Monday, October 26, 2009

Create an Emotional Attachment - Read to Someone Today!

What makes children’s books memorable? Think back to your favorite childhood books. What type of stories did you like best? More importantly, how did they make you feel? Do you remember feeling happy, excited, surprised, or maybe even sad? Did rhyming books make you feel as though someone was singing to you? Did you feel excited by the books that had surprise endings?

Stories that create an emotional attachment always seem to be remembered the most. While part of this can be attributed to a good plot, interesting characters, and appealing illustrations, there is another important element that is hard to measure. If you were lucky enough to be read to as a child, a large part of your feelings were created by just sitting close to the person who was reading to you. Nothing can replace the warmth of a lap or that snuggle in bed while being read to by someone you love.

For me, the cherished memories are of my father reading The Saggy, Baggy Elephant and The Pokey Little Puppy to me over and over and over again. To this day, when I see these books on a bookstore shelf, I feel a calmness and sense of nostalgia wash over me.

Yes, I realize that the 21st century is here and yes, I know about the internet, e-books and the like. However, I hope people will still hold their kids, read to them and create the warm feelings and emotional attachment that will never fade away.

I hope that my own children's books will become childhood favorites for many children.

Bobbie Hinman(a sentimental grandmother who always has time for one more bedtime story)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why Can't I Leave Well Enough Alone?

Are you like me? Do you have to change everything? Why can’t I leave things the way they are?

I can’t buy a dress off the rack without wishing it had a different belt or collar. I have even purchased two outfits together because I liked part of one and a different part of the other. If I see a piece of jewelry I like, it always has the wrong color stone. When I buy a purse, I usually can’t help wishing that the handle was more like another purse – the one that I didn’t buy because the color was not quite right. When I’m looking for a new haircut, I always desire the front of one and the back of another. I wish our new van had been available with a different color interior. Choosing new carpeting for our house was made more difficult because I liked the colors from one company and the texture from a different one. This is the story of my life.

Eating out is one of my biggest challenges. I can’t seem to ever order from a menu without sounding exactly like Meg Ryan in the movie “When Harry Met Sally.” Yesterday my husband and I had lunch in a nice restaurant. A smiling waitress took my order, but she wasn’t smiling for long. I noticed that her expression was slowly changing into a fixed, teeth-gritting kind of look. I don’t think it was my imagination that she was looking at me as if I were speaking a strange language. Just because I ordered a sandwich with a different filling, different bread and different sauce than the one on the menu? I think it might have been after I asked to have the salad made with romaine lettuce instead of iceberg, feta cheese in place of the bleu cheese, the dressing on the side and no bacon or croutons, that she started looking like she was about to laugh (or maybe cry).

I turned to my husband (who is never surprised by anything I do) and asked him if he thinks I am a perfectionist. All he could do was smile.

Hmmm… Am I a perfectionist or simply a creative genius?


Monday, August 31, 2009

The Results Are In - 350 People Showed Up!

On July 7th I blogged about the plans for my book launch party for The Belly Button Fairy. I received a number of emails from authors who thought I was going a bit too far and spending a bit too much. Today I'll tell you how it all turned out.

On Saturday, the day of the event, we(my husband, my illustrator and I) arrived at Barnes & Noble an hour before the event was to begin. We were delighted to see that little fairies had already begun to arrive. We had enlisted a few friends and some of our grandchildren as helpers. Together we covered the tables with sparkly tablecloths, assembled the give-aways, and set up the cakes, our book posters, the microphone and the illustrator's easel. In the meantime, the face painter and craft person were busy getting ready.

I had distributed approximately 1200 invitations, and a little more than 350 people showed up. If my math is correct, that's about 25%. Not bad. I'm not sure of the exact final book count, however there were well over 200 of my books sold that day. My illustrator (Mark Wayne Adams) and I signed books for 2-1/2 hours. I was so happy to have a sore hand! The kids were all happy. Their faces were painted, their tummies were filled with cake, and they were happily clasping the new wands they had made and the new books they had purchased. The parents were happy because the kids were happy (and busy).

Was it worth the time and dollars that it took to create this event? You be the judge.

Remember the movie line - "If you build it they will come?" My advice: "If you do the work they will come."

Fairy wishes,
Bobbie Hinman

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Belly Button Fairy - New Video Trailer

I am so happy to share my new video trailer with you! did an excellent job!

Fairy wishes,
Bobbie Hinman

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Bobbie and Julia" - The Next Movie?

Along with the hoopla surrounding the opening of the movie Julie and Julia, I am feeling a new respect for one of the true queens of cooking. Her great book, Mastering The Art of French Cooking was, in fact, the first cookbook I purchased as a new bride in 1963. It’s surprising to find out that this revered book was rejected by several publishers before it was finally published in 1961 by Knopf.

