grandchildren have reported as much as five dollars – and a candy bar – for just one little tooth. This fairy doesn’t seem to be affected at all by the problems of our economy.
When I visit schools and libraries to read my fairy books, children always assume that I have a personal relationship with all fairies. Two questions usually arise:
1-What does she do with all those teeth? My answer is always, “Hmmm...What do YOU think she does with them?” Of course the children always have the correct answer.
2- Is the tooth fairy a girl or a boy? The answer is, “It’s a closely guarded secret. What do YOU think?” Again, I always get the correct answer.
If you truly want to know what she really looks like, take a peek at page three of The Knot Fairy. There she is, second fairy from the left.
So, let’s all celebrate her day. Leave some money under the pillow of someone you love. Tell them the Tooth Fairy stopped by just to visit.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Today - February 26th - is National Tell-a-Fairy-Tale Day. Really! So, in honor of this special day, I have written a fairy tale. Please place tongue firmly in cheek and read on...
Once upon a time, in an urban kingdom far, far away, lived a talented author. This talented author had written a wonderful book, full of fanciful illustrations - a book that was loved by children all over the land.
One day this author was called on her magical cellphone by the manager of a large bookstore in the bustling center of the kingdom. The manager asked the author if she would like to come to the bookstore to read her book to the children of the kingdom, and to autograph it, too. The excited author jumped up and down and shouted with glee. All her life she had wanted to write books and now - a book signing!
The bookstore manager made all of the plans. She called the Kingdom Press, the largest newspaper in the land, and told them of the event, making sure that the details were all correct. She posted the information on the store's website. She posted a large sign inside the bookstore. She even had flyers printed and handed them out to all of the people in the land, telling them of the coming event.
On the day of the event, the sun was shining brightly in the sky. The bookstore manager sent a car and driver to pick up the author. When she arrived at the store, the author was thrilled to see that there was a large, colorful poster on the front door announcing the book signing. A store employee greeted the author and helped her carry her belongings into the store. The author was delighted to see a large pile of her books, beautifully displayed, right in the front of the store where everyone could see them. There was a table and chair ready for her, too, and it was placed in the busiest spot in the store. People were already in line, waiting patiently to purchase their books, happy smiles on their faces. Eager children were already grasping their copies of the book in their clean little hands. Each adult had even been handed a post-it note on which to write the long list of names of the people for whom they were buying books. By the end of the day, everyone in the kingdom would own their own copy of the author's book.
All went well that day. When the author was thirsty, a bottle of water was waiting for her. The manager asked several times if there was anything she could do to make sure the author was comfortable and the event was running smoothly. Many books were sold that day. So many, in fact, that the bookstore manager had to run swiftly to her telephone and order more books that very day.
At the end of the day, everyone was smiling. It had been a very happy day in this large bookstore in the bustling center of the kingdom. The manager thanked the author for taking time out of her busy schedule to spend time at the bookstore. One of the store employees helped the smiling author carry her belongings back to the waiting car. While bidding her farewell, the manager told her to be sure to come back soon. All was well! This had been a perfect book signing.
This is a fictional story. Any similarities between this story and real life are totally and completely coincidental.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I’m excited about sharing with you my interview with Amy L. Harden. She is an author, speaker and respected Internet Expert/Authority on Mid Life Crisis, Depression, Successful Life Transitions and Mindset. When I spoke with her about my “senior venture” into the publishing world, Amy was anxious to share my experiences with her readers. The interview is posted on Amy’s blog: http://cyberhotflash.blogspot.com/
I hope you will read Amy’s other blog entries as well. Her themes of motivation and empowerment are very inspiring.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
In the 1940’s, a popular song was recorded by Sammy Davis, Jr. The song was titled “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile.” Here goes – I’m admitting my age – I remember my mother singing this song to me whenever I was a grumpy kid. The song must have lodged somewhere deep in the recesses of my gray matter, because I haven’t heard it for many, many years, yet suddenly it came wafting through my brain just yesterday.
