Sarah and I getting ready to present about apps at the Bologna Children's Book Fair

Sarah and I getting ready to present about apps at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair

If you have been following my blog for any period of time, you know I am passionate about all of the following:

  • Writing stories for children
  • Sharing stories with children
  • Using ALL avenues of publishing great books for children (including apps, ebooks, transmedia, etc.)
  • Italy (especially Florence!)
  • Historical fiction (especially books written by Mary Hoffman)
  • Entrepreneurial authors paving their own paths to success
  • Supporting fellow authors

For all of these reasons, it gives me great pleasure to share an outstanding project from my friend Sarah Towle that will not only bring fabulous historical tales to children in multiple formats, but will also create brand new opportunities for authors writing narrative historical nonfiction and historical fiction. Talk about a win-win!

Introducing … Time Traveler Tours & Tales (TTT&T) – a brand new way of imagining and delivering stories to children that will bring history to life for them.

I first met Sarah at the Bologna Book Fair in 2011, when she was launching the first-ever StoryApp Tour and Tale – the critically acclaimed Beware Madame la Guillotine. I was so impressed with what she was doing, I glommed onto her continued to follow her progress and learn from her as I went on to publish my own two storybook apps. Along the way, we became great friends.

TTT&T aims to be the first publishing imprint of its kind–publishing their story-based tours and tales of history in all available formats.

  • Mobile StoryApp Tours narrated by the very people who walked the streets in that place in that time of history.
  • Interactive ebooks that bring the historical period to life.
  • Print and audio versions of each tale.
  • Free curriculum guides for each tour and tale to bring history to life inside the classroom.
Authors Mary Hoffman and Sarah Towle cooking up plans for TTT&T at Writer's Renaissance 2014

Authors Mary Hoffman and Sarah Towle cooking up plans for TTT&T at Writer’s Renaissance 2014

For their official debut, TTT&T have chosen to bring to life one of the world’s greatest artistic and genius giants – Michelangelo and his David. In the Footsteps of Giants is a story woven by one of the best historical fiction writers for children of our time, Mary Hoffman. In it, we get to walk the streets of Renaissance Florence alongside the fictional model for the statue of David (P.S. We all know what that guy looks like – wouldn’t you like to meet him??).

I know first-hand that nobody knows more about Michelangelo than Mary Hoffman. She was on faculty for both of my Writer’s Renaissance retreats, and I’ve had the amazing good fortune of standing before the David in her company. Life will never be the same for me, and now you can have the same treat by reading her book.

Many of you also know I ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of one of my picture books. So I do have a special place in my heart for the power of crowdfunding. It’s the layperson’s way to support the arts and opportunities they want to see in the world. Here is your chance to do the same.

  • If you are a reader, you will enjoy a gripping story of Renaissance Florence with In the Footsteps of Giants and a whole series of historical stories that bring the locations and the events of that time period to life right before your eyes (and feet).
  • If you are a writer, TTT&T will provide opportunities for you to publish your own historical adventures for children.
  • If you are a teacher, you will have brand new ways to bring history alive for your students, using the stories themselves and the comprehensive curriculum guides.

I urge you to consider supporting TTT&T’s campaign to become one of the most exciting publishing imprints of our time. The number of backers is just as important as the total amount raised, so TRULY, no amount donated is too small. Rewards begin at $1.

If you are unable to donate, you can still help by sharing the project in your social media circles. In fact, here’s an easy tweet you can use.

New publisher plans to #turnhistoryon for kids. #writers, #teachers, check it out here: http://kck.st/1PyGzKO #kidlit (Click to Tweet this)

Me being one to put my money where my mouth is, I not only backed this project, I’m also offering a reward for others to do. Look for one of the CREATIVE COLLABORATOR rewards and you’ll see a one-hour strategy session with me on any aspect of your career as a writer, plus the first three Modules of my course, How to Make Money as a Writer. There’s only one of those, though, so if you want it, snag it soon.

There are fabulous rewards at all levels, however. Check out their campaign page to see for yourself.

As writers in the 21st Century, we have to create opportunities for ourselves whenever and however we can. What I love about what Sarah is doing with TTT&T is that she’s not only creating opportunity for herself, but extending that to children’s authors across the globe. I don’t know about you, but that turns me on. 🙂

Footsteps of Giants

Stone Giant Illustration copyright © 2014 by John Shelley Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. 85 Main Street Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 926-0329 www.charlesbridge.com All rights reserved.

Categories: Apps, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Children's Books, Creativity, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Florence, Friendship, Italy, Publishing, Storybook Apps, Travel, Writer's Renaissance · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Florence Panorama WRI am beyond excited to share the brand new website for Writer’s Renaissance. Now going into its third year, I decided the retreat deserved a home as beautiful and inspiring as Florence itself. I think the new site achieves this goal, and I hope you think so too.

People often ask me how I got the idea for Writer’s Renaissance and why, when I am quite obviously busy with many other projects, I continue to run the retreat. I’ve found that the obvious answer – “Uh, have you ever BEEN to Florence?” – doesn’t quite satisfy. My biography page on the new website provides some explanation, but I’m not sure I had the full answer until after I returned from the 2014 retreat.