It’s also no surprise to find that many other successful authors received their share of the dreaded rejection letters before finding someone who believed in their books. One of those famous authors is John Grisham, who was reportedly rejected by a dozen publishers before his career was launched. (Who’s crying now?) Then there are J.K. Rowling’s famous Harry Potter books which were also rejected by a number of large publishers. Add to the list the authors Stephen King, George Orwell, William Faulkner and Irving Stone. Even The Diary of Anne Frank received its share of rejections.

It’s never fun being rejected. My reaction when I received my first rejection notice was to throw myself a pity party and eats lots of chocolate. After two days, I had to actually pick myself up from my bed, shove the chocolate wrappers aside, slap myself across the face and say, “I’ll show them!” One of the keys for me has been to remember that “Success is the best revenge!” I had to understand what I was doing, do it well, keep my eye on the goal and never give up. And, through it all, I had to promise myself that I would at least try to enjoy myself.

I consider each of my rejection slips as a badge of honor, a ticket to the world of writing, a promise of things to come. Show me an author who has never received a rejection slip and I’ll show you someone who still has a lot of living to do.

As Julia would say, “Bon Apetit!”

Bobbie Hinman

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What Happens in Storytime Stays in Storytime!

Does the word “storytime” conjure up happy memories for you? Are you lucky enough to remember the warm feeling of being in the library, surrounded by smiling children and hundreds and hundreds of books? Maybe you were nestled in your mother’s lap. Or maybe you were feeling brave enough to venture a few feet away to sit with children you didn’t even know. Do you remember the “library lady”, with her warm smile and sing-song voice? Do you remember how she held the book to the side while she read, showing you the pictures and at the same time somehow managing to read the words? Did you practice reading to your stuffed animals at home, trying to hold the book at just the right angle?

Now, I don’t want to burst your bubble, however, as an author I visit lots of storytimes. I’d like to add a few new scenarios to your memories – some scenes that are only within the reader’s line of vision. There are storytime “happenings” that you just might have missed. For instance, just yesterday, while I was reading one of my fairy books, a man and his son were actually on the floor having a wrestling match over a toy truck that the child just wanted to hold onto while he listened to the story. Sadly, papa said “no!” Then there were the 2 little girls who spent the entire hour hitting each other over the head with plastic flowers that they had brought from home. Add to that the two nannies who I spotted sound asleep in the front row while their little charges wandered aimlessly around the room. Oh yes, and there was also an entire pre-school class who came to storytime, proudly carrying the fairy wands they had just made in class. Wands were waving, kids were being poked, and all I could hear was my mother’s voice in my head saying, “Stop that before you poke someone’s eyes out!” And, it’s funny how there always seems to be at least one “Cheerio Kid” at each storytime because after each event, the floor is always dotted with crushed cereal.

I hope you don’t get me wrong. I love reading to children. I love the look in their eyes as they imagine the world they are hearing about. The view from the front of the room just adds character and excitement to each event.

Please continue to support storytimes at your local library.

Bobbie Hinman

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Who Should You Invite To A Book Launch Party?

If your first reaction to this question is, “Huh? I didn’t know you should invite people to the party,” then listen up. If you have planned the party well (see my post dated July 7), then it would really be a shame if no one showed up.

Yesterday an author friend of mine told me that she never sends out actual invitations to her launch parties or bookstore events. She relies on her press releases to do the job. No, no, no. That's not enough.

The goal is to invite, invite, invite.

The first thing to do is create a colorful invitation. The many online printing sites make this easy and affordable. I guarantee that you will have a more positive reaction to professional looking invitations than to boring run-of-the-mill flyers. If you plan ahead, you will be able to take advantage of the promotions and coupons that the online companies always offer.

The number of invitations needed depends on how big you can think. A print run of about 1200 invitations is an impressive, yet reachable, goal if you work at it. Today I invited an entire Brownie troop to my upcoming launch party. That was 30 down and 1170 left to go! Then I visited a day camp at my local community college and handed out 200 more. That brings me to 230 down and only 970 to go. Uh oh, I hope I don’t run out.

Use the internet to your advantage. Today I emailed a copy of my invitation to a teacher friend of mine and asked her to forward it to the other teachers in her school, as well as to her students. She was happy to do so. I will send the same request to a friend who belongs to a large Mom's club and to all of my friends,
both the real life and the online social networking ones.

For a children’s event, think of schools, camps, daycare centers, dance classes, scouts, etc. For other genres, ask yourself exactly who you think will be interested in your book. Then ask yourself where these people shop, eat, have meetings or just hang out? Think of specific places to promote to your particular niche market. Think of shops, organizations, colleges, libraries, book clubs, etc.

And, of course, don’t forget the media. Be sure to send invitations to the newspaper reporters in your area. A great personal touch is to locate the reporters’ names online and hand-deliver the invitations. Even if only one reporter shows up, the result will often be an article with some free publicity.

