Monday, January 28, 2013

I Dream of Rockets

by Lupe Fernandez

I dream of rockets blasting into space. I dream riding a rocket to another planet. I dream of fitting in to environmental suit, riding the gantry up to command module, slipping into my couch, hearing the hatch slam shut, going to a check list until all systems are go.

The rockets rumbles and the force of acceleration squeezes me into my couch while Mission Control voice rattle out numbers and abbreviations, the jargon of spaceflight.

I dream of the great blue globe of Earth passing beneath me as my spacecraft circumnavigates the globe every 94 minutes, at a speed unheard of by Ferdinand Magellan in his five sailing ships.

Then the bell of the spacecraft's engine fires and injects me into a trajectory bound by Newtonian Physics and celestial mechanics.

Traveling at tremendous velocities, in space nothing seems to move, and yet I am hurtled away from Earth, everything I've known and that there is in human experience. Oceans. Sand. Trees. Grass. School. Girls. Cookies. Pizza. Comic books. Blue sky. 

I survey the stars and look backward in the time. After several slingshots around the planets, I decelerate at my destination. A new world with continents unknown and seas unheard. What crawls and swims on this world? Are they like us? Is it a desert? Am I the only one alive?

But I'm not alone.

Everyone who labored, loved and launched the spacecraft is with me. Their million prayers and calculations are comfort me. I report my findings and the Earth waits as I descend through the foreign atmosphere. Gravity greets me as an old, portly friend, squatting on my body. Dust settles and the engine shuts off as I land.

I see the horizon trimmed with mountains, a pinkish sky and another sun.

Dare I step out onto this new frontier? Crunch my boots in this new dirt.

Maybe I should fire the ascent module and go home, and pretend it was all a dream.

What would you do?

I dream of rockets and I'm going to write about them.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What Kids Like To Read

Victoria Krol
by Victoria Krol

Children’s books are very popular today. Have you ever asked a child what they like to read?

Well, now you get to know! I am a really good reader. I like reading The Harry Potter series. My friend, Eva, likes reading The Fairy Books by Daisy Meadows.

Instead of being lazy on rainy days by watching TV, I will read a story. Whenever I have free time in class, I’ll get my books out and read. I can block out noise. A couple of times, the teacher is talking and I’m not paying attention because I’m reading. (OOPS).

Revising Blog Post
Eva’s friend, Josie, also likes reading The Fairy Books by Daisy Meadows.

My friends, Jack and Henry, like reading The Berenstain Bears.

Parents, when you go to the library let your child pick a book above their reading level.

Eva and Jose
That’s why I’m so good at reading.

“I read chapter books and Harry Potter,” says Sam, my brother. Sam and I used to like to read Captain Underpants but not anymore.

Also, parents, remember to read to your children. My Dad used to read to us and now we read to him. My dad is reading us The Hobbit now.

Now that I have finished The Harry Potter books, I decided to read something not as scary like Ivy & Bean and several American Girl books.

Reading is very important and it helps you learn and it’s one of the subjects you need to get into Kindergarten. Reading helps you with everything.

And that’s my take on children’s books.

These are my suggestions for books you can let your kids read. I’ve read all of these and they are very good. (Well, I am not quite done yet with the stuff at the end of the list but hope to be by summer.)

Elmo and Grover books by various authors, illustrated by various.
Sesame Street books by Sesame Street Library, illustrated by Joe Matthieu.
Mickey Mouse/ Disney books by various authors, illustrated by various.
The Barn Yard Dance by author and illustrator Sandra Boynton.
Hippos GO BESERK by author and illustrator Sandra Boynton.
Pajama Time by author and illustrator Sandra Boynton.
My Personal Penguin by author and illustrator Sandra Boynton.

K-2nd grades
Tinkerbell stories by various authors.
The Berenstain Bears by author and illustrators Jan & Stan Berenstain.
Dora and Diego books by various authors.
Care Bears stories by various authors.
Junie B Jones Series by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Blunkus
Marvin Redpost Series by Louis Sachar, illustrated by Barbara Sullivan.
Amelia Bedelia Series by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynn Sweat.
The Fairy Books by Daisy Meadows, illustrated by various.