To say the start to the 2014 Writer’s Renaissance retreat proved a challenge would be a huge understatement. The hardship really began at the end of January when one of my neighbors shot my dog in cold blood (bear with me – the story gets better). Luckily, and miraculously he survived, but the ordeal took its toll physically, emotionally, and financially. I spent almost a month lost in a fog just trying to make up for lost time and $.

Then, less than 24 hours before I departed for Florence, Lufthansa went on strike, failed to rebook me, and was not responding to any calls. I had no choice but to purchase a brand new ticket for about 8 times the price of my original. I still have received no refund or compensation (or even a response for that matter) from Lufthansa to this day. But that’s another story…

So I arrived in Florence exhausted, stressed, and worried about how I would manage to create the outstanding experience the 2014 women participants were expecting, and knowing I had to. I have a deep sense of responsibility to everything I undertake, but when women put their time, money, and hearts into my hands, well, letting them down is not an option.

But the city began to work its magic on me immediately. On my first evening, the soft sunshine slipped into a sorbet

La Bella Notte a Firenze.

La Bella Notte a Firenza.

sunset as I enjoyed my first gelato of the trip on the Santa Trinita bridge, gazing at the Ponte Vecchio. I visited my favorite paper shop, reconnected with friends over dinner, and fell into bed at my “home away from home” hotel. After two full days of basking in the beauty of Florence, the vice grip around my heart began to loosen. I was both ready and eager to meet the renaissance women of 2014.

Traveling, especially by oneself, is both rewarding and challenging in myriad ways. First, it is an assault to our senses. The people, the food, the atmosphere, the culture – all might be vastly different from our home. Some of these changes are welcome and exciting, and others can be frustrating and frightening. Often it is difficult to predict which reaction you are going to have to what triggers, making it difficult to find equilibrium.

Yet, this kind of travel holds the power and possibility of transformation more than any other. When we jolt ourselves out of our comfort zones, we suddenly become more aware of our surroundings and more present in our experiences.

For example, each time I go to Florence, the very first gelato I eat is always the best, regardless of the flavor I choose. Why? Because of the distance between the last gelato I ate on my previous trip and the first bite on this one. I haven’t yet acclimated to the flavor, and the reunion is delicious indeed. The first time I hear cathedral bells ringing can move me to tears. And don’t even get me started on the smell of garlic wafting from whatever plate of pasta I’ve ordered.

gromSince so much of writing is noticing, sensory stimulation is great fodder for the page. But even more transformative is the fact that our emotions are also on high alert during travel. Whatever we might have lurking under the surface of our consciousness tends to come forth HUGE when traveling. Getting out of our daily routines forces us to confront our lives in a way we cannot when we’re on the treadmill of life. This confrontation leads to introspection, self-discovery and sometimes even epiphany.

During Writer’s Renaissance 2014, I learned that I had been letting fear take center stage in my life. I was holding on to emotions and ideas that were not serving me, my loved ones, or my work. Every day since my return from Florence, I have recited a mantra in the morning reminding myself not to act in fear, but in love and trust instead.

I can also tie other trips to life-changing (and life-affirming) decisions. The one where I learned my anxiety was taking over my life and needed to be treated. The one where I decided I HAD to leave my job and pursue my dream of writing. The one where I rediscovered the intensity, beauty, and brevity of life and realized I needed to leave my marriage. Then there was Writer’s Renaissance 2013, my first post-divorce trip, that made me realize how fully ME I was, and how ready I was to let go of the past and begin anew. Time and again, travel brings me back to myself, re-roots me to the earth and to my life, and gives me inspiration that sustains me long after the trip has ended. The outward journey always leads to inward journey. Rebirth, renewal, renaissance.

To end with the beginning, I started Writer’s Renaissance because I wanted to share the transformative power of travel with other women. Because once your senses have been stimulated, your emotions heightened, your self examined, you simply cannot remain the same person, and I believe the insights gained always lead to positive (or necessary) change.

Some even ask – “Why Florence?” I think what they mean is, it’s so far from where I live. Why not run a similar retreat here in the States?

david-1024x739That answer is easy. Traveling to Florence will cure anyone of the idea that dreams are not achievable. Look into the eyes of Michelangelo’s David and tell me if you still believe anything you might want to do or create is impossible.

Go on. I dare you.

Categories: Creativity, Florence, Italy, Spirituality, Travel, Travel Writing, Uncategorized, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 x 12 Member Emily LimIt seems that Emily Lim and I are kindred spirits in forging less-conventional paths to publishing. We even both got breaks at the Bologna Book Fair. Moral? There’s more than one way to achieve your dreams! What I love about her How I Got My Agent post is how she was able to turn what some viewed as drawbacks and/or risks (location, self-publishing, etc.), and turned them into strengths. She didn’t give up. She kept writing. And eventually, she found an agent who shared her vision for her career. Please welcome Emily!