Remember = You Are Invited To A Party – everyone who reads this blog is invited to my book launch party for The Belly Button Fairy on August 29th at 11 AM – Barnes & Noble – Bel Air, MD – Come for Storytime, Gifts, Prizes and Cake - Meet the author and the illustrator - Fairy costumes are welcome!

Bobbie Hinman

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Itty-Bitty, Nitty-Gritty Information About Writing a Children’s Picture Book

When most people think of writing a children’s picture book, they think of the actual story writing process – the character development, the plot and resolution, etc. But what about the rest of the details? The significant, valuable, crucial, vital, key details?

Here is a list of some of the most important, yet most overlooked elements of writing a children’s book:

1. Of utmost importance – know the age of your target audience and write for that age level! Talk to teachers and librarians and know what is appropriate for your audience. This is the one item that I see overlooked on far too many children’s books.

2. Don’t have too many words on each page. This goes back to #1, knowing the reading level and attention span of your audience.

3. Choose your font carefully. Avoid hard-to-read fonts with curly-Q’s that may confuse young children. The easiest to read and most commonly used fonts are ones like Arial and Times New Roman, and they are almost always printed in black.

4. Be aware that the standard length of a children’s picture book is 32 pages.

5. Make the illustrations large, preferably full-page as opposed to tiny little pictures surrounded by large white areas.

5. Make sure the illustrations match the words. This is really crucial. If the page is about a boy on a swing, this must be shown in the picture.

6. Add some extra details to the pictures that will enhance your words. In my book about the Knot Fairy, the words tell you that she has tangled the children’s hair. The picture “tells” you that she has also tied a knot in the cat’s tail.

7. Make sure the colors are bright and appealing to young children.

8. Add a few elements to the pictures that can be repeated throughout the book. This adds to the continuity of the book. Also, young children like to look for things like the dog that can always be seen hiding someplace in the pictures.

9. Have the action in your left hand page moving toward the center of the book. Have the action in the right hand page leading the reader to turn to the next page.

10. Always keep in mind that on of the goals with a picture book is to strive for a perfect balance between the pictures and the written words.

One exercise that I highly recommend is to go to your local bookstore at least once a month and take a careful look at the best-selling, best-reviewed and award-winning children’s books. Be sure to take the above list with you and keep track of the itty-bitty, nitty-gritty, but oh-so-important details.

P.S. The picture above is from The Sock Fairy. The words on the page are simply, "He mixes up socks!"

Bobbie Hinman

Sunday, July 19, 2009

You Had A Booksigning WHERE?

I must admit - this was not my idea. It never occurred to me to schedule a booksigning in an airport. However, a very good friend (and talented author) suggested it. Think about it. Why not? There are bookstores in airports, and there are people in airports. Books+people=winning combination. The only missing element here is the promotion, and this did scare me in the beginning. I always send out press releases and use flyers and postcards to advertise my signings. This was a bit scary. I thought, "What if this is not successful?" Then I thought, "What if it is??????"

I contacted a bookstore at the nearest airport and found that the manager was excited about having me visit. He was even more excited when I told him I would be wearing fairy wings and bringing a sparkly purple tablecloth. (Take a peek at my previous blog about authors needing props). The result of the signing was just as I had hoped. We sold lots of books and I was invited to return. It was exciting to think that my books would be traveling all over the world. Many, many people purchase books before boarding their planes. Many people are looking for a last minute gift to take along. Others have children with them and are happy to find an autographed book to use as a happy diversion on their trip.

Since my initial airport signing, I have been a guest at a number of airport bookstores. I have learned a few things along the way. First, it works best to be in a location that is inside the secure area. After people have gone through security they are more relaxed and have more time to shop. Before going through security, they tend to be in a hurry. Second, wear or display something that will attract attention.(Be careful here. Airport security is tight and foolishness is not in order.)Third, set up one or 2 professional looking posters that can be seen in a crowded terminal. Fourth, don't just sit there hoping that people will come up to you. Don't look bored. Don't send text messages. Stand up. Talk to people. Engage them in conversation. Tell them about your book. Ask them where they are headed. Above all - SMILE. Oh, and by the way, it also helps to have your husband accompany you wearing a wizard hat!

I'd love to hear from other people who have hosted a signing in an unusual place. I would also love to hear from anyone who has purchased a book in an unusual place.

A special thanks to Cynthia Polansky for her wonderful suggestion.

Fairy wishes to all,
Bobbie Hinman

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Every Author Needs A Few Props

This may sound hokey, but it's true. If you are a presenting author, you need to have some props. This holds true for school and library presentations, book festival exhibitors, and even larger speaking engagements. We've all been to many events where the speaker, dressed in "business attire" takes the mike. You can often feel the drowsiness begin to creep into the room. Not so if he or she is carrying (or wearing) something unusual. For example, if your mystery takes place in Venice, wear a gondolier hat and a striped shirt. If your story takes place in a lighthouse, bring along a model of a lighthouse and maybe even a pile of shells. Long after your audience has forgotten your face, they will still remember the crazy hat you were wearing or the mismatched socks, or the glittery treasure chest or the strange Australian musical instrument.