I stopped by a bookstore in my city, looking forward to a cup of coffee and a romp through the newest children’s books, when I encountered an author. Actually, I almost missed her. Yes, she was sitting quietly behind her table, arms crossed, cell phone in view, and a magazine within reach. She seemed to have everything that she needed, except for one thing – a smile!
C’mon now, who wants to approach a curmudgeon?
Authors are supposed to do signings to present themselves and their books. So, smile! Be inviting! Remember that body language speaks louder than words. Sitting with your arms crossed tells people that you are unapproachable. Working crossword puzzles or talking on a cell phone tells people that you are not interested in them. It’s absolutely essential to talk to people, all the while keeping that smile on your face.
If you believe in your books and believe in yourself, you will realize that you have accomplished something that many people only dream about. Be proud. And don't forget to smile!
To quote the last lines of the song: “So make life worthwhile…Come on and smile, darn ya, smile”
Friday, February 20, 2009
There is a big debate going on in the publishing world today – “Should I consider self publishing?” Here’s my take on the subject -
I am the author of seven cookbooks that were published by a large publishing company, and two children’s books that I published independently. Notice I use the word "independent" to refer to my publishing method, rather than the word "self". Unfortunately, to most of the world, “Self Publishing” often seems to mean poorly edited books with skimpy illustrations, poor story lines and run-of-the mill covers. Unfortunately for all of us, there are some independent books that do fit this description. On the other hand, when I say that I am an “Independent Publisher,” I seem to garner more respect.
When my first cookbook was published by Prima Publishing Co. in the 1980’s, I thought I would just sit back and collect my royalties while happily writing my next volume. However, after the hoopla of the initial book launching began to wane, and the publisher directed his attention to his next featured attraction, I realized that if the book was going to be successful, I would have to step into the arena of marketing and promotion. And I did. I traveled all over the country as a featured speaker and guest on radio and TV shows. I visited schools, hospitals, bookstores and basically any place that I could arrange an event. The result was a total of seven very successful cookbooks and a totally burned out author.
Several years ago, after a break from the book world, I decided to re-invent my career. My degree in education and children’s literature was calling to me to re-enter the book world.
I thought long and hard about independent publishing. I knew that I would be solely responsible for marketing the book. However, I realized that I had to do this anyway with the traditional publishing. I had also learned something along the way that some independent publishers fail to realize: In order to compete in the book world, you MUST produce a high-quality product! So I formed a corporation and launched my own publishing company. I did mountains of research. I studied hundreds (maybe even thousands) of children’s books. I hired the best illustrator I could find. I hired a very talented graphic/cover designer. I hired an editor. I was very choosy about the printer I hired. I invested a lot of time and money so there was no choice but to do it right. Failure was not an option. Two years later, The Knot Fairy was born. Four months later, I was thrilled to order my second 5000-book printing. It’s now two years later and The Knot Fairy is into its third printing and has won seven children’s book awards. I released my second book, The Sock Fairy, in June 2008, and it has received four awards and is into its second printing. The Belly Button Fairy will be released in September. I am sharing this information to let you know that, yes, it CAN be done. And now, the two strong “ifs”:
If you do it correctly.
If you are willing to promote, promote, promote.
Would I recommend independent publishing? Yes, if you do it right. Let’s face it. As independent publishers, our books are judged more critically and held to a higher standard than the traditionally published books. Independent Publishing may be the wave of the future. Therefore, if we’re going to represent ourselves, let’s make our books the very best.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
As a children's author, I have always been fascinated with language. I have read that in the days of cavemen, it was common for the people in each cave to develop their own language. Assuming this is true (which I have been having trouble verifying), this may explain why families sometimes have developed some of their own unique words. Everyone in the family understands, however these original words may cause raised eyebrows among outsiders.
Now, I’m sure every family has its own term for “thing-a-ma-jig”, “whosie-watsis” or “watchamacallit”. But, do you have a word like “fungilated?” If you didn’t live with my daughter, would you know that this is the term used to describe mold that is growing someplace that it shouldn’t? (As in “The shower doors are fungilated.”)
How about “furbie?” How would an outsider know that we are referring to any bits of just about anything that are lying on the carpet? (As in “What are those furbies all over my newly vacuumed carpet?”)
Then there’s the “baselet.” Since our townhouse has no basement, we have a small storage area that we have renamed. (As in “Bring me a hammer from the baselet.”)
And what about “kattywompus?” This, of course, means crooked. (As in “That picture on the wall is kattywompus.”)
Have you ever entered a room that is “furshniggled?” You have if my daughter’s kids have been there. (As in “Kids, why is the living room so furshniggled?”)
Has your TV ever become “frizzled?” In my day we called it "snow," however my family coined their own term. (As in “Mom, help us. The TV is all frizzled!”)
And, has your young child ever put his hands on his hips and yelled "Pommit?" If so, did you know that this is his version of "dammit?" (As in "Pommit!!!")
I’m sure you’ve never “franned” a cake, unless, of course, you knew my elderly Great Aunt Fran. Always refusing a large slice of cake or pie, she would gently eat her share, sliver by sliver, finally consuming the equivalent of quite a large piece. (As in “I’m not too hungry. I’ll just fran the cake a bit”)
And, as you don your overcoat, if someone asks you whether you are coming or going, do you ever answer that you are just “inbetweening?” Do your kids ever tell you that the dog has been "stinkified?" When you leave a room, were you ever told to “outen the lights?” Did you ever enter the house with muddy shoes, only to be scolded for leaving “mud waffles” all over the house?
If you can answer “yes” to at least three of these questions, you must be a relative of mine. Hello, Cousin!
Monday, February 16, 2009
Last weekend I witnessed something that I didn’t know could really happen. Someone was actually about to throw a stack of perfectly good books into the (gulp) trash. As a children's author, this was a total shock to my system. To back up the story a bit, my husband is a certified appraiser who is often called upon to help people downsize and liquidate their estates. Since I am an avid lover of “junque” I accompany him as often as I can. We arrived at the house of a couple of empty nesters, ready to offer them advice about their estate. While eyeballing their “stuff” I noticed a large pile of children’s books by the back door. The pile included about 15 Dr. Seuss Books, a few Richard Scary books, 2 Eric Carle books, and an assortment of other very desirable children’s titles. I admired the books and (luckily) asked where the pile was headed. I almost fainted dead on the floor when these otherwise intelligent people announced that no one in their family wanted the books, so they were going into the trash. Expletive! Expletive! Expletive!
Here’s what I can’t understand. Aren’t we all aware of the high rate of illiteracy in this country? Don’t we want better education for our children? Don’t we realize that any education has to begin with the ability to read? Don’t we realize that many children in this country have never owned a book?
Don’t worry. The books that were destined for the trash are now safe with me. I’ll make sure they make it into the right (little) hands. There are literacy groups all over the country and probably right near where you live. For a start, just Google the word “literacy” along with the name of your city. There are also homeless shelters that would love to have your books. And there are daycare centers for homeless children in most large cities. There are pre-schools, elementary schools and libraries that would welcome you with open arms. You can even advertise for free on Craig’s List and people will come to your house to pick up the books.
If your children have outgrown their books, donate them. If you purchase a book for a birthday gift, purchase a second one to donate. If you are an author or publisher, donate your slightly damaged books.
C’mon people. Tell all your friends. Together we CAN make a difference.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I’ve always been fascinated with the history of ancient Egypt. I have marveled at the early technology involved in the building of the pyramids and aqueducts. I have laughed to myself as I picture the early authors writing novels on stone tablets. And I have always been especially fascinated with the mummies, wrapped with tender loving care and sent forward into the future.
