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Dear Diary

Oct. 25th, 2010 12:44 pm Announcement

I'm no longer blogging here (or anywhere), but I have been using the livejournal sign in to comment occasionally on other people's blogs.

I'd love to connect with other kid-lit lovers and writers @kelcrocker via Twitter. Find me here.

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May. 13th, 2007 01:14 pm Plot=Trouble

Although I enjoy and can appreciate all genres of literature for children and teens, I tend to lean toward contemporary YA fiction. That's probably the reason I hesitated, until now, to begin the much-ballyhooed His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I knew I'd read it some day, but why hurry?

And then some librarians on the YALSA listserve began talking about the forthcoming The Golden Compass movie (December '07) and how its website had this fun little quiz that found your daemon. I didn't know what a daemon was, of course, but I sure wanted to know what mine was. And it's a tiger, it turns out, which I think is great, especially since I got my undergrad degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. (Go, tigers!) And the website looked really interesting. So when, shortly after that, I found myself loaded down with books at the library, I stopped by the P's just to sort of see . . . and picked up The Golden Compass.

When my guys asked me what I wanted to do for Mother's Day today, I said "just finish my book." And I did. Wow! I'm not a big fantasy reader, but I loved this book. I can't wait for the others.

It really reminded me about the writing adage that plot=trouble. It can be very, very difficult to allow bad things to happen to your beloved main character. And yet . . . that's story. I'm especially guilty of letting a little bit bad happen . . . and then allowing my character to rescue herself . . . fairly easily, I'm afraid. A wonderful teacher of mine talked about how important it is to be hard on our characters.

And it also occurred to me as I was going to sleep last night that in reading The Golden Compass, my world has expanded. That may sound cheezy, and I can't really explain it, but I'm bigger, my world is bigger—and better—having read that book.

That's what books can do, and that's amazing. Better late than never for me, eh?

Current Mood: awed

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May. 6th, 2007 08:54 pm Three GOOD Things

1. "Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend" by carriejones. I just ached with Belle. She and the other characters are so alive! I want to do this.

2. "Shark Girl" by Kelly Bingham, who, like the fabtabulous carriejones, is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. How did she write so convincingly about what it's like to be a 15-year-old artist who loses her arm in a shark attack? Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations has a great interview with Kelly here: http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/ (See the April 25 entry.)

3. Have you heard about GOOD, the magazine? I had dinner with a friend last night, and she brought two issues to show me. I love the magazine's philosophy, plus, I was blown away by its innovative design and unusual approaches to providing information. (The design is edgy and serves the content. Amazing.) And, for now at least, they're offering one-year subscriptions (six issues) for $20, and, get this: They are donating the entire twenty bucks to one of 11 charities of the subscriber's choice. They're pledging to give away $1 million to charities ranging from Unicef, the Wildlife Fund USA, Teach for America. I gave mine to Room to Read, which builds and stocks schools and libraries in developing areas around the world.

Here's a bit from their "about us" section on their website:

Welcome to GOOD, media for people who give a damn

We see a growing number of people tied together not by age, career, background, or circumstance, but by a shared interest. This revolves around a passion for potential mixed with fierce pragmatism and creative engagement. We sum all this up as the sensibility of giving a damn. But to shorten it, let's call it GOOD. We're here to push this movement and cover its realization.

While so much of today's media is taking up our space, dumbing us down, and impeding our productivity, GOOD exists to add value. Through a print magazine, feature and documentary films, original multimedia content and local events, GOOD is providing a platform for the ideas, people, and businesses that are driving change in the world.

Current Location: my office (finally)
Current Mood: hopefulhopeful

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Apr. 16th, 2007 09:58 pm Honest Writing

Have you been watching PBS' 11-part series, America at the Crossroads? I saw part of one episode last night that looked at Osama Bin Laden, and I happened to see the second of two shows tonight, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience. The show featured poetry, a graphic novel, fiction, nonfiction and essays by current and former soldiers.

I'm so sad—their sacrifice is unimaginable—and again I'm reminded of what I understood at a visceral level when I read Tim O'Brien's "Going After Cacciato" in college: That no matter how "just" a war is (or is not), what it does to people is awful. I'm also struck again by the strength and power of direct, clear, honest writing.

My heart also goes out to Blacksburg, Virginia, to all who are hurting. The tragedy is unfathomable.

Current Location: living room
Current Mood: sadsad

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Apr. 9th, 2007 11:39 am Trying to curb nastiness in the blog-o-sphere

The NYTimes reports that some high-powered techsters are proposing various guidelines for responding to blogs. How sad that this is even necessary! Here's the story.

The online forums I'm involved in seem to be filled with people who express their opinions without putting others down—or getting all violent, for example—for thinking differently. (What a concept. Interesting, too, that these forums are full of writers for kids and teens.) I was surprised when I posted something fairly innocuous on another forum recently and got a lot of vitriolic responses. I don't know what's wrong with people these days? (Gah! Moving the purple bracelet to the other wrist.) Read the story . . . it's shocking the amount of bullying that high-profile bloggers are experiencing.

Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated

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Apr. 3rd, 2007 03:26 pm Robert San Souci Sightings + GATORS WIN!

Well, I didn't drive The Famous Visiting Author yesterday after all. I arrived at school in my fresh-smelling (old) car at the appointed time and discovered that he'd left a couple of hours earlier. Apparently he'd finished early and understandably wanted to rest up at the hotel before his evening session—Sundaes with San Souci—at the school, and no one remembered to call me.

No biggie. I'd rather have too many drivers than an author stranded. But I was a little disappointed not to spend some one-on-one time with such a pro (95 books published, two more sold and counting). So was M. Fortunately, he's one of the students who get to eat a sack lunch with San Souci during his weeklong visit.

San Souci kicked things off at school yesterday with separate slide show introductions for the younger and older kids and meetings with the morning and afternoon kindergartens. That evening, families came to school eat ice cream and hear him speak. He's was as charming as literaticat said he was.

He focused a lot on process and showed several examples of drafts. One of the things he talked about was the experience of working with Disney to write Mulan—50 rewrites and a contract that stretches beyond the known universe and to (or, perhaps, beyond) the end of time.

He said he recently spent three days in Ohio and visited 15 schools. We are *thrilled* that he is spending an entire week at our's. I'm not sure what the cost is, but I believe it is completely or mostly paid for by the parent-teacher organization, through many fundraisers. San Souci visited the school years ago—they figured out that this year's high school seniors were kindergartners then—and he was a huge success.

Apparently his first visit to Iowa also was a boon for him because he learned about our long-ago, local heroine Kate Shelley and ended up publishing a picture book about her. (This is the kind of thing where you're sitting in the audience thinking, "Dang! I should have written about her.")

Today he met individually with four grade levels and tonight he's making a presentation at the Clive Public Library. I sat in on his fifth-grade presentation today, so I don't know if I'll make it tonight.

* * *

After San Souci's evening program yesterday, we rushed home to cheer on the Florida Gators in their second National Championship in a row. (I've always told people that being a Gator by marriage is my cross to bear. That's because Gator fans, such as my dear spouse, are SERIOUS. But it's actually been fun to follow the team—especially after seeing them win their Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games last year in Minneapolis.) Basketball is the one sport all of us in the family enjoy.

I have to admit that I have a bit of a crush on Joakim Noah (and, yes, I'm probably old enough to be his mom. Eeeek!) But I was dying at something he said last night, after the victory. This isn't going to be a perfect quote, but it's close. I'm assuming he's talking about celebrating. He told the interviewer: "We're going to do it big. We're going to be doing it all day and all night. You don't even know what I'm talking about. We're going to do it huge." Love that enthusiasm! You don't even know!