This is especially true for children's authors. The props can be simple. "Gimmicky" is always good. The fairies in my books carry assorted items with them in their travels, so I always bring along my treasure chest filled with items that are identical to theirs. Kids become involved in the stories and pay closer attention while I read, always watching to see what I will pull out of the treasure chest next. Even the grown-ups in the room become entranced.

Don't be afraid to shine. People will love it. It's only embarrassing when you look in the mirror!

Bobbie Hinman

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Would you Like To Have 200 People Attend Your Book Launch Party?

After launching two new children's books during the past two years, it is almost time to launch #3. Since each of my launch parties resulted in the sale of over 200 books, I am really nervous. I want to be sure that this one is also a success. Right now I'm feeling that old familiar fear: What if I have a party and no one comes?? Yeeks!

As I organize the details for this event, I would like to share with you some of my hints for making sure that a launch party is a success:

Start early - Decide on the time and place at least 6 months ahead of the book release. A local bookstore is usually a great place for a book event.

Plan the event thoroughly - Meet with the store manager and plan everything. What will the store employees be able to do on that day? What would they like me to provide? With children's books, there need to be specific planned activities. For example, first I will read the new book and then provide coloring pages so the children will be occupied while their parents purchase the books. My store manager will have the tables set up and will provide crayons, glitter, glue, etc.

Feature something special - Make this a party, a happening! Since my books are fairy books, I call this event a Fairy Party. Children are invited to come in fairy costumes. We have a face painter, a craft, some raffle drawings and a huge cake. This year my illustrator will also be joining us and he will be demonstrating his sketching techniques.

Two months ahead - To promote the event, contact all of the nearby newspapers and news websites and make sure the information is in their calendars during the month of the event. Set up newspaper interviews and supply press releases for the week before the event.

One month ahead - Have postcard/invitations printed. I order from an online printer and always order at least 1000-1500 invitations. I make sure there is something on the invitation that will entice the youngsters. In my case, I think the promise of a piece of cake is often more important to them than the new book.

Also one month ahead - Order party favors. This year I decided to hand out plastic stadium cups imprinted with a picture of my new fairy character, and filled with an assortment of goodies - a little doll, a lollypop, etc. These items can be purchased very inexpensively at dollar stores and through online catalogs. Both kids and adults love party favors.

Three weeks ahead - Make sure the bookstore has received their order of books, including any backlist titles (very important).

Two weeks ahead - Time to distribute the invitations to daycares, preschools, libraries and children's stores. I also try to visit as many elementary schools as I can, to read one of my other books and distribute party invitations. I also distribute invitations in local coffee shops (with permission, of course), my athletic club, the grocery store, and wherever I can. This is also the time that I order a very large sheet cake decorated with a picture (in icing) of my newest fairy. I purchase lots of napkins. The bookstore will provide small cups of lemonade.

Email marketing - If you have an email list, be sure to send an email invitation to everyone you know, requesting that they forward the email to everyone they know. Be sure to invite local news media. Also, don't forget your friend and family.

Yes, it's very hard work. And, it takes a lot of planning. However, it works!

Now, please come to my party!

Bobbie Hinman

Monday, June 29, 2009

You're Pregnant and You're Having a Book!

I’ve pondered this for quite a while, and today I’d like to share my thoughts. Here goes: Writing a book is like giving birth!

Really. It’s true. I’ve experienced both, so I should know. (Unlike my husband, who has never had a baby, yet claims that his kidney stone was much worse than childbirth. I’ve told him that when he passes a stone the size of a grapefruit, he’ll know what childbirth is really like.)But, I digress. I am comparing childbirth to writing a book. As an author, I’ve worked on each of my books for many months, or even many, many months. Each project, like an unborn child, slowly grows and develops. All the while, my eye remains on the future, wondering what it holds for me and my new “little one”. Eventually, after what seems like an eternity, the labor begins. The final stages of tying the book together, working with the editor, deliberating over the illustrations, and making many last-minute adjustments is often very laborious (as in labor).

Then one day, when I feel I can’t wait any longer, the book finally arrives. So exciting! I clasp the new book in my arms and hold it to my heart. Each new book, just like a new baby, seems so familiar, yet at the same time, there is the nagging feeling that I‘ve never seen it before. I know that deep down I love it because it is all mine, yet I really don’t know it at all.

And just like having a baby, this is only the beginning, the first step in a very long parent-child relationship. So much depends on how I “raise” this baby. If I schedule promotions, market well, and put my heart and soul into the little newcomer, I will be a very proud parent indeed. And, if I am lucky, I will forget the short-lived pain and suffering and do it all over again.