How long had you been writing before seeking an agent, and what made you decide it was time to look for one?
I had what appeared to be a quick start to landing an agent. The founder of a top US children’s books literary agency was on the expert panel for my Book Council Publishing Initiative where I was a winner in 2007. She said a line in my Prince Bear & Pauper Bear manuscript made her laugh, and that if you can make an agent laugh or cry, that’s a very good thing. Her agency signed me up in 2008 and marketed my story to several US publishers. It was a self-published book as part of the Initiative, and many of the publishers passed. Whilst I received positive feedback to my story, several felt the combination of artwork and text didn’t work for them and others said it was “too quiet”, amongst other comments.

With the benefit of additional grants from my Book Council, I published 3 more titles over the next two years to complete my Toy Series. I went to the Bologna Book Fair where I tried to market them directly to publishers. There, I met a foreign rights agent. Although she did not handle picture books at this time, I stayed in touch by spamming her with my occasional marketing updates. She remembered me after a year on and decided to try marketing my book. We closed a Korean translation rights deal for my Prince Bear & Pauper Bear shortly after. Following that, we closed four rights deals with more publishers in Korea, China and Malaysia for my 4 titles. My Toy Series has now sold 40,000 copies.

I became a mum shortly after and started taking on commissioned work for children’s picture books.

I started thinking about seeking an agent again after I signed up for 12 x 12 in 2013 and starting submitting to the 12 x 12 agents as a Gold Member. Seeing how everyone was so motivated with their personal and professional development made me examine my writing goals again.

What kind of research did you do before submitting?
After my first agency agreement ended, I made a list of publishers who accepted unagented work, checked out their requirements on their websites and submitted to several of them.

After I joined 12×12 in 2013, my focus changed towards getting into the momentum of writing and revising my new picture book manuscripts more actively. So, at this point, I was just trying to keep up with the Challenge and making submissions to 12×12 agents. I simply relied on Julie’s research links on the 12×12 agents which was very comprehensive.

Prince Bear & Pauper Bear by Emily LimThe dreaded questions: How many queries? How many rejections?
Let’s just say I started on a high before falling to a low. When I was first signed up by the first literary agent I met, I thought I was off to a lucky start. They submitted to about 16 US publishers who either rejected or did not respond. The US financial markets tanked shortly after. That led to the end of our agency agreement.

I went to Bologna and also wrote into publishers directly and received another 25 rejections (silence counted because those are very rejecting!). I later wrote to 9 literary agents (after looking up directories like the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market). Interestingly enough, I received zero response from the literary agents whereas I had quite a number of publishers respond back, even though they were rejections.

Was it difficult to find an agent who wanted to represent an author focusing solely on picture books?
After what appeared as a successful start, followed by a low with multiple rejections, I was fortunate to hear from an author friend writing picture books that he had he had just signed up with Jacaranda Literary Agency. He told me that they had just opened up to authors of children’s books. I was by then thinking about finding an agent again so I checked out the agency.

How did you know your agent was “the one”?
For various reasons really.

Jacaranda has 3 agents spread out in 3 locations in Asia and Europe, which makes communication easier for me given the time zones. I like that they were just opening up to children’s book authors and I would be in their pioneer batch. Being part of something new is exciting but at the same time, I get the benefit of their existing publisher relationships and experience with selling and representing authors from Asia.

I also liked a few other things from my discussions with them. For one, they are willing to work with my existing self-published titles and will market them again to publishers (as manuscripts this time round) as well as foreign rights sales. They were open to all my questions and clarifications on the contract – and I had many – and were willing to work through these with me. I also get to work with two agents!

One story that inspired me to look beyond U.S. agents was Julie’s story of signing with Hen & Ink. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she decided to go with an agency based in Europe and I appreciated her sharing her reasons for her choice. I realize that my writing and publishing path has taken a less conventional route and what I need is an agency that sees value in that, wants to work with me for that reason and can appreciate that my needs will be slightly different because of that.

If 12 x 12 helped you in any way during your agent search/development of craft, can you tell us how? (P.S. It is TOTALLY okay if the answer is no. I am not trying to “lead” you 🙂 )
12×12 has definitely made a huge difference for me in the development of my craft. I’ve been going it alone for the past few years because the Singapore market is small and only started developing in recent years. We had no SCBWI chapter until 2010 and it’s only grown in recent years. Finding 12×12 has really given me that new focus to write and revise with good momentum. The 12×12 community support and information sharing has been amazing and I don’t feel as alone anymore in my little corner of this world! To borrow Julie’s line, 12×12 is 24×7!

Has your writing process changed at all since signing with an agent?
It’s a bit early to answer as I’ve only just signed with them. But I’m sure it will as they start giving feedback to my manuscripts.

The Tale of Rusty Horse by Emily LimWhat advice would you give to picture book writers looking for agents today?
I think the most important thing is still to work on our craft and have several submission-ready manuscripts at one time. 12×12 has seen so many success stories in the past months so I believe this is the right community to be a part of because we can share and learn from each other’s acceptances and rejections from publishers and agents.