Current Mood: ecstaticecstatic

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Apr. 1st, 2007 05:34 pm Driving Mr. Author Man

I've been blown away by what my son's elementary school has been doing to prepare for a weeklong visit by children's author Robert San Souci, starting tomorrow. I can brag because I've had absolutely nothing to do with it. (For some reason, the link isn't working. Here's San Souci's website: http://www.rsansouci.com/index.htm )

Apparently he doesn't like to drive when he visits an area, so parents and staff have signed up to take him places. I'm supposed to pick him up after school tomorrow and drive him to his hotel in a neighboring suburb. I'm a little freaked. Will have to get the wet dog smell out of the car.

My 10 year old son, M, was shocked to hear that I would be driving The Author. "He's going to be in our car?" he asked. I think he was surprised that it was legal for a mere civilian to drive a Real Live Author somewhere. (Don't authors ride in limos?) Plus, he's a bit embarrassed about our 10 year old car, which is actually our "new one." We had a long talk a year or so ago about how, instead of a new car, our family was buying mom an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Woohoo! (Far less pollution. )

I really want to share the preparations that they've done, which I think might be helpful to many of you out there, BUT this is already too long. So I'll be checking in through the week about various aspects of the visit.

Unless something goes horribly awry with my new, one-time role as author chauffeur.

Current Location: kitchen
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Current Music: hubbie cooking dinner!

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Mar. 22nd, 2007 04:55 pm You are invited: Cyber Birthday Party!

Tomorrow is saraharonson's birthday, but I'll be on the road for about 12 hours. So I'm sending out this invite a bit early. Come to a party for her here!

I've got party hats and noise makers. A wooden pole for doin' the limbo. I've programmed the iPod with all your favorites, including "Play That Funky Music" for the Birthday Babe.

Dig in to the delicious appetizers. (You can bring more, if you have time to make or pick up something, but don't worry about it, we have plenty). There's a big tumbler of Macallan's for the Birthday Girl and anyone else who wants one, plus icy margaritas, nice reds and whites and, of course, still and bubbly water and other non-alcoholic liquids for those of you who keep it straight or are driving. There's a table for dancing and a chandelier for swinging.

Come early, stay late! Celebrate spring and Sarah!

BYOH (bring your own haiku. Thanks to jbknowles and the birth of carriejones for the cool idea.)

To kick it off . . .

Sarah A.

Loves her kids and M.
Purple glasses and red hair
Huge laugh, bigger heart.

Don't ever give up.
Focus on Craft: write, write, write,
She pulls me forward.

Fiery passion
Ignores gravity—and jumps.
Buy "Head Case" this fall!

Love you, S!

P.S. I have this huge fear of throwing parties...even cyber ones, and Sarah doesn't know I'm doing this, so PLEASE COME! :-)

Current Location: kitchen—in Florida!
Current Mood: ecstaticecstatic
Current Music: cnn

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Mar. 13th, 2007 09:15 am Bong Hits 4 Jesus: The US Supreme Court Will Hear a Landmark Student Free Speech Case

What's Kenneth Starr been up to? Apparently opposing a high school kid with a . . . a . . . oh my God, no! A . . . sign!

I've always been proud that three Des Moines students—protesting the Vietnam War—stood their ground in the case that led to the landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found students (and teachers, by the way) do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

On Monday, the justices will hear this latest case. (I wish I felt better about the make up of the current court.) Read the Washington Post story about the kid with the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" sign here.

Current Mood: mischievousmischievous

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Mar. 8th, 2007 03:18 pm Yay! An article about YA that seems actually researched

Teens buying books at fastest rate in decades
New 'golden age of young adult literature' declared

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/books/306531_teenlit08.html

An excerpt:

Fantasy and graphic novels are especially hot, and adventure, romance, humor and gritty coming-of-age tales remain perennial favorites. In addition, racy series such as "The Gossip Girls"—often likened to a teen "Sex and the City"— have created a buzz.

More notably, though, there's a new strain of sophistication and literary heft as publishers cater to the older end of the spectrum with books that straddle teen and adult markets.

Seattle Post Intelligencer reporter Cecelia Goodnow gets it right.

Current Mood: pleasedpleased

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