Bobbie Hinman

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Designing The Book Cover - A Major Hurdle Completed!

Today I can relax. Maybe drink a glass of wine. A big hurdle in creating my new children's picture book is complete. Well, sort of. Let's just say that the idea is complete. I now have to convey the scene in my head to my talented, mind-reading illustrator.

After obsessing for weeks over exactly what should appear on the cover, the fragmented ideas floating in my head have finally come together. I've said in previous blogs that it works well for the main character in a picture book to be introduced first on the cover. OK, that was the easy part. The hard part, after deciding exactly what he looks like, was deciding what he would be doing. He can't just stand there. Nope. This little guy will actually be doing something not usually seen on book covers. Hmmm... And, after much deliberation, I decided what he will be wearing - nothing! Hmmm...

Now, of course I can't tell you what the cover looks like just yet. And, I won't even share the title with you for a while. What I will share are the steps that we go through as this new book takes on a life of its own. Here we go again...

Bobbie Hinman

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Day In The Life Of An Author - Bah, Humbug!

You've heard of writer's block? Have you ever heard of total mind block? That's what I have. I'm in the early stages of creating the character for my next fairy book and right now I think my grey matter has turned to sludge. The story is finished, and actually it's mighty good. That was the easy part. The challenge is to create the actual appearance of another mischievous fairy. He must have just the right look, just the right clothes and just the right attitude. I also must decide exactly what he should be doing on the cover. (Should he be standing, sitting, riding a motorbike, taking a bath?) I want this book to be completely irresistable to all who come into it's path. Usually if I go to bed thinking about a problem, I will wake up with the answer. Not so this time. Maybe my subconscious mind is on summer break.

What do YOU do when your creativity seems to completely shut down? For me, I think I'll do something simple and mindless for the day. I think I just found another excuse to go shopping.

Bobbie Hinman

Friday, June 19, 2009

Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully

Exciting news -

The National, virtual blog tour for actress, Julianne Moore's latest picture book, "Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully," is making a stop in Cynthia's Attic. Children's author, Mary Cunningham (Cynthia's Attic Series) is hosting Ms. Moore today, June 19, with interviews and information about Book Two in the delightful Freckleface series.

You'll also find a link for additional "Freckleface" tour stops.


Bobbie Hinman

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Funeral For a Mouse?

Little did I know when I offered to help my granddaughters search for a missing item in their garage today, that I would be dealing with a life lesson. A poor, lifeless little mouse was found buried under a pile of "stuff". We couldn't just toss the little guy into the trash. So we did what might only be done by a vegetarian grandmother. We gave him a name (Edward) and we gave him a funeral. Ten minutes, a tiny hole in the ground and a simple "Goodbye Edward". The lesson of the day - No life is less valuable than any other.

Bobbie Hinman

Saturday, June 13, 2009

We Are Not Our Best Intentions. We Are What We Do

Whenever I present or exhibit my books, I meet a lot of interesting people. To me the most interesting folks are the ones who want to write a book. At one elementary school event, I was even approached by a police officer in full swat regalia (really scared me) who wanted to talk to me about writing a children's book. Most of these well-meaning people have the best of intentions. Many have family stories that have been passed down through several generations. A few have told me that they have a story inside "that needs to be told". I tell them the most important lesson I have learned in becoming a children's author - that there is only ONE step between having intentions and doing something.

So if you are a would-be writer, or a would-be anything for that matter, why not give it a try? What if it works and you never do it? You won't know how great it feels until you do.

Bobbie Hinman

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gear Your Picture Book To Children

As I work on my 4th children's picture book, I will be dealing with a number of related topics in my blog. At each step of the process, I will pass my thoughts along. Hopefully I can offer some guidance, and help others avoid mistakes.

At this point, I have finished writing the story. Now comes the task of working with the illustrator to make sure that the pictures not only fit the words, but are suitable for children. In books for young children (K-1st grade), it's essential to avoid placing the characters in dangerous settings. For example, I just read a picture book where the main character had pulled a chair up to the stove and was looking very proud of himself. I'm sure this makes mothers everywhere cringe. It would have been safer to depict him climbing on something not quite as dangerous.

It's also crucial for the pictures to incorporate elements that young children can relate to. Story characters should be placed in background settings that are familiar to children, such as school, home, doctor's office, stores or playgrounds. In another book that I just reviewed, the main character was pictured watching a TV cooking show that in real life actually aired in the 1980's. Young children will have no idea what is going on. I was actually a little confused myself.

It's also important for the characters to appear friendly. Even dinosaurs and monsters can be depicted in a whimsical way, with smiling faces, even wearing clothes. Imagine how scary Barney might have been without his goofy smile and green belly.

More later...

Friday, June 5, 2009

What's The Meaning Of My Recurring Dreams?