Do you think your platform (blog, social media) helped you find your agent?
My agents did mention that they liked that I have a social media presence with my blog and Facebook. But what caught their attention was my book sales and all the media support and marketing presence that I have built up over here in the past few years.

Tell us something that is on your “bucket list.” Something you’ve dreamed of doing all your life but have yet to accomplish (besides publishing a book, which is inevitable at this point 🙂 )
Hmm…that’s a tough one because I don’t have much of a bucket list. My husband and I travelled a lot when we were younger already (sort of bucket list item checked) and also went through a 10-year period of coping with a strange voice disorder I was suddenly afflicted with (Spasmodic Dysphonia – the same one as Dilbert creator Scott Adams). I recovered my voice, both literally and figuratively, when I started writing children’s books.

But since becoming full-time mum to an energetic three year old, I’m just content with just sitting at a café reading a book peacefully when my son is in preschool! Although I’ve published and also been published with indie publishers (another bucket list item checked), I suppose I have every writer’s dream that my books will travel far and wide!

What’s up next/what are you working on now?
I’m currently taking Emma Walton Hamilton’s 12-week Just Write for Middle Grade course. I’m at Week 8 and hope to use all I learn to work on my middle grade draft.

Emily has written several children’s picture books. She is the 1st outside North America to win 3 medals in children’s books at the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the world’s largest book awards, and 1st in Southeast Asia to win the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award (where she received a Gold Medal). She also received the Honorable Mention Award at Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards in 2012 and is a Finalist for SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award 2013 (Asia/India/Middle East Region). Her books have been published in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea and Indonesia, and also crossed over to animation and theatre.

Emily was named Singapore Woman Award Honoree 2013 for inspiring readers through her children’s books and her memoir Finding My Voice, based on her journey of losing her voice to a rare disorder and finding it again through writing. Over 3 years back, Emily graduated from writing for children to having one of her own. She’s full-time mum to her energetic preschooler who inspired her blog http://mummumstheword.wordpress.com/ where she blogs on mummy-ing and writing.

 

Categories: 12 x 12, Agents, Authors, Books, Children's Books, How I Got My Agent, Picture Books, Self Publishing, Social Media, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Renee LaTulippe today. I met Renee initially through my 12 x 12 challenge, and quickly discovered her talent and effervescence as a children’s poet/actress/performer. So much so that I corralled her to serve as the “Poetry Elf” for 12 x 12 these past two years, where she passes her poetic passion onto other bards to be (and already are… no not to be…).

I then got to meet Renee IN PERSON in Florence, Italy where she came to film the inaugural participants of Writer’s Renaissance performing individual poems and a group poem we wrote together. You can see all those videos in this post of her blog, No Water River. 

Renee is so full of fabulousness and vivacity that no matter how shy you are or how much fear you have about poetry, she’ll immediately set you at ease so you can experience the FUN of poetry. (Case in point is my A Lotta Gelatta poem)

Now, Renee has long been an advocate for poets and a supporter of poetry for children, but now she’s passing on her gifts in a course designed to help ALL writers write more lyrically and rhythmically in her course THE LYRICAL LANGUAGE LAB: Punching up Prose with Poetry. Because I am signed up to take this course in July, Renee gave me a sneak peek into the course and a spot in the private Facebook group.

I’ve taken quite a few writing courses in my time, and I must say it’s ASTONISHING how much learning Renee packs into this class. Whether you’ve never written a line of poetry or you’ve been writing poetry your whole life, this course will help you hone your skills as a writer so that ALL forms of your writing shine. In addition to the formal lessons, Renee provides a huge amount personal attention, teaching, and support in the Facebook group. I’ve read some “before feedback” and “after feedback” assignments from the students and the improvement is amazing.

I asked Renee if she would pop into the blog to provide a bit of wisdom and wit about poetry and why studying and “playing” with it is so important for writers of all genres. Please welcome Renee!

First a little about you.

How did you develop your passion for poetry?
I don’t think I developed it so much as it developed me. I guess I had an innate love of language, words, and wordplay. I wrote my first poem when I was seven and was immediately hooked. Putting together sounds and syllables has always been really satisfying.

I also have to point out that I had a couple of wonderful teachers to support and encourage me along the way. Without them, I probably would not have continued writing. I wrote about my early poetic adventures here.

The focus of your blog, No Water River, is reading and performing poetry out loud. Why do you think this aspect is so important?

Poetry is music and is meant to be spoken and heard and savored by ears, mouth, eyes, and bodies, and not just dissected on paper and left there with its guts hanging out. I am especially adamant about this when it comes to sharing any literature with kids – whether it’s a poem or Huck Finn – because, for me, appreciation (of language, story, character, and craft) must come first. And you just can’t do that in a chair!

My high school students rarely sat down. I ran a noisy and weird classroom. I’m pretty sure that “formal text analysis” happens naturally if you just let kids live the literature and get excited about it. I mean, who wants to analyze something she doesn’t first feel in her bones and heart? [Off soapbox, exit stage right]

So now I do poetry videos and ask other poets to do the same because I want kids to see that poetry is alive and fun and not scary, and is waiting to be slurped up with a straw.