I’ve often said that if I could go back to college and do it all over again, there’s no doubt that I would study archeology. I can hardly imagine the thrill and excitement of uncovering something (or someone) that has been untouched for thousands of years, just waiting for little old me to make the discovery.
I have always joked about my desire to be buried in a fancy tomb surrounded by all of my favorite perfume bottles. Also a pile of unread books, the manuscript I’m working on for my next fairy book, and some cookies that contain lots of preservatives (to keep them fresh for our “trip”). I have also planned to take as much money with me as my heirs are willing to part with – just in case I need to purchase something at the other end.
Today I was reading with fascination an online article describing another big discovery of mummies in Egypt. I have to admit, it made the hairs on my arms tingle. However, the article also reviewed other recent finds, including a stash of ancient gold coins and other artifacts that were found in the remains of a collapsed building under what is now a parking lot. That’s when it hit me that I don’t want to be a mummy after all. Thousands of years under a parking lot? Not for me. And, have you seen what a mummy looks like after all that time without even one manicure? And such dry skin! The article states that some mummies don’t even arrive in this millennium with all of their body parts intact. Nope, there’s nothing in that department I can part with.
So, I think I’ll live this life to the fullest, enjoy what I have now, look at my favorite perfume bottles everyday, take care of my body parts and continue to write fairy books that make children smile. That’s really what it’s all about.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Seriously, as a self-employed author with my own publishing company, I would like to apply for a government bailout. My needs are relatively small. I’m sure I will be able to squeak by on three or four million dollars – a mere pittance compared to what other companies are requesting. I will use the money to further education by visiting schools and teaching writing workshops all across the country. In addition, I will donate books to our libraries. I will work hard to create and support literacy programs right here in our country. I will create a “Books For Babies” campaign and ask for each family in America to donate just one book to help children in need.
As CEO of my own company, I will even be willing to forego the corporate jet and settle for the ability to fly on Southwest Airline whenever a school needs me. I don’t need a limousine. A new van will work just fine. And, as far as corporate retreats, I’m fine with Holiday Inns. Extravagant meals? Heck, I’m a vegetarian, so that part is easy. (My friends even joke about me being willing to stop and graze by the side of the road!)
I promise to remain transparent, or whatever the new buzzword is. I will do whatever I can to educate our youth and, in addition, I guarantee to make them smile.
If you think I deserve a bailout, please boost my ego by leaving me a comment.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Do you believe in fairies? Just ask a child that question and watch their eyes sparkle. We all know that children are believers. Too bad we’ve lost some of our beliefs.
As a children’s author, I have the distinct pleasure of spending a lot of time with children. As I often say, children have crystal clear imaginations. Add to this their hearts of gold, and the result can’t be beat. When I visit kindergarten through second grade classes, I read my two fairy books, The Knot Fairy and The Sock Fairy. I talk with the children about the characteristics of fairies, a topic they seem very familiar with. There’s always a child who is proud to announce that “Tinker Bell’s wings are green” or “the Sock Fairy made holes in my socks and my underwear.” One child even shared his intimate knowledge of the Tooth Fairy: “It’s really a man, he’s in his underwear, and after he leaves money, he goes into my mother’s bedroom.”
I enjoy talking to the children about the mischievous ways of fairies, ideas that children readily identify with. One of my favorite exercises after the readings is to ask the children what fairy they would like to be if they could magically become a fairy. The answers are imaginative and often quite funny. Here are a few recent answers to the question, “What fairy would you be and what would you do?”
•UPS Fairy –I would drive a tiny brown truck.
•Earring Fairy – I would find lost earrings and decorate my Christmas tree.
•Fashion Fairy – I would buy all the clothes and my sister couldn’t wear them.
•Mud Fairy – I could bring mud in the house and blame it on my dog.
•Homework Fairy – She would do all my homework.
•Underwear Fairy – Because I have a hole in my underwear.
•Food Fairy – She would bring me candy and then eat my vegetables.
•Ice Cream fairy – I could have all the ice cream I want and eat it all day.
•Messy Desk Fairy – I would sneak into school at night and mess up all the desks.
•Remote Control Fairy – She is a sneak.
•Dorito Fairy – She eats my Doritos.
•Mean Fairy – He punches people.
•Punch Fairy – He makes me cry and cry and cry.
•Tonsil Fairy - So I can bring them home in a jar like my brother.
Now it’s your turn. Think of something mischievous that you have always wanted to do or a mystery that you would like to solve by blaming it on a fairy. Would you be a good fairy or a not-so-good fairy? Which fairy would you be?
Sunday, February 8, 2009
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hero as “a man or woman admired for their achievements and noble qualities; one that shows great courage.” Both of these qualities have to be present in order for me to call someone a hero. This brings me to the hotly debated topic of our latest athlete (Michael Phelps) to hit the ranks as a “fallen hero.” In case you haven’t watched the news for a few weeks, Phelps has admitted to smoking marihuana. Is he a kid? Yes. Does this excuse him from breaking the law? No!
I think this is a great opportunity for parents and teachers to talk to their kids about “true heroes.” Is someone a hero if he or she is a great athlete? A movie star? A rock singer? A character in a story? The answer is “possibly.” The real test is whether or not they also possess the following qualities: loyalty, courage, dedication, selflessness, bravery and honesty. I’d like to accent the last one – honesty. How can we call someone a hero if he or she breaks the law? We can call them talented people, great athletes, amazing singers, but, if they are dishonest, if they are selfish, if the break the law, they shouldn’t be called heroes. Let’s pass this message on to our children loud and clear.
I’ve been thinking about the people who would be on my own list of true heroes. These came to mind: Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King. As far as movie stars, there are Christopher Reeve and Paul Newman. In the news, there's Chesley Sullenberger. In sports, there are Cal Ripkin and Michael Jordan. Add to the list most police officers, firefighters and teachers. Also the brave men and women in our military. Of course my Mom and Dad. Then there’s Dr. Abendroth, the college professor who taught me to love children’s literature. There’s even Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk.
Who is your personal hero? I’d love to hear from you.
Don't forget to visit my website and see my fairy heroes.
Friday, February 6, 2009
As an author of children’s books, I am always looking for eye-catching promotions. We all know that business cards are a traditional tool that can be used to promote most businesses. Cards are attention getters. They let people know who you are and what you have to offer. Giving out business cards is crucial to marketing your skills or services. But, what if many of your clients are children? Why not have a special card to give to children so they will be reminded of you?
I have found that colorful postcards, like the one pictured above, work well as business cards for this purpose. I hand them out to children that I meet at schools, libraries, book fairs and the grocery store. Yes, the grocery store. I carry the cards wherever I go. I have always been the type to strike up a conversation with people I meet in the grocery line or at nearby tables in restaurants. Now I introduce myself to the parents and make sure each child I meet goes home clutching a colorful fairy postcard. Many parents have thanked me for providing this diversion for fussy children.
Here are some of my marketing tips for my “Cards for Kids” program:
•Make sure the cards are colorful and attractive.
•Be sure to include your name, website and other contact information on the card, as well as the ISBN numbers of your books.
•Insert a card inside every book you sell.
•Be generous. Hand out lots of cards.
•Never leave home without them. Always have extras in your car.
•Maximize every "per chance" meeting.
•Print a special discount offer or coupon on the back.
•Use them as bookmarks so you'll always have them readily available if you meet someone at school, at a book club or in the gym.
•Have your spouse, family, and friends carry your cards to give to people they meet.