Aha! I've got it! I've been plagued for a while with a series of dreams, all with a similar theme. Last night I actually had THREE of these miserable dreams.

In the first dream, I arrived at an antique auction, only to find that I was too late. Everything had been sold. People were walking around carrying gorgeous glass bowls and gold figurines and I had missed it all.

In the second dream, I arrived at a church, looking for a party to which I had been invited. It turned out to be the wrong church and I had forgotten my cell phone, so I had no way to contact anyone for the correct information.

In the third dream (the scariest one of all!) there were two different, very large bugs (a cricket and a centipede to be exact). I was screaming for my husband to come and save me. There was no way to get out of the room without getting close to the creatures.

I'm pretty sure I now know what they mean: I'm a person who always tries to be in the right place at the right time and I am frustrated when this doesn't happen. I want to succeed, however there are always obstacles to overcome. I work so hard to promote my books and yet there is always more to be done.

So, since I have figured this out, now what?? How do you try hard and still not feel frustrated when complications arise? Or, is there a far out chance that I am just normal?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Too Selfish To Share?

It makes me sad when I meet people who have knowledge in a particular area and are unwilling to share with others. When I started writing children's books there was so much that I didn't know. In fact, I didn't even know how much I didn't know! Since the beginning of my new career, I have met two types of people - those who share and those who do not, or simply the selfish and the unselfish.

In my way of thinking, the more we share in any particular field, the better that field will become. Just like "a whole is greater than the sum of its parts." I am eternally grateful for the unselfish people whose advice has kept me from making some major blunders. One of my goals is to "pay it forward" and offer advice to those who wish to learn from my mistakes rather than theirs. Things can only get better if we all do this.

C'mon everyone. Let's loosen up and share.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How Many Years Does It Take To Become An Overnight Success?

It has been an exciting month for The Sock Fairy. The book has received a gold medal in the Indie Excellence Book Awards, a silver medal in the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, and was a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine Book-of-the-Year Awards.

Interestingly, while I was attending Book Expo America in New York last weekend, a fellow author told me how "lucky" I am to have a new book receive so much attention. It sounded as if he was implying that I wrote the book one day and received the awards the next day. Oh, if only that were true! The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. I have been hard at work on my fairy series for about 4 years - writing, re-writing and re-re-writing. Then there is work of planning the illustrations, working with the graphic designer, writing the songs for the accompanying CDs, recording the CDs. Next, there is the planning and implementing of the marketing, the promotions, the school visits, the book fairs, the internet connections...

Yes, it is really a wonderful feeling to be noticed in a vast sea of books. I am so, so grateful for the awards my books have won (fourteen so far). I have learned that the harder you work, the luckier you will appear to be. I just hope all budding writers realize that the work has to come first.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Can Make a Rhyme Any Old Time

While reading my books to a kindergarten class last week, one of the children blurted out with amazement, "Hey! That rhymes!" "Yes" I said, "All of my books rhyme." At the end of the visit, another child wanted to know just why I make my stories rhyme. I really had to think about that. My thoughts took me back to my favorite childhood books, with Dr. Seuss leading the pack. I have to credit him with my love for rhyming books.

Rhymes make stories easy for young children to remember and repeat, which helps them with their reading and language skills. Rhymes also keep the reader’s attention. One activity that children love is when you read one line, then pause at the end of the next line to allow the children to fill in the rhyming word.

I'm not sure what this says about me, however I often find myself thinking in rhyme. Does this mean that I have the mentality of a child? I hope so. Children are wondrously imaginative. Yes, when I do grow up, I want to be just like a child!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Children Think You Are OLD!

If you've ever asked a child how old he or she thinks you are, you may have been shocked. To children of any age, any adult is ancient. To kids, people are either old or young - nothing in between. We're in the same category as covered wagons, radios, or even dinosaurs. When my husband (a school principal) was in his fifties, he made the dreaded mistake. He asked a group of middle school children how old they thought he was. Only one thought he knew the answer immediately. His serious answer was "Eighty-four!" I recently showed my new book cover (pictured above) to a group of kindergarten children. One surprised little boy immediately shouted "Hey! She looks just like you!"

Be smart. Just don't ask!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Please Don't Call Me a Liar

I've always been a daydreamer. As far back as elementary school, I loved to make up stories. Most of my stories were about elves and fairies. I would tell my family and friends about the fairies that visited my garden in the early morning, and the fairies that flittered around my room at night. It's no surprise that in the real world, no one believed me. My mother thought I would outgrow my storytelling tendencies. My friends were not as kind. They called me a liar. Guess what they call me today??? A writer!

Keep on writing and keep on believing!

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Lizard Ate My Broccoli

Does Your Book Have a Compelling Title? Did the title of my blog make you want to read on?