What other genres do you write? Is poetry your favorite?

I am published in the educational market with nine award-winning leveled readers for beginning readers through fourth grade, which I co-authored with Marie Rippel. Published by All About Learning Press, these books are collections of short, illustrated, vocabulary-controlled stories that range from 100 words at the early end to 1200 words in the higher levels.

Through 12×12, I also began exploring the world of picture books and have a lot of ideas but only a few paltry drafts. They’re so hard! Why are they so hard?! Oh, and here’s an odd tidbit: although I am a poet first, I prefer prose picture books, both for writing and reading. Go figure.

And yes, I do have a special affinity for poetry because of the art itself and because it’s what comes most naturally to me. I feel at home when writing poetry, and it doesn’t make me angst-eat nearly as much chocolate as PB and short story writing does.

Okay, now on to the course.

What inspired you to create your online course, The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry? Lyrical Language Lab with Renee LaTulippe
As a full-time editor in the educational and personal development markets, I see a lot of books with good concepts but weak language. No matter what you’re writing, it has to be engaging or you will lose your audience in the first paragraph. Over the years, I’ve found myself repeating the same advice to authors: punch up your prose. Engage and delight your readers. Surprise them with unexpected turns of phrase. Keep them on their toes.

And once I started writing for young people and doing critiques, I realized that the advice is doubly important for children’s writers. I have a profound appreciation for language and craft, and a desire to impart that to others.

Many people are intimidated by poetry. How do you address that fear in the course?
Poetry schmoetry! The first thing I do is stress that the The Lyrical Language Lab is not a poetry course. The focus is on using poetic techniques to enhance your writing, not on “becoming poets,” so poetry is simply a vehicle for understanding lyrical language and how it can be applied to all writing. And most of the mentor texts are non-threatening, user-friendly children’s poems and PBs. So be not afraid, prose people!

Why do you think ALL writers need to understand poetry and poetic form, and what approach do you take to teaching it?
Poetry has so much to teach all writers, but especially PB writers. Picture books are meant to be read aloud, so using poetic techniques simply makes sense. You need to create read-aloud language that transports both children and parents into a world of imagination in as few words as possible.

Poetry is about conciseness, word choice, imagery, emotional weight, storytelling, rhythm, and sound – and so must be all texts for young people.

My approach is to
• introduce one concept per lesson
• explain it in detail through the use of mentor texts and my own “points to ponder” analysis
• show students why and how the poetic technique works
• enhance lessons with infographics to visually organize the material
• provide audio files in which I verbally demonstrate the concept

Daily assignments give students the chance to
• put the concept into practice
• write new material, with both prose and poetry options
• apply the concepts to a work in progress
• get personalized feedback

An important part of the class is the private Facebook group, where students post assignments for my feedback. I work hard to create a nurturing and encouraging environment, and to give detailed, honest feedback so students know which areas to work on.

The course is fun but challenging. No gimmicks; just solid teaching.

Is the course targeted to prose writers who want to learn to write more rhythmically or writers who want to write poetry and/or rhyming books specifically?

I designed the course with prose writers in mind, but it’s really versatile and serves all sorts of writers:

Prose writers looking to write more lyrically and enrich their writing with poetic techniques
Rhyming PB writers who would like a stronger foundation in the mechanics of poetry
• Writers who would like to learn more about writing poetry for children
• Anyone with a WIP in need of revision – the class is great for revision!

So far students have included non-fiction prose PB writers, prose and rhyming PB writers, children’s poets, and MG and YA writers, from beginner to advanced. Recently an accomplished published poet used the class to polish a new collection for submission.Ann Whitford Paul Quote

What about writers, like me, who already have a grasp of meter and writing in rhyme? Are we candidates for the course too?
While I do teach meter at the beginning of the course, it’s a small part of the whole, and all the concepts covered are beneficial to all writers. I go into enough nitty-gritty detail that I think everyone will learn something new.

But don’t just take it from me! Here’s a great article by Jane Yolen on revising for lyrical language, and some words of wisdom from Ann Whitford Paul on the need to be familiar with poetic concepts.

What do you hope your students will walk away with at the end of your course?
• The knowledge that every word we use is more than just a verb or a noun or an adjective; it’s also an emotion, an image, a sound, and a memory that can elicit a specific response from the reader.
• The skills to put that knowledge to work to make their own stories and poems more powerful and memorable.

Two questions to finish (and to satisfy my curiosity)

If you had to choose two of your No Water River poetry performances that are your favorite, which would they be?
The only full performances I do are of those poems in my Classics series. Of those, I’d say my favorites are “Jabberwocky” because of the delicious sounds and language (and the costume!) and the three witches from Macbeth because it took me fifteen hours to figure out how to get three of me talking on screen at once.

I also have a whole lot of amazing guest poets, from Joyce Sidman to J. Patrick Lewis. One of my favorite videos of all time is Janet Wong’s performance of her poem “GongGong and Susie.” What a storyteller!

