June Rae Wood today

Hi everyone,

My summer program of re-posting favorite Featured Guests continues with June Rae Wood. Many of you enjoyed June’s comments on March 3, 2010. For those who missed them, or want to read them again, it’s my pleasure to say, “Here’s June!”

By June Rae Wood

I love words—printed words. When I was four years old and my sister Shirley learned to read in first grade, I was eaten up with jealousy. I couldn’t wait until I, too, could unlock the secrets of words on the printed page.

I’ll never forget the day in first grade when my teacher praised me for reading that big word, “chickens.” It was a lucky guess. I had peeked ahead and seen the picture of baby chicks, but oh, what joy in getting that word right. I’ve been hooked on reading ever since.

Shirley and I, being the oldest of eight children, had plenty of chores, but we nevertheless found time to read. We’d walk to the library a couple of times a week, check out our limit of books, and walk home feeling rich. We’d climb the tree in the backyard, drop onto the flat roof of the porch where the other kids couldn’t reach us, and lose ourselves in another world through books.

Although I loved reading, I didn’t particularly like writing. In elementary and high school, I wrote only what was required of me to get good grades. In college, I studied business education and didn’t stay long enough to earn a degree. However, I was a natural at grammar, punctuation, and spelling—the basics that help writers succeed.

My life changed when our family moved to the country, away from close neighbors and all the busy-ness of town. With my husband at work all day and our daughter in school, I needed something to do besides clean house and watch soap operas, so I tried my hand at writing. I could compose grammatically correct sentences, but I didn’t have a clue about how to develop character, dialogue, and plot. I learned from reading “how-to” books and, of course, by writing.

I honed my skills by listening to my work on a tape recorder. This helped me to catch overused words and the sentences that looked fine on paper but weren’t pleasing to the ear. My first venture was a children’s novel that I wrote at least six times. That was my “practice set,” with each rewrite being a little better than the last. Though each version came back with an editor’s rejection slip, my time was not wasted. I was learning how to develop characters and plot, how to prepare a manuscript, how to write a query letter to publishers, and how to market my work.

My first sale was such a shock that I lost my appetite for three months—and shed 11 pounds. It was a short story about my brother, Richard, who was born with Down’s syndrome. For 36 years, my family had catered to Richard, spoiled him, and loved him; and after he died, I wrote the story to cope with my grief. “The Boy Who Taught Love” was published in Family Circle magazine and was later reprinted in Reader’s Digest with a new title, “My Brother Who Brought Sunshine.”

Readers all over the United States sent letters telling me how much they appreciated the story. Eventually, it occurred to me that if I could touch adults with Richard’s story, perhaps I could touch children, too. After all, it was children who had laughed at my brother, been cruel to him, and been afraid of him. That’s when the idea for my young-adult novel, The Man Who Loved Clowns, was born. The main character is 35-year-old Punky, a man with Down’s syndrome, a comical and lovable personality, and some very unusual habits—such as telling people they’re fat, pouring shampoo down the toilet, and flinging chicken bones behind the TV. My brother Richard did all those things, and he was my pattern for Punky.

Nowadays, the letters I receive are from kids—kids who say they will never again make fun of or be afraid of someone who is different. Because this story was written from my heart, young readers have taken it to heart. My advice to fledgling writers is this: If you write about things you care deeply about, your readers will care, too.

June Rae Wood tomorrow

Hi everyone,

I’ve been looking forward to re-introducing June Rae Wood, although I realize that many of you are already well acquainted with June and/or her wonderful YA novels. Sometimes we dwell so much on poetry that we may lose the interest of writers who are more involved in other genres. Featuring a guest of June’s caliber is the perfect way to bring us back to the larger issues of creating children’s literature.

Tomorrow you’ll see what June has to tell us. For now, here’s a brief bio. Like so many others, June could have said a lot more than she did but I hope you’ll take the time to discover additional information about her on your own.

June Rae Wood grew up with seven siblings in Versailles, MO, reading every chance she got. However, writing didn’t interest her—not even when she went to college.
Many years passed before she got bitten by the writing bug. She honed her skills by studying “how to” books and listening to her work on a tape recorder.