There are a number of online companies that offer great prices on cards. I have been very happy with the quality and service from Vistaprint.com. You can do a lot of marketing for your money if you use the cards wisely and abundantly. Short of renting a helicopter and dropping books from the air, this is a great way to spread the word.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I don’t mean to sound like an old fogie, however, as a children’s author and grandmother of ten, I have the good fortune (usually) to come in contact with many, many children. This has led me to ponder a huge question – “What ever happened to manners?
Do people teach manners today? I see evidence that many do, and for that, society is grateful. I personally thank you, however I think you may be the exception, rather than the rule. I only wish that everyone would consider the ways their offspring may be interacting in the world outside their homes.
Manners have changed greatly since the early days of Emily Post . If you aren’t familiar with this lady of etiquette, I urge you to check out one of her older books from the library. These books seem quite funny in today’s world, just as cell phones would seem outrageous in past generations. But she was on the right track.
Etiquette used to involve placing your silverware on the table correctly and helping old ladies cross the street. Of course, today most “old” ladies are busy working out at the gym and doing yoga, and could probably carry YOU across the street. So, in today’s busy high-tech world, manners need to keep up with the changes.
Aside from the expected good manners that include the words,” please”, “thank you” and “let me hold the door for you”, today we really should concentrate on teaching our children cellphone manners, ipod manners, and texting manners. Let’s use our common sense here and help our children learn the difference between doing what kids do and being rude to others. It’s really uncomfortable talking to a child who is listening with half an ear while texting away. My son is a doctor and often treats young patients who are busy texting during their examination. Really! The parents are always present in the room and not one has ever told their child to put the phone away. And, speaking of phones, let’s teach our children to say “Hello, this is Ray. May I please speak to Justin?” That’s so much nicer than some of the grunting messages I’ve heard lately. Also, no matter how “amazing” the song is that you are listening to on your ipod, please put it on hold if someone (especially an adult) wants to speak to you.
Not difficult. Not rocket science. Just bring back the manners. Please!
Monday, February 2, 2009
There’s nothing as pure and crystal clear as a child’s imagination. Children are great at daydreaming, imagining and creating. Unfortunately, all too often, as children grow and are taught the mechanics of writing, much of the clarity seems to diminish. Sadly, children tend to lose confidence in their ability to write, and many become “reluctant writers”. If you are a parent or a teacher, there are ways that you can get your children’s creative writing juices flowing. You can create excitement about the writing process. Through my experiences as a teacher and an author, I have developed some enjoyable exercises that accomplish this goal and spark the imagination. Choose one exercise for each lesson and take the time to discuss the children’s answers before setting them to the task of writing.
1. “What if?” - Have the children look around, carefully eyeing each object in the room. Ask them the questions, “What if that stuffed animal were to come to life at night?” Or, “What if the fish in that tank is really a creature from another planet?” Or, “What if those musical instruments started to play by themselves?” Or, “What if your school bus could fly?”
2. “Start with a title” – Tell the children the title for a book. This can be a real or a made up title. The children are asked to come up with a story to go with the title. Some of the titles that spark the most excitement and creative ideas are “A Lizard Ate My Broccoli”, “My Goldfish Can’t Swim”, and “A Mouse is Living in my Locker.”
3. “Create a Fantasy ” – Read a short story about fairies, elves, or any fantasy character. Talk about the mysteries in the world of make-believe. (I usually read one of my books, The Knot Fairy who tangles your hair while you sleep, or The Sock Fairy who is responsible for missing socks.) Ask the children to create their own fairy or other fantasy character – one that could be responsible for missing items or unexplained mysteries in their lives.
4. “Build a story” – This one works well with groups of children. One child is selected to start by creating the first line of a new story. Each child, in turn, adds a line to the story. This also builds good listening skills.
5. “Character sketches” – Show the students various pictures of possible story characters. These can be pictures from books, magazines or even old photographs. Have the children create a description of each character. Based on the character’s appearance (expression, clothing, etc.), have them describe the character’s personality, occupation, likes and dislikes.
I hope you will try these activities with your children. I know you will enjoy it as much as they do.