You live in Italy with your husband and two children, and you are fluent in Italian. Do you think having a second language, especially one as beautiful as Italian, informs and enriches your poetry and other writing?
Definitely. As a girl, I wanted to be a multilingual interpreter, and at some point or other I’ve studied French, Portuguese, and Italian in depth and dabbled briefly in Spanish and German. And I love accents of every kind. Studying foreign languages attunes your ear to all the different cadences and nuances of speech and heightens your awareness of sounds and rhythms. Idiomatic expressions also catch my fancy and can spark new writing ideas.

And even the syntax can make me look at things in new ways. For example, in English we say “This flower is beautiful,” while in Italian the syntax is reversed: “È bello questo fiore” (It’s beautiful this flower). I have been accused of Yoda-speak when I use this syntax, but to me “It’s beautiful, this flower” says something completely different than “This flower is beautiful.”

Thanks Renee! I had to ask that last question because I SO want to learn Italian and become fluent. In my spare time – LOL. But on my recent trip for Writer’s Renaissance 2014 I learned that instead of saying “sweet dreams” to someone at bedtime, Italians say “sogni d’oro,” which translates to “dreams of gold.” Talk about a phrase that’s used the same way but says something completely different!

Thank you for this fabulous and heartfelt interview, Renee! I hope I’ll some of my readers will sign up for the Lyrical Language Lab and be classmates with me in July!! 🙂

****
Click here to learn more about The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry.

______________________________

Renée M. LaTulippe has co-authored nine early readers and a volume of poetry titled Lizard Lou: a collection of rhymes old and new (Moonbeam Children’s Book Award) for All About Learning Press, where she is also the editor, and has poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology Middle School and Science editions (Pomelo Books). She developed and teaches the online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry and creates children’s poetry videos for her blog NoWaterRiver.com. Renée holds theater and English education degrees from Marymount Manhattan College and New York University, and taught English and theater in NYC before moving to Italy, where she lives with her husband and twin boys.
Facebook: NoWaterRiver
Twitter: @ReneeMLaTulippe

Categories: Authors, Books, Childhood, Children's Books, Creativity, Guest Blogging, Poetry, Rhyming, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Uovo di Pasqua - beautifully decorated Easter eggs all over Florence

Uovo di Pasqua – beautifully decorated Easter eggs all over Florence

Happy Easter to those who celebrate!

It is hard to believe just one week ago I was writing this post from my hotel room in Florence, having wrapped up the second Writer’s Renaissance, while watching the sun sink into the Arno. I’ve spent all week being grateful for the simple existence of Florence. I “retreat” there in my mind and heart when I seek inspiration and it never, ever disappoints.

Nonetheless, my week at home was also full of riches!

Quotes on Gratitude

“An attitude of gratitude brings opportunities.” — one of my Yogi tea tags this week!

“Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture.” — Kak Sri

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” — Margaret Cousins

Gratitude list for the week ending April 19

  1. Seeing, hugging, kissing and talking with my kids. Missed them so much!
  2. For Nancy, who stayed here until Thursday, helping me with the kids while I recovered from jet lag.

    Oh The Thinks You Can Think!

    Oh The Thinks You Can Think!

  3. Finding out, very much by surprise, that I’d been upgraded to FIRST CLASS on my Paris-JFK leg on the flight home.
  4. Watching Jay sing with so much enthusiasm at his second grade Seussical show
  5. Reading Jennifer Reid’s story in this week’s Tuesday 12 x 12 post
  6. Coloring eggs with the kids
  7. Watching the 5th Harry Potter movie with Em
  8. Spring has sprung in Colorado! Green grass, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths!
  9. The chocolate eggs I brought home for my kids (ha!) from Scudieri in Florence.
  10. I wrote a poem in my head last night and REMEMBERED it when I woke up this morning so I could write it down.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Creativity, Family, Florence, Gratitude Sunday, Holidays, Italy, Poetry, Travel, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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View from the private terrace off my room. La Bella Notte a Firenza.

View from the private terrace off my room. La Bella Notte a Firenza.

I am watching a sorbet sun sink into the Arno directly from the bed of my hotel room in Florence, having successfully completed the the second annual Writer’s Renaissance. Made new lifelong friends and connected with old ones (as in time, not age :-)), so it is impossible to feel anything but deep gratitude, albeit with just a touch of sadness that it has to come to an end. But every ending is also a beginning, and I look forward to greeting spring back in Boulder.

I have only one gratitude quote for you today, which sums up the week perfectly.

“The world is made up of five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and the Florentines.” — Pope Alexander VI

“A vero,” as the Italians say. “It’s true.”

Gratitude list for the week ending April 12

  1. Enzo and Maria Ferrara, for bringing me once again into the Porcellino family and feeding me so exquisitely (and so often)!
  2. Jackie, Suzanne, Teri, Mary, and Jane – my Renaissance writers of 2014. Buona fortuna mi amici e ci vediamo a presto

    "Last Supper" in Florence. Ciao Bellas!