3-4th grades
Little House on the Prairie 1-7 by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, illustrated by Lucy Kemp and others.
The American Girl Series by various authors, illustrated by various.
Goosebumps by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Tim Jacobus.
Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes.
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams.
Stuart Little by E. B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams.

5-6th grades
Anne of Green Gables 1-8 by Lucy M. Montgomery.
Harry Potter Books 1-7 by J. K. Rowling, illustrated by Mary Grandpré.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, illustrated by Henry C. Pitz.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein.
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, illustrated by Norman Rockwell.
The staff at Pen & Ink Blogpost would like to thank Victoria Krol for her post.
Victoria is currently writing and illustrating her own trilogy.

My Garden Book
My School Year

My Vacation

Monday, January 14, 2013

How Are Schools Instilling
the Love of Reading in Students?

by Hilde Garcia

This is a difficult post for me to write.  I have a unique perspective on reading. I’m not only a writer, but also a teacher in the public school system. I’m a product of yester-year’s public school.

What changed?

Bottom line: the budget!  It’s been cut, chopped, and diced like those knives advertised on the informational channels for $19.99.

When I was a student of public schools in the 1970’s, schools were the focal point of a child’s day.  You went to school from 8am to 3pm.  Everyone ate in the cafeteria.  Parents picked up children or they simply walked home.  Schools offered art, music, and PE to all students.  

Fundraising was unheard of except for the occasional PTA bake sale that helped buy extra books for the library or some neat school improvement like a sign or a new flag.  Teachers had manageable class sizes- how’s 12-15 for kinder, 15-20 for lower grades and 25 for 4th-6th.

Schools weren’t overcrowded for the most part and administrators weren’t bogged down with so many special meetings and administrative concerns.  They would greet you at the gate in the morning, in the afternoon, at lunch, and visit classrooms. They were rarely off campus and rarely pulled in multiple directions.

Our teachers read to us with the lights off after lunch.  There was no madness about testing.  We painted, we laughed, we sang, we explored bugs, we loved going to school.

As an immigrant child whose parents did not speak English, I relied heavily on my teachers.  My parents revered my teachers like Gods.  Teachers weren't second-guessed; they weren't disrespected.  They were considered a child’s advocate.

I learned the word flamboyant from Mrs. Morris in 6th grade. Mrs. Dobbs taught me how to write a proper thank you note and not to simply say, “Thanks for the lovely gift.” I still write the best thank you notes say the people who have received them. Mrs. Moncur taught me how to read the word shenanigans and also said I was the best speller in the 3rd grade. But my greatest memory is Miss Cavanaugh who taught me how to read English when I was 5. I still correspond with her today. She opened up the world of reading. She read to us aloud every day during nap-time  I remember the sunshine coming in through PS 4’s window in the fall of 1972 in New Jersey. No other noise could be heard but her lyric voice and Dr. Seuss’ genius. 

I couldn’t speak a word of English when I began Kindergarten. By June, I was speaking both and reading both Spanish and English. By 3rdgrade, I could read on a 6th grade level and you couldn’t detect an accent in my speech in either.

While I am not naïve and I know it wasn’t like this everywhere for every student, it was a completely different time period.  The funding available for schools allowed for longer day, more individual time with each student, less interruptions, smaller class sizes and simply more focus on learning than on testing.

How different for the kids of today.  Every day I turn on the news and hear of millions of dollars that are cut from the budget.  No music, no art.  Who cares?  The kids don’t need it; they need to read and write.  I recall the Presidential Awards and how coveted and prestigious they were. I always wanted to get one and did more than my best in PE to do so.  Today, we have a generation of obese kids who don’t read.

So how does all this speak to my title of  “How are schools instilling the love of reading for students?  They are not, not really.  It’s up to us, the children’s book writers of the planet.  Like super heroes, we rescue children from Playstations everywhere and bring them back to wonder and magic in their minds.