Her first novel, The Man Who Loved Clowns, won the 1995 Mark Twain Award in Missouri and the 1995 William Allen White Award in Kansas. She has written four other novels for young adults—A Share of Freedom, When Pigs Fly, Turtle on a Fence Post, and About Face—and she contributed to two anthologies edited by Sandy Asher: Writing It Right! and On Her Way: Stories and Poems about Growing Up Girl. Mrs. Wood’s work has appeared in Family Circle, Reader’s Digest, School & Community, The Lookout, New Ways, the Sedalia Democrat, and other publications.

She is still happily married to William Wood, the man she met on a blind date years ago. They have a daughter and two granddaughters and live near Windsor, MO.

See you tomorrow!


Upcoming guests

Happy Monday!

To date this month we’ve enjoyed the work of eight adult poets: Steven Withrow, Amy, Genia, Gay Fawcett, Ken Thomas Slesarik, Mary Nida Smith, Beth Carter, and Reta Stewart Allen. Among the young poets, Taylor McGowan is our only poet to post a poem so far. There is still plenty of time for many more poets to show off their stone-inspired poems. Today is the 10th and we don’t cut off submissions until the night of May 23.

I’ve been looking back at the talented guests who have appeared on my Friday spots. It is a pleasure to bring so many strong voices here and I hope you are enjoying them as much as I am. Here is a list of their names and the dates they appeared.

11-9-09, Wendy Schmalz
11-28-09 , Gay Fawcett
12-4-09, Sylvia Vardell
12-11-09 , Sandy Asher
12-19-09, Marilyn Singer
12-29-09, Mary Jo Fresch
1-8-10, Kathy Temean
1-15-10, Cheryl Harness
1-22-10, Vicki Grove
1-29-10, Laura Robb
2-5-10, Laura Purdie Salas
2-8-10, Laura Purdie Salas continued
2-12-10, Lee Bennett Hopkins
2-19-10, Tim Rasinski
2-26-10, Laura Backes
3-5-10, June Rae Wood
3-12-10, Jane Yolen
3-19-10, Dan Burr
3-26-10, J. Patrick Lewis
4-2-10, Nile Stanley
4-9-10, Bobbi Katz
4-16-10, Gay Fawcett
4-23-10, Rebecca Dotlich
4-30-10, Steven Withrow
5-7-10, Charles Ghigna

Coming up in weeks ahead will be Ruth Culham, Greg Pincus, Georgia Heard, Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Suzy Capozzi (editor at Random House Step Into Reading books), Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Christine French Clark (Editor-in-Chief of Highlights for Children).

The list is much longer, but this will give you an idea of the wonderful talent still in store. I continue to send invitations to others as I have time so keep your recommendations coming.



A potpourri


REMINDER: The Word of the Month word for April is SPRING. Check the W.O.M. boxes above this post for further informaiton. We’re already seeing some strong efforts from adult poets and also a good one, actually two, from our young poet Taylor. Think about the various meanings of spring and, uh, spring into action.

I’ve asked Sandy Asher to present AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS and its sister site, AMERICA PLAYS FOR KIDS. I’ll post her article in the next few days. These sites have grown over the years into valuable resources for anyone in search of favorite authors. Hundreds are now represented.

I want to remind everyone that the Writers Hall of Fame Tour of Missouri Children’s Authors and Artists is coming up June 4-7. If you haven’t signed up for it, you need to make your reservations. During the tour you will meet and visit with Cheryl Harness http://www.cherylharness.com/, Dorinda Nicholson http://www.childrenslit.com/bookingservice/nicholson-dorinda.html , Kate Klise http://kateandsarahklise.com/, Vicki Grove http://mowrites4kids.drury.edu/authors/grove/,  June Rae Wood http://usawrites4kids.drury.edu/, J. B. Cheaney http://www.jbcheaney.com/, Lynn Rubright http://www.lynnrubright.com/wordpress/, Constance Levy http://www.squidoo.com/ConstanceLevy, Eileen Bluestone Sherman www.theoddpotato.com , and Leslie Wyatt http://www.lesliejwyatt.com/. For more information, about this unique opportunity contact me at davidlharrison1@att.net .

Have you visited the KIDS page on my website? You must! Kathy Temean is a wonder at presenting fascinating word puzzles and activities each month. If you are a teacher or have children or grandchildren, please check out the page on my website menu and prepare to be impressed and engaged.