    “Last Supper” in Florence. Ciao Bellas!. It was a great pleasure to share “my” Florence with you, and I was honored to write with you and to hear your stories. Keep writing. Keep creating. Keep living. KEEP IN TOUCH!!

  3. Mary Hoffman, for returning once again to share her intimate knowledge of Florence and its history and her writerly wisdom. AND for putting up with a bit of tardiness from yours truly.
  4. Sarah Towle, for bringing us nose to nose with the Florence of the Medicis and “turning history on” for us.
  5. To Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Brunelleschi, and Fra Filippo Lippi for sending your ghosts to the gazebo in the form of a very
    Taglietteli con sugo di Cinghiale from Osteria del Porcellino

    Taglietteli con sugo di Cinghiale from Osteria del Porcellino

    unique play.

  6. Gelato, gelato, gelato! Nocciola, Pistachio, Bacio, Noce, Mandorla, etc. etc.
  7. To Riccardo for making me my own piece of Florentine paper and for always making such gorgeous notebooks
  8. Andrea Gagnesi for once again teaching a cooking course that was unforgettable in every way
  9. To my family, for tolerating my absence and supporting me while I run this event, which I’m sure most people think is crazy at best.
  10. SO MUCH MORE! TOO MUCH TO INCLUDE IN ONE POST! Grazie Mille Firenze!

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: Authors, Cooking, Creativity, Florence, Friendship, Gratitude Sunday, Italy, Travel, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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I’m grateful life calmed down a bit this week. I’m writing this post looking out my window at the mountains and trees all dressed in snow with a blue-sky background. To say this has been a cold winter all across the U.S. would be a gross understatement, and there is much grumbling about it on Facebook, etc. So I decided a few gratitude quotes focusing on winter might be in order. 🙂

Quotes on Gratitude

“If we had no winter, spring would not be so pleasant. If we did not sometimes taste adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” — Anne Bradstreet

“What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” — John Steinbeck

“Winter is the time for stories, staying fast by the glow of fire. And outside, in the darkness, the stars are brighter than you can possibly imagine.” — Isabel Greenberg

Gratitude list for the week ending February 1

  1. I revised a picture book manuscript I only first drafted a month ago. It seems I’ve got my writing mojo back.
  2. Homemade chicken noodle soup on cold winter nights
  3. A crackling fire to work and read by
  4. Reading Harry Potter #1 to Jay. Starting the story anew with fresh eyes, ears and heart.
  5. The generosity of support from folks after I posted ideas about how they could help in the aftermath of Rocky’s shooting.
  6. January came to an end! I’m always glad to see the back side of January, but this year in particular? Whew!
  7. Loving all of the activity and support happening through 12 x 12 already. The Forum and the Facebook group are both on fire!
  8. I leave for Florence, and Writer’s Renaissance, TWO MONTHS from today!
  9. Rocky is recovering so well, he’s practically 100% back to himself.
  10. Going outside to trudge in the snow several times a day. I have to, to take Rocky out. But it’s a great reminder of how beautiful and silent the world is in winter.

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: 12 x 12, Children's Books, Creativity, Dogs, Family, Gratitude Sunday, Italy, Picture Books, Winter, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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anti-resolutionTwo years ago I wrote a blog post that grabbed the attention and touched the heart of none other than Katie Davis, who is now one of my very best friends. It was titled, 2012 Anti-Resolution Revolution. Katie was so inspired by that post, she created her own special tool to capture her accomplishments throughout the year and evaluate them at the end. She has graciously offered to share this workbook with you – click here for more info.

Here is an excerpt from the original post:

It is so tempting to start listing all the things one wants to accomplish at the start of a New Year, but in my experience, the process (and thus the result) is flawed.

I believe the reason resolutions often don’t work is because they start from a place of lack, of negativity, of failure.  We think about all the things we weren’t happy with in the previous year and set out to “fix” them in the new one…  Lose weight = I weigh too much…  Make more money = I don’t have enough money.  Write more often = I don’t write enough

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, and achieving them is even better.  However, the goals need to be set on a strong foundation.  So I figured, why not start with what I did accomplish this year and set goals from there.  Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year, rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done..

I didn’t write a similar post in 2013, but I should have. It is CRITICAL to reflect on what you DID accomplish in the previous year. How else can you build from the base you already have? If you don’t take the time to tally up and celebrate what you’ve already accomplished, your resolutions will crumble. You’ll be starting from scratch in every category, and starting from scratch feels scary.

Here is what GOALS (vs. resolutions) look like when crafted this way. Lose weight = What did I do last year to improve my health, and what can I do to continue that progress? Make more money = How much money did I make last year, from which sources, and how can I increase output from those sources and add new ones? Write more often = What did I write this year and how am I going to use that writing in the new year while also writing new stories/articles/books, etc.?

Here’s an example from my own year. All year long, in my head, I lamented how little writing I got done. So much so that by the end of the year I was sure I’d done almost nothing. Yesterday, when I tallied it all up, I was pleasantly to find I’d written far more than I thought I had. I had written full drafts that I’d completely forgotten about. Drafts that I can continue revising and working with this year.

