How to use America Writes for Kids

Hi everyone,

I’ve been meaning to give you a little tour around American Writes for Kids, the website that grew from an earlier idea developed by Sandy Asher and me called Missouri Writes for Kids. We wanted to make it easier for those in search of children’s authors and poets to find them in one place. With help from the Springfield-Greene County Library District and sponsorship from Drury University, Sandy and I identified all of the known Missouri children’s writers who had published at least one trade book that could reasonably be expected to be found in public libraries. We took our show on the road by presenting at conferences and doing a regular TV show in Springfield on KOLR10.

From there the idea grew to a second, much more ambitious site called America Writes for Kids. Same basic idea expanded to include all the states. Over the years since we began, this site has grown to include hundreds of children’s authors and poets from virtually every state and has become a major resource for teachers, librarians, parents, and students.

We screen quite carefully when someone asks to be included on the site. There are many good authros who write for various adult genres as well as for young readers and some of their sites include material meant for adults. We stick strictly with sites that are for children’s books only.

So if you haven’t visited America Writes for Kids, here is how to get there.

I hope you will take a few minutes to move around the site. Across the top you’ll find several categories, including AUTHORS, BLOG, WRITERS AT WORK, MEMBERSHIP, LINKS, AND PLAYWRIGHTS. Sandy is one of America’s foremost children’s playwrights so she created this additional resource for which she is wonderfully qualified to do.

Click on AUTHORS and you see a map of the United States. Click on any state and you see children’s authors and poets located in that state. You can also use the alphabet bar to find your favorite writers that way. Easy? You bet.

You may already be familiar with BLOG, which reposts many of my Featured Guests, and WRITERS AT WORK, which reposts each month of chats about writing between Sandy and me.

Sandy’s son Ben Asher is our webmaster and the one who makes this all possible. Thanks, as always, to Ben. I asked Sandy to add her thoughts and suggestions so here’s what she has to say. Sandy?

Hi everyone. Take time to explore the three “Links” sections on the America Writes for Kids, Missouri Writes for Kids, and USA Plays for Kids pages. You’ll find useful resources related to children’s literature and to theater for young audiences.

Stop by the “Membership” area as well. If you have at least one published trade book or play and a website dedicated to work for young people and would like to be considered for a link, get in touch with Sandy Asher at . She’ll need your URL and current state of residence. There’s no charge for links to authors’ established personal sites. If you don’t have a webpage, the Membership section will also tell you about inexpensive pages available from America Writes for Kids.

Last but not least, a brief commercial: Please note the buttons. Clicking through to Amazon from the America Writes for Kids pages to buy anything from books to CDs to microwave ovens helps to support the site without costing you a penny. Thanks, David. Back to you.

And there you have it.


WRITERS AT WORK – Obstacles to Writing (Part 1)

REMINDER: Have you voted yet for this month’s Hall of Fame Poets? You have until tomorrow night, Wednesday, September 29 to cast your ballot! As of last night Euleta Usrey leads the adult poets and Courtney Clawson is five votes ahead of Maria Ciminillo among the young poets. A good race is shaping up!

Greetings from WRITERS AT WORK, the ongoing chat between Sandy Asher and David Harrison about, well, writers at work. Rules are simple. We select a question that is often posed and take turns (two each) responding to it. Our initial subject was about the care and feeding of ideas.

Thanks to Sandy Asher’s son Ben Asher, we now have a special spot created just for WRITERS AT WORK on the America Writes for Kids website. Here’s the link.

Go to the top bar and you’ll see Writers at Work. Beside it you’ll find the site’s blog, which features a growing number of my Featured Guests. How is that for adding extra value to these postings? Thanks to Sandy for proposing these great ideas and to Ben for making them happen.

Today we turn to our second subject. It’s about obstacles to writing, things that writers often have to jump over, sneak around, or tunnel under to reach that goal-on-high: finding time to write. In other words, “What kind of obstacles—external, interpersonal, internal—get in your way and how do you deal with them?” To save words, we’re calling this segment, “Dealing with Obstacles to Writing.” It’s my turn to lead off. Here we go.

September 28, 2010
Topic 2: Obstacles to Writing
Response 1: David

First, the external issues. Oops. Excuse me. Someone’s at the door. Okay, sorry. I’m back. Great. The phone. The phone is ringing. “The phone is ringing! Can’t somebody get the phone?” Sorry. The thing is, writers don’t have real jobs. Ask anybody. “Will someone get that phone!” Every thought we think comes at peril of instant annihilation by barking dogs, TV commercials, or the UPS guy. It’s nobody’s fault, really. Writing something well is the goal, but writing something at all is the best many of us can muster on any given day.

