Friday, February 26, 2016

Today I went next door to post.

Right now I am swamped with projects coming up: My student's art show next month (17 artist's statements to type up); a review of a nifty Sherlock-related book next week (here). And a get-away two nights at our favorite area, Pacific Grove.

Plus, I'm seriously behind in my post for Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish, so today I posted next door about what's been on my mind for the last two or three weeks: Springtime in Sacramento. So beautiful. You can go next door to see some photos.

Meanwhile, have a nice week, and I'll be back posting here next Friday.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A School Visit and Wonderful Memories

I'm celebrating an author visit two days ago at Elder Creek Elementary School where I taught sixth grade for many years before I retiring to write full time. It was nostalgic to be on campus again as a visiting author, discussing my middle grade mystery, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, set in Victorian London. (See pictures below.)

First a reminder that this blog hop is co-sponsored by Lexa Cain @ Lexa Cain , L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog, who co-host this "Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. You can go to any of these sites to get all the links and add your name to the links. 

It wasn't my first author visit to Elder Creek. A few years ago I was invited to address a large assembly of intermediate grades after my first book, a fantasy called The Fourth Wish, was published. But that visit was rather formal. I gave a little speech, then students brought up their prepared questions, and I answered them--all of this over a microphone to a sea of attentive faces. 

Wednesday's visit was cozier: I went to six different classrooms (a couple of which had doubled up, with one class joining another, so I talked to 8 classes through the day.) Each visit was broken into three parts: 1. Sketching in aspects of the Victorian Era and the conditions in which the story unfolds. 2. Reading a chapter from the book. 3. Answering questions about the book and about writing.

I particularly enjoyed telling them about the Victorian Era, focusing on the differences in education then and now: differences between educating rich children and poor children; differences between education for boys and education for girls. I touched on mudlarks, and hackney cabs, and the fact that Sherlock Holmes relied on telegrams instead of the telephone. (My book involves Sherlock Holmes.) 

Quite a few of the students like to write, and they had interesting questions for me: Where do I get my story ideas? How do I figure out what a character is like? Have any authors inspired me? Do I ever get "stuck"? Do I identify with any of my characters? How long does it take me to write a book? How many revisions do I make? We talked about the value of writing groups, too, and I encouraged them strongly to get together with friends who like writing. Some of them wanted to know if I would read their work if they sent it to me through a teacher. (I said, "Sure!" It's easy to arrange, too; some of my teaching friends are still there.) 

All in all, it was a wonderful day. I sold some books after school, but the real thrill was seeing so many eager writers-in-the-making. Here are some pictures taken in one of the fifth-grade classrooms. 

Even though I'm no longer teaching full time (I teach an art class at a community center one day a week), I love working with young people. They give me great faith in the future.

What are you celebrating today? If you are an author, do you make school visits? If you like young people, what do you like most to share with them?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Celebrating Two Good Reads

It's celebration time again, and I'm celebrating two good reads -- one based in Victorian London, the other based in Belle Epoque Paris.

But first a reminder that this fun blog hop is co-sponsored by Lexa Cain @ Lexa Cain , L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog, who co-host this "Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. You can go to any of these sites to get all the links and add your name to the links. 

The Victorian London read is a scientific picture book for children, BURN, by Darcy Pattison. It's a distilling, so to speak, of a Christmas lecture for children given by Michael Faraday in 1848 at the Royal Institution in Victorian London. I found this a delightful book, thoroughly engrossing, one adults will enjoy as much as children. It would be a lovely addition to an elementary classroom, both for the scientific emphasis and Faraday's approach to experiments, and for a glimpse of Victorian England -- Peter Willis's  quirky illustrations show how people dressed in the era.
(Darcy Pattison also has an interesting website about writing, called, Fiction Notes .

The second  book is a mystery, Murder on the Eiffel Tower, by Claude Inner (a pen name used by two sisters who are book sellers on the banks of the Seine.) By now, most of you know I love mysteries, and I am entranced by anything to do with Belle Epoque Europe. Especially France. Even more especially, Paris. This mystery immerses a reader beautifully in the time and place -- although I have a quibble with how the murderer and the murderer's motive was revealed at the end. (No spoilers here, because others may find the ending just right.) This is the first of a series, so a reader can plan on more journeys through 19th century Paris. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a website for the author(s).

I would recommend either book, depending on your interests. Meanwhile, check out the other links on this blog hop, and have a great week-end and a great week.

What are you celebrating today?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Celebrating Art Again

Today I'm celebrating my after school Art Club again. But first, kudos to Lexa Cain @ Lexa Cain , L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog, who co-host this "Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. You can go to any of these sites to get all the links and add your name to the links. 

About the Art Club: This year I have students from age 6 to age 14, and we meet each Thursday for an hour an a half. The first fifteen to twenty minutes are the lesson, which includes a little information about the artists we study, painting and drawing styles and terms, and use of the materials we are handling. 

Every Thursday I leave the house and drive to the community center, somewhat torn about the long afternoon  (thirty-minutes set-up, an hour clean-up, an hour and a half lesson and application.) Every evening I drive back home, thoroughly renewed, restored, and so happy I teach this class. The kids are so responsive and give art their best. Their energy revitalizes me (a great change from being hunched over my computer). And these are some of the sweetest kids you will ever meet. 

Yesterday's lesson, in honor of Black History Month and Dr. King was focused on the art of William H. Johnson, a twentieth-century African-American artist who studied in Paris and was influenced by modernism. Also a few other artists African-American artists of his era. Here are a few more samples of what they did yesterday:

These were done with oil pastels and colored pencils on pastel paper. Next week we will be using bamboo brushes and watercolors to celebrate Asian New Year.

And next month, we will have an art exhibit at University Art. The students keep portfolios and select what they consider their best work to show. If you are in the Sacramento Area, I hope you will come by. (I'll post more information later on Facebook.)

I hope you have enjoyed your visit, and I'll be visiting your blogs to join in your celebrations. Have a great day. And have a great week-end!