I’m also inviting Kathy for an update on the upcoming New Jersey SCBWI conference in Princeton. She’ll use the space below or chime in later when she has time. I was happy to have an article, “Matter of Meter,” in this issue of SPROUTS, the New Jersey SCBWI publication edited by Kathy in her spare time.

Hello, everyone.  Plans for the conference are in full swing.  The hotel is all set up.  I’m picking out the menus for all the meals.  Each year we give out stickers that the attendees can use when submitting to the editors and agents on the faculty.  This is something every loves, because it helps highlight their submissions and helps to keep them out of the slush pile.  I have the design done and tomorrow I will order them.  In another week, I will have all the entries from the Logo Contest and then I will be able to order the bags that you will receive when you check in at registration. 

The last few day I have been matching up the attendees who signed up for one-on-one critiques with an editor or agent.  I have assigned everyone, but I still have to go over the list again and make adjustments.  Right now we have 182 people getting critiques, but registration is not closed.  There are still some additional spots.  Agent Scott Treimel was only supposed to do 6 consultations, but we had some many on the waiting list that I asked him if he would do 3 more and he said, “Yes.”  Simone Kaplan is doing 15 consultations and has a waiting list, but I really can’t push more on her, unless I would add another day – and that’s not happening.

The next thing I have to work on, is rounding up people to donate to our auction.  Each year we ask for donations, so we can raffle them off to help make money for our Scholarship Fund.  It seems like it is even more important this year with so many people out of work.  I use that money to help members who are out of work or having financial difficulties get the support they need to be able to attend events.  It is a good cause.  We have had people donate printers, books, baskets, gift cards, artwork, baseball tickets, facials, messages, dinners, theatre tickets, a get-a-way to a cabin in Maine, and more.  But the exciting part is that I get the editors and agents to donate critiques.  Last year Carolyn Yoder donated a full manuscript critique.  So did Steve Meltzer and Susan O’Keefe.  All the editors donated a critique of some amount.  Even Richard Peck donated a 30 page critique. 

Last year we even got editors and agents who attend the conference to donate and evening at dinner with them.  They were held all summer in NYC and Princeton.  We will be doing something like that again this year.  Critiques are great, but networking is important, too.  Everyone who came out loved them, even the editors and agents.

Anyway, I am excited about this year.  I don’t know how long we can continue improving each year, but somehow we do.  With all the success stories that came out of last years conference, we are really building our reputation.  We have people fly in from all over the country and they are repeat attendees.  I know many of you are not from New Jersey, but you should give some thought to coming out.  Most people say it is the best conference for Children’s writers, bar none.  (Did you just hear me patting myself on my back?)

And David is going to kick off Friday with his keynote speech.  He also is doing a poetry Intensive workshop on Friday morning and a short workshop on Saturday.  He also will be meeting people and doing critiques.  If you haven’t looked at the line-up, here is the link.  http://www.newjerseyscbwi.com/events/100604%20conference.shtml  Kathy

42nd annual Children’s Literature Festival


I’ve spent the last three days in Warrensburg, Missouri at the Children’s Literature Festival. This year the event was attended by 5,300 boys and girls in grades 4 – 8 and 1,200 adults. Forty-one authors and artists spoke to four groups of kids each day on Monday and Tuesday. The first day, Sunday, we attended a luncheon and spent the afternoon sitting at tables signing books. Over the 42 years of the festival’s history about 350 authors and artists have participated in the event, which was started by English teacher Phil Sadler and librarian Ophelia Gilbert. Ophelia died last year and Phil died two months ago but their legacy lives on and is now in the capable hands of librarian Naomi Williamson and a dedicated committee.

Among the talented speakers this year were Sandy Asher, Gary Blackwood, J. B. Cheaney, Sneed Collard, III, Jan Greenberg, Vicki Grove, Mary Downing Hahn, Cheryl Harness, Patricia Hermes, Peg Kehret, Claudia Mills, Barbara Robinson, Brad Sneed, and June Rae Wood to name just a few. The entire list was stellar and kids went away with useful information about writing, signed books, and good memories.

If you have an interest in learning more about the festival, contact Naomi Williamson, director, at williamson@library.ucmo.edu . Next year’s festival is set for March 20 – 22, 2011.

By the way, since Kathy Temean created this blog for me last August, my meter tells me that as of yesterday the blog has been visited more than 20,000 times. My thanks to all!