Your book may be wonderful, however what if no one ever looks at it? That’s why it's necessary to choose a title that is a hook. It must be catchy and grab the attention of your potential readers. Don’t lose sight of the fact that your book is going to be on the shelf with thousands of other books. Anything you can do to help it stand out from the others will be influential in creating sales.

Make your title short and to the point. One of my favorite movie titles is one of the hardest to remember. “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” While this is an extreme example, it is a reminder that bigger is not always better. It’s not always an easy task to whittle your title down to a few catchy words.

Use the internet to help you. In today’s online world, it’s important to use key words that people are searching for. A check of the popular search engines can help you here. An internet search will also let you see how many other people have already used your title.

Of course, a catchy title is useless if it does not fit the book. The title should be intriguing enough to make people want to open the book and should not disappoint. There’s no point in just being clever if the title doesn’t fit.

Don’t do what I just did. My title has nothing to do with my blog. But it did make you look!

P.S. Does the title The Belly Button Fairy make you curious?

Bobbie Hinman

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Do You Know the Origin of Jack and Jill? Do You Like My Modern Version?

As a children’s author, I have always been fascinated with the real meaning of nursery rhymes. Few among us did not grow up listening to these rhymes. However, if you read these same rhymes carefully as an adult, you may find yourself wondering why they didn’t scare us to death. Take Jack and Jill for example. This simple rhyme may be based on some frightening actual events.

There are a number of theories about the origin of Jack and Jill, and the rhyme is thought to date back to at least the eighteenth century. Most historians seem to agree however, that the characters most likely represent King Louis XVI (Jack) who was beheaded (lost his crown). He was followed by his Queen Marie Antoinette (Jill) who was also beheaded (came tumbling after). It’s hard to believe that the words to this story were made into a rhyme for children.

Another interesting theory dates back even further. According to this one, in the early 17th century, King Charles I of England decreed that the liquid measurement of a “jack” (four ounces), and a gill (“jill,” eight ounces), should be reduced. However, he kept the tax on these amounts the same, making more money for him as the ruler. This was part of what led to the English Civil War (1647-1649), when Charles “fell down” (removed from the throne) and “broke his crown” (was beheaded).

Which story do you think is true? Take your pick. Or, is it none? Perhaps a nursery rhyme is nothing more than just a nursery rhyme. If that’s the case, what in the world is Jack and Jill really about?

No matter. I’ve come up with my own modern, slightly feminist, “girls rule” version:

Jack and Jill went up the hill,
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill, being a physician with advanced training in emergency
medicine,was able to administer on-the-spot care.

Bobbie Hinman

Monday, March 2, 2009

Are You Afraid of Bugs? A Message From The REAL Little Miss Muffet

Is the fear of bugs something we are born with? Is it in our genes or do we learn it from a squeamish mother? Inquiring minds want to know.

My bug phobia started when I was a small child. My mother claims that I have had this fear as far back as she can remember. I have uncomfortable memories of the other kids in the neighborhood capturing fireflies while I ran around frantically, looking for an excuse to stay in the house. How can you explain how a harmless moth can send me into fits of terror? Or how a spider can leave me with a week’s worth of lingering nightmares?

One of my most embarrassing “bug moments” was a screaming fit that I had on the quiet streets of a country in Europe in reaction to a dragonfly landing on my shirt. (I won’t mention the country in case they are still looking for me.) Then there was the time I sprayed a centipede with hairspray because it was in my bathroom and I couldn’t get past it to get to the door. The hairspray was all I could reach. It worked, however my husband had to peel the sticky critter off the wall when he got home. I won’t even go into my reaction to the locust invasion!

Growing up in a house with no air conditioning (I’m kinda old); our windows were always open in warm weather. I can recall closing my windows every night and carefully eyeballing every square inch of my ceiling before turning out the lights. If there was even the teensiest of critters, I would scream at the top of my lungs until my father came upstairs to rescue me. As an adult, the best way I have found to deal with the problem is to quickly, and without looking too closely, place an overturned trash can over the bug and leave it for my husband. (I can’t even look at a bug without shivering.) A few years ago we had a terrifying ladybug invasion and I ran out of trash cans and had to use jars and glasses.

Lucky for me, my kids didn’t inherit the bug gene. I say “lucky” because I have always been able to call upon them to come to my aid. This gene must have skipped a generation. I’m glad Protective Services never found out that, even when they were toddlers, I “used” them in this way.

“They” say that we should face our fears. If this means that I would have to expose myself to more bugs in order to “get over it,” to that I say, “no way!!!”

Is there any hope for my family?

Bobbie Hinman

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Let’s All Celebrate National Tooth Fairy Day

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.

Bobbie Hinman

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Perfect Book Signing - A Fairy Tale to Celebrate National Tell-a-Fairy-Tale Day

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.

Bobbie Hinman

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You Are Never Too Old To Follow Your Dreams

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:
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

Smile, Darn Ya, Smile

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

Traditional vs. Independent Publishing

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

Does Your Family Have a Secret Vocabulary?