If the creative part of your mind is as sensitive to interruptions as mine, you know there is little room in there for your dog needing out or your neighbor firing up his lawnmower in the middle of a paragraph. Jean Kerr (Please Don’t Eat the Daisies) set up writing headquarters in her car to get some privacy to work. Another author, I don’t remember who, built a pulley-rigged platform in his living room and literally rose above the distractions below. A friend of mine went to even greater extremes to protect herself from external obstacles. I don’t know if she’ll tell you about it, but it makes a great story.

I used to stay up late to write after my family went to bed. When the kids were older, and so was I, I switched to getting up early to beat the crowd. Whatever you have to do to write is up to you to work out. Just realize that few writers ever have the luxury of an obstacle free environment. Somehow we all need to figure out how to answer the phone and still finish the same sentence we started.

How about those interpersonal obstacles? Families are probably the writer’s main obstacles. After all, families live together, share time and space, play together, depend on one another. When one of us – that would be the writer – keeps sliding down the hall toward the computer like gollum sniffing for his precious, the scene is set. Feelings can be hurt on both sides. Chores that should get done don’t. Evenings that ought to be planned aren’t. Writing does take its toll. For that matter, so does painting, composing, sculpting, or any other endeavor that requires extended periods of concentration, quiet, and isolation.

Too bad we can’t have it all. The world loves beauty created by those who have the gift to make beauty by human hands. It’s the process that ticks off so many people. It’s not the principal of the thing. It’s the TIME it takes. Think compromise. Think establishing “safe zones” for your writing. Good luck on this one!

Sandy I’ll save the third section until my second round. So, over to you.

America Writes for Kids

My thanks to Bobbi Katz for being my guest yesterday. If you haven’t had time to read her remarks yet, don’t forget!

I’ve mentioned America Writes for Kids before but have never presented the full story about the site, irs origins, and its applications. I asked my cofounder, Sandy Asher, if she would like to provide an article about our sites (there are three). Sandy is the guiding light and energy that drive this effort. Sandy asked Ben Asher if he would do the honors. Ben, who is Sandy’s multi-talented son, created the original site for us and today serves as our webmaster. Here’s the story, told by Ben Asher.

by Ben Asher

In 1998, Missouri authors Sandy Asher and David Harrison founded MISSOURI WRITES FOR KIDS, a website devoted to writers of children’s and young-adult books from their home state. The page is hosted by Drury University, where Asher (now based in Pennsylvania) was writer-in-residence, and Harrison (an alumnus) is currently their poet laureate. The website is designed to be child-friendly. It includes a list of Missouri children’s writers and links to more than two dozen author sites. For a small fee, authors without web hosting can order a standard page hosted on the Drury server. Each month, the “Show Me a Good Book” section features a book by a Missouri children’s writer. The site also links to writing-oriented resources, including two annual children’s literature festivals, and professional organizations ranging from the National Association for Teachers of English to the Missouri Association of School Librarians.

The success of MISSOURI WRITES FOR KIDS inspired Asher and Harrison to create a national page, AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS. Like the Missouri site, it showcases a book of the month and includes links to literary resources. These include two organizations dedicated to Spanish-language children’s literature, the Barahona Center and the Isabela Schon International Center, and informational sites for aspiring children’s authors. Writers can either submit links for their own websites or order a standard page. The site allows viewers to search for authors alphabetically or by state, using a clickable map. Recently, a blog has been added, with contributions from a teacher and a literary agent along with authors. The website currently links to more than four hundred writers from almost every state in the union.

In addition to books, Asher writes plays, which motivated her to introduce the USA PLAYS FOR KIDS page. This site has a similar format to AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS. It spotlights a play of the month, and includes links not only to professional organizations such as the Dramatists Guild of America, but to resources for playwrights under the age of eighteen. As on the other sites, playwrights can submit website links or order a basic page. These links, currently totaling about fifty, are searchable alphabetically and by state.

AMERICA WRITES FOR KIDS and its companion pages have been recommended as reference sites by many schools and libraries, including Tufts University. By design, all three pages are useful resources not only for writers promoting their work, but for anyone interested in good books or plays for children or young adults. This includes teachers, play producers and directors, illustrators, librarians, parents, anyone considering a career in children’s literature or theatre, and (of course) children and young adults themselves.


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, Dorinda Nicholson , Kate Klise, Vicki Grove,  June Rae Wood, J. B. Cheaney, Lynn Rubright, Constance Levy, Eileen Bluestone Sherman , and Leslie Wyatt For more information, about this unique opportunity contact me at .

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.  Kathy