Adding a new voice to the tool box

Hi everyone,

In my thirties I published picture books of fiction. To wided my range I added picture books and full length works of nonfiction. In my fifties I added poetry to reenergize me and hone my writing skills. In my sixties I began co-writing books for teachers.

In my seventies I told you in one of my posts that I wanted to see if I could successfully write middle grade novels. My first story, placed in Peru’s Amazon rain forest, was rejected by editors who said they liked the story but didn’t relate to the voice. I revised the manuscript and tried again. The editors liked the story but didn’t relate to the voice. I revised again. One editor liked the story but wouldn’t accept it because of the Our Own Voices movement: I wasn’t a Peruvian. Other editors said they liked the story but didn’t relate to the voice.

I wrote a second middle grade novel. It takes place in the Arizona desert. Editors so far have said they like the story but don’t relate to the voice. I’m midway into a third middle grade novel but have put it on hold until I figure out how to “fix” my voice. To me both stories are told well, but that’s the danger of being your own critic. Su Hutchens has read both manuscripts and provided wonderful input, a true gift from a true friend. I’ve read a handful of middle grade novels by friends who write them well and thought I’d learned from their examples. I think my next step is to read a LOT more of them.

One thing I won’t do is quit. I’m frustrated but challenged, and that, after all, is one of the main reasons why we all keep trying.

Oh lordy, I gots da windshield blues

Hi everyone,

Today’s sad story is reported by our pal Su Hutchens. With her permission I’m reprinting her note to me here. As you can see, this poor lady deserves a carload of poor babies and maybe they should be poetically phrased. Just saying.

Here’s the story…

I got my new car (a Rogue) two years ago. Had it about two months before a rock was thrown up on a gravel road and caused a big chip. The chip has steadily grown through the two years, but was on the passenger side, so it didn’t mess with my vision while driving.

About six weeks ago, my car was at Denver International Airport, and on the very day we flew home, there was an awful hail storm at the airport. In fact, our plane wasn’t allowed to land because of the storm, and we were diverted to another airport on the other side of the Rocky Mountains for a few hours.

You guessed it – the windshield was really busted now.

Today, we took the Rogue to Cheyenne to have the windshield replaced, along with the windshield on Danny’s truck, which was also broken. (The windshield place LOVED us today! Ha!)

I joked with the young lady at the windshield place…wondering if Danny or me would get the first chip.

Guess I tempted Fate, and she got even with me!

I had not even had the car for an HOUR, and was on the way home (just a few miles away!) when a pickup truck coming towards me on the gravel road that leads to our house kicked up a rock and…you guessed it…I now have a chip in the new windshield! The “starburst” around it is about the size of a quarter!!!! Oh yeah – the chip is down low on the driver’s side…of course!

I sure hope my phone wasn’t “listening” to me while I spewed a few choice words!!! (I can’t be mad at the truck driver – he even waved to me as he went by! This stuff just happens when you live in the country!)

Anyway – I called the windshield place, and they said to come back tomorrow and they’ll repair the chip for me.

Goodness gracious! It’s always something, huh???

Hope you and Sandy get a chuckle out of my sad tale. Honestly, I’m laughing about it now. It just wasn’t funny a few hours ago!


Worth repeating

Hi everyone,

On Friday I posted a picture of my turtles studying my calendar and Jane wrote a witty poem about it. I followed up with this picture and a poem and Susan chipped in a poem as well, but I’m not sure many saw the fun developing. Today I’m reposting all that for anyone who missed the original and maybe we’ll see some further contributions before the day is done.

Jane Yolen

February 10, 2018 @ 7:04 am

The Turtles Escape

The Reading of Turtles
is not too well known.
They sit upon books
that their people all own.

They act as if reading–
–Or sleeping–who knows.
Their eyes are just painted
and they never close.

I worry they’re reading
and planning a trip.
I caution myself
that I must get a grip.

Next morning, the turtles
are missing, away.
I worry about it
for all of the day.

But turtles are careful,
deliberate, I know.
Wherever they’re headed,
It’s going to be sloooooooow.



The Turtle’s Response

All those nights
he read to us.
All those words
he fed to us.

Now those words
will take us far
cleverly hidden
in his car.

We’ve made our plans,
we’ve marked the date,
we’ve packed our bags,
and now we wait.

He says that turtles
aren’t allowed,
but we can READ!
He’ll be so proud!

(c) by David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

Susan Hutchens

February 11, 2018 @ 12:17 am

Don’t Judge a Turtle!

Likely ’cause
we walk so slow,
people think
we just don’t know.

Folks judge us by
our outer looks –
We might be green
but we love books!

Like other creatures
here on earth,
we didn’t choose
this reptile birth.

Ever hopeful
we surge ahead,
and know we’re smart
because we read!

How cold is it?

Hi everyone,
How cold is it? Susan Hutchens has challenged us to tell her. Rule #1: keep it clean, kiddies. 20170107_112538_resizedFor example, if you must talk about them, go somewhere like, “Our Christmas tree is setting so close to the window that its balls have turned blue.” 20170107_093941_resizedThat sort of thing. See what I mean? Or maybe “SNL’s Shweddy Balls have stopped Swedding.” Just keep it in good taste. That’s all I’m saying.

What will the kids ask me?

Hi everyone,
Living Museum 023
As I think about my Monday morning visit with students at McBride Elementary School I wonder what they will ask me. As anyone who does this sort of thing knows, most questions from young children reflect off-the-top curiosity. Where do you get your ideas? How long does it take to write a book? How many more books are you going to write? Do you write joke books? Do you have any children?

The questions need to be answered, of course, although the trick is to work in more useful information as we go along so that the teacher has more to go on later than the number and ages of my daughter and son.

Now and then, though, I get pleasantly surprised when I receive more original, thoughtful questions that show me the teachers have been working ahead of time with their students and their students have been paying attention. Those are the best visits because they’re not only fun but also provide young writers with specific tips to help strengthen their own efforts.

Here are a few questions I received recently from Susan Hutchens, an outstanding teacher whom many of us know, from students I’ve never met. Susan shared a book of mine, NOW YOU SEE THEM, NOW YOU DON’T, talked about the author and what goes into writing books, and sent me pages of wonderful questions. For example:

How did you figure out that you should write a nonfiction poem?
What was your preparation for this book?
What other animals did you learn about? Why did you choose to write about these animals?
Can you possibly think about poems that can also help you with learning?
Did you read a lot of books when you wanted to write books?
Have you been to all the places (in the book)?
How can you find that many words describing the animal that rhyme?

These are only a few of many excellent questions. They’re the kind that every visiting author and illustrator hope to get. Some of the questions are assured of going into the book I’m writing with Mary Jo Fresch. Yay for your kids and you, Susan!