Nowadays, kids read for the test. They learn to skim the passage for clues.  They learn to read the questions first to see what they will be quizzed on, before they scan the reading.  The test excerpts are not based on literary works of fiction or non-fiction. They are samples created for the test.  They are boring.

Teachers rarely have time to read to their classes because every minute has to be accounted for.  In most public schools teachers are mandated to teach for the test instead of teaching material that integrates all the subjects kids find interesting in order to motivate and inspire them.

I teach students that were born in the US and are labeled English Learners and never get rid of that label.  They can’t speak proper English nor can they speak Spanish to their parents.  I have 5th and 6th grade students reading on 2nd and 3rd grade levels.  

When I ask them do they read, they say not really.  They have quite a few reasons: no time, no books, don’t care, sibling bothers me, and the list continues.  These students are socially promoted every year.  And these students simply keep falling behind.

There is no love of reading instilled because why should students read when their level is the same as their kid sister’s?  Someone might see them check out a “baby” book.

Why should they love reading if from the very onset of their scholastic career, they are set up to fail? Our kids today can’t love to read like we did because our generation isn’t making that the forefront of education. It’s up to us, the writer’s of children’s literature to produce incredibly engaging works of fiction and non-fiction, so that in spite of all these obstacles, kids will read and be better for it.

We are the cavalry and our battle is uphill.  I say, “CHARGE!”  Write the book that will stop the war.

In an upcoming post, my daughter will share her views with you on What Kids Read.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Kidlit Writer's Alphabet

    By Kris Kahrs

     By the same people who brought you The Pirate's Alphabet, Ms. K. felt inspired to share her version of the Kidlit Writer's Alphabet.  Please feel free to join in and share your own version in the comments below.

A is for Associate Social Media Editor, the job you take while working on your manuscript nights.

B is for 'But first coffee..', the first thing your brain says in the morning as you stagger to your writing table after another late night.

C is for Conference, where you spend the trillions of dollars you make at your day job to flog your latest YA, geek-cum-vampire masterpiece.

D is for Desk Cat, because (say it with me now), no writer should be without one.

E is for Earnest, as in the tone of the Query Letter you write to the editor you met at the conference.

F is for the thing that you said when you received your twelfth rejection letter.

G is for Great which is the chocolate you ate after the twelfth rejection letter.

H is for Hungover, which is how you feel after you drank the martinis after you ate the chocolate after the twelfth rejection letter.

I is for Instant Acceptance, which is how the newly published author you went to listen to at the bookstore described how her book got picked up after she got out of her Master's program.

J is for 'just', the word you did a search and replace on and found 54 times in your manuscript.

K is for Knight, the new character you add to your YA manuscript on the advice of your online critique.

L is for the Love letter you write to the agent who calls to request the whole manuscript after reading your ten page submission.

 M is for the Mantra (please buy my book) you chant the whole time the agent has your manuscript.

N is for the Non-stop fun you are having doing the revisions requested by said agent.

O is for the Opera you sang when the agent offered to take you on as a client.

P is for the Publishers your agent shops your manuscript to.

Q is for yet another Quick and dirty revision you do for each of them.

R is for the Riot you started at Staples when you couldn't find the right ink cartridge for your printer.

S is for the Salmon filet you cooked for desk cat (you had the champagne) when the publisher called to say they wanted your book.

T is for the cup of Tea you had (to keep your hands from shaking) when you went in to the Publisher's offices to sign the contract.

U is for the pair of Uggs you bought that you wore to Starbucks because you are a writer in L.A. after all.

V is for Very ecstatic because your agent says your book is on The New York Times bestseller list.


W is for Writing the sequel because your agent has created a bidding war for your next manuscript.

 X is for the Xtra large cup of Pinkberry you buy because you figure you can afford the big bucks.

Y is for the YES you screech when your agent tells you that a producer is interested in making a movie of your book.

Z is for zealous, which is how you feel about you and desk cat religiously getting your couples' massage on Tuesdays.

     Best of luck to all of us in 2013!