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!

Bobbie Hinman

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stop! Don’t Throw That Book Away!

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.

Bobbie Hinman

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Don't Want To Be A Mummy

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.

Bobbie Hinman

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Need a Government Bailout!

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

If YOU Were a Fairy, Which One Would YOU Be?

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

Choose Your Heroes Wisely

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

Business Cards For Kids? What if Your Clients Are Children?

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 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

Does Your Family Need a Visit From Miss Manners?

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

Where do Ideas Come From? - An Exercise in Creativity for Young Writers

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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Are You Still Sneaking Tofu Into the Coconut Custard Pies?

Am I? This is a question that just came to me via Facebook from my grown daughter’s college friend. Boy! Did I make an impression or what? That must be all he remembers about me after so many years.

Yes, I’m guilty of raising my kids on healthful foods. Veggies have always been a staple in our house. And yes, I’ll admit that some unusual ingredients have, on occasion, made their way into some otherwise “normal” dishes, however “sneaking” is a harsh word. I simply “placed” them there.

I found that, in the beginning of our lifestyle changes, it was easier to use additions and substitutions in recipes and not announce to the family that the cheesecake was actually half cream cheese and half tofu, or that the pasta sauce had been secretly mixed in the blender with a can of kidney beans. I never considered this to be lying. I just didn’t tell them the whole truth.

I have lots of tips for getting your family to eat more healthfully. Number one is – Don’t ever tell them it’s good for them! As soon as they hear those words, the battle is lost. When my kids asked, “What’s in the lasagna, Mom?” my answer was “lasagna noodles and pasta sauce”. That’s the truth. I just “forget” to mention the tofu and the spinach that are in there, too.

If you are worried about making changes in your family’s eating habits, here’s another important thing to remember – If it tastes good, they’ll eat it. And by all means, please don’t look guilty when you place the whole wheat pasta on the table, or the mostly egg white omelet on their breakfast plate. And don’t ask them how it tastes. (You may not like the answer.) Just smile in a self-assured manner, then sit down and dig in.

In my meatless cookbooks, The Vegetarian Gourmet’s Easy International Recipes and The Vegetarian Gourmet’s Easy Low-Fat Favorites, I feature lots of recipe make-overs.

When you’re feeling brave, give tofu a try. Use it to replace half the cheese in lasagna, or cheesecake, or half the eggs in your omelet or quiche. Maybe someone will remember you for it!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Have a Toddler? READ, READ, READ Aloud…Then Read Aloud Some More

I enjoyed reading to my children and I really enjoy reading to my grandchildren. In my day (Ouch, I never thought I would say those words!) reading was fun. It was what we did with small children. We had no electronic distractions, no large shopping malls, and our favorite outing was an afternoon at the library. I never worried about “reading readiness”, probably because I don’t recall ever hearing that term until I entered college to become a teacher.

Today I am known in my family as the grandmother who always has time for one more book. I love that distinction. In fact, my ten grandchildren were the inspiration behind - and my reason for writing - my books, The Knot Fairy and The Sock Fairy.

So if you have a toddler, and if you are wondering about reading readiness, these buzz words may have you in a tizzy. Many parents worry that they are not doing enough to make sure their child is ready for school. While educational experts agree that preschool-aged children benefit greatly from participating in reading readiness activities, these activities should be enjoyable – both to the parent and the child. Don’t stress and don’t think your child needs to be reading novels by age 3. (Even if your neighbor is insisting that her 3-year old is halfway through Harry Potter.) Readiness is just that – helping your child to become ready to read. There are many easy ways that you can provide opportunities that will help encourage a book-positive attitude in your child. Here are a few easy, no-stress ways to do this:

· Start reading to children before they can talk. This is so important to language development.
· Read to your children every day and they will be more likely to want to read.
· Read in front of your children so they will know that reading is a part of your routine.
· Read alphabet books to them and help them identify the sounds of letters and words.
· Make a special place in your home for children to keep their own books.
· Encourage toddlers to hold the books and turn the pages themselves, teaching them at an early age how to care for books and to be gentle with things of value.
· Choose books that have bright colors, shapes, and lots of new vocabulary words.
· Read lots of rhyming books to toddlers. Rhymes are easy for children to memorize and repeat, allowing children to pretend they are actually reading.
· When you come to a new word, have the child repeat it with you.
· Help your child memorize nursery rhymes. Repeat them over and over together, enjoying the rhythm and the rhyming patterns.
· Read a page, then cover one of the pictures on that page and encourage the child to identify the missing item.
· Work on pre-reading skills by having early readers “read” the book to you by “reading” the pictures.
· Make an afternoon at the library an enjoyable outing. Bring home lots of books.
· Most important of all – Smile and enjoy your time with your precious toddler. They grow so fast.