I am a firm believer that it takes far more courage to celebrate and compliment yourself than it does to criticize and berate yourself. So let’s get started.

Here is a list of my major professional accomplishments of 2013. 

In addition to this list, I ran the 12 x 12 challenge all year, wrote new drafts and revised existing ones, and continued to contribute to Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast. Whew! I’ll be sure to come back to this whenever I feel discouraged about how much I “don’t get done.” 🙂

Now it’s your turn to make YOUR list!

Categories: 12 x 12, A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Agents, Apps, Authors, Bologna Children's Book Fair, Brain Burps About Books, Children's Books, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, ebooks, Florence, Goals, Holidays, How I Got My Agent, Italy, PiBoIdMo, Picture Books, Publishing, Queries, SCBWI, Social Media, Storybook Apps, Travel, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Works in Progress, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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First completed illustration for My Love for You is the Sun

First completed illustration for My Love for You is the Sun

The highlight of this week was doing an all-day visit at my kids’ elementary school. I shared the print version of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and both apps. I’ve never had so much concentrated interaction with readers before, nor so much feedback on the books from their actual audience. What a blast! Plus, after spending a full day in the library, my appreciation for and awe of librarians and teachers has increased exponentially. So this week’s gratitude quotes are dedicated to them.

Quotes on Gratitude

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” — Carl Jung

“A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.” — Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”  — Thurgood Marshall

Gratitude list for the week ending November 9

  1. Receiving Susan Eaddy’s first completed illustration for MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN. So beautiful it took my breath away!
  2. Doing an all-day school visit on Wednesday. There is nothing quite like watching children enjoy your books!
  3. Running into a little girl two days later who ran up to me and said, “You’re an author. You came to my school this week! I loved your books!”
  4. My Kickstarter campaign to fund MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN was approved! We launch (UPDATE: NOW LAUNCHED!) on Tuesday at 2:00 EDT!
  5. My “Crowdfunding Crew,” who put lots of time in this week to give me feedback on the campaign page and video. Plus for keeping me sane!
  6. My whole extended family – for providing the “source” for MLFY is the SUN.
  7. Plumbers, Heating & Cooling Techs, Cable Guys and all the other hard-working people who help keep my home running smoothly. 🙂
  8. My in-person critique partners, who talked me out of my terror during our meeting on Friday 🙂

    Writer's Renaissance alumni Esther Hershenhorn, Margit Liesche & Carolyn Crimi meet in Chicago to help launch Triptych

    Writer’s Renaissance alumni Esther Hershenhorn, Margit Liesche & Carolyn Crimi meet in Chicago

  9. Three of my Writer’s Renaissance 2013 alumni met up in Chicago for as part of a book tour for one of their books — TRIPTYCH by Margit Liesche. They celebrated book publications (TXTNG MAMA, TXTNG BABY for Esther Hershenhorn) and a book sale for children’s author Carolyn Crimi. They sent me a photo and a lovely note. It makes me so happy to know that the friendships forged in Florence last April are not only alive and well, but thriving.
  10. Chicken noodle soup

What are you grateful for this week?

Categories: A Shiver of Sharks, A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Books, Crowdfunding, Family, Florence, Gratitude Sunday, Italy, Publishing, Storybook Apps, Writer's Renaissance, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Now available everywhere books are sold!

Now available everywhere books are sold!

Well, despite being down with a cold and an eye infection, this has been a banner week! I celebrated the official print release of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, for starters. Read on for more!

Quotes on Gratitude

“Gratitude opens the door to… the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. Gratitude opens the door.” — Deepak Chopra

“Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.” — Tony Robbins

“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” — Maya Angelou

Gratitude list for the week ending October 19

  1. A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is now available at Amazon and all bookstores!
  2. I am an “official” author at Amazon! Check out my new author page.
  3. I have been making videos for various purposes all week and am once again grateful to Katie Davis for her Video Idiot
    I'm an Amazon Author!

    I’m an Amazon Author!

    Boot Camp class. Taught me everything I know!

  4. My housekeeper/life manager Laurie Mekelberg returned after a month of surgery recovery. She was SO missed and any illusion I might have had that I can get by without her is completely gone.
  5. Gorgeous fall weather and colors, plus the first snowfall!
  6. Cold enough for bubble bath season to begin
  7. Getting some legal issues taken care of. Not sexy, but necessary, and it’s a relief to be done.
  8. Visiting some of the cutest dogs and puppies known to humanity at the Humane Society. I wanted to take them ALL home!
  9. Writer’s Renaissance 2014 met its minimum number of participants, so I’ll be going to Florence again in April!
  10. Everything is in place for me to make a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT about my next publishing project tomorrow!!! Stay tuned. All the details will be right here tomorrow. 🙂

What are you grateful for this week?

Puppies

How can your spirits not be lifted when there are puppies in the world this cute?

Categories: A Troop is a Group of Monkeys, Dogs, Florence, Gratitude Sunday, Picture Books, Publishing, Video Idiot Boot Camp, Writer's Renaissance · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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