Happy March! There is something about this month that signals Spring to me. Here in Atlanta, March seems to burst forth with blooms (and pollen) and Lenten Roses,  redbuds, daffodils, (pollen) and cherry blossoms. Oh, and did I mention pollen? It is also my Dad’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Daddy!

With the rebirth of so much life, so much color and so much warmth, March seems like the perfect time to start something fresh. Over at one of the blogs I follow, Three Cats on a Sofa, Susan has declared that march be “no more excuses month” for anyone who wishes to participate. Ohhhhhhh!  I just  love a challenge, and the timing is perfect, because at my writers conference this past weekend, I told myself, “self, you need to get off your ass and work on your children’s stories!” I write everyday. I do. Between 2 blogs (this one and a second chance), my Examiner site and my Bellaonline site, plus facebook (of which I am an addict) and emails, i write all day long.  And yet, somehow, I find myself, at the end of the day, having not written a thing toward my biggest goal, my children’s books. So, here goes nothing! NO MORE EXCUSES!!!!!

Are you interested in taking part with us and challenging yourself to make “no more excuses” in March? If so, what are you going to work on?  Please share in a comment and let’s see how many people we can get to join this great challenge.

This weekend in Atlanta, I attended my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference.  Dubbed “Spring Mingle”, it is the Southeast members yearly big whoop-dee-do. Since I’ve only recently decided to write children’s books, it was the perfect introduction into the world of the craft. There were so many amazing attendees present, writers, illustrators, presenters, and published authors.

My favorite part of the conference was a critique of my picture book (manuscript only, I’m not an illustrator) by an editor and writer that has published over 50 children’s books of her own.

The critique was optional. For $40, anyone could send in their work for a one on one, 15-minute critique.  I had done this in the past for a non-fiction book that I had been working on, and it did not go very well. This one was so markedly better. For one thing, I wasn’t nearly as nervous. My critiquer put me at ease, and we actually had a lot in common. She also gave me both written and verbal suggestions to strengthen my work, but overall had many positive things to say about it. YAY!

During the conference, there was a lot of buzz among participants about the growing popularity of kindle and e-readers.  This has been of growing concern to writers of all genres over the last couple of years. Will books, much like record albums, become a novelty item from the past?  Will all of our reading, from news to magazines to books be electronic in the near future?

I know of several friends already that get their news delivered online. I also have a few friends that utilize kindle. Like in most things hi-tech, I am a hold-out. I like my newspaper in the morning, along with my coffee and cereal. I don’t mind that black newsprint rubs off on my forearms and finger tips. There is something about the whoosht of getting the folds out of the opened paper that puts me at ease.

Books? I love the feel of the pages in my hands, the smell of an old favorite on my nightstand. And in the children’s book world, specifically picture books, I can’t imagine them being confined to a small electronic screen. I want to point to the pictures, so colorful and vivid, hearing the feedback from the children hearing them and looking at the pictures. I can’t imagine a mother sitting with her child in her lap learning to read on a tablet. It’s just not right.

Kindle and E-readers have their advantages, though. One that is important to me is the fact that they take no paper to add to pollution or the hacking of our trees. They take up less room in your purse, and you can load hundreds of books on them for a mere $10.00 a pop. All huge bonuses.

But what do you do when a newer, shinier version comes out? Electronic waste is a huge problem, and I don’t want to contribute to it. ( I resell or pass my books along to other readers).

Here is an older post I came across this week about the subject.  It’s an ongoing hot topic.

What are your thoughts about pulp-y books vs. e-books? Have you made the switch? Are you a resister? Add a comment and share your thoughts.

Ok, so, as some of you know, I am working on writing a children’s picture book. It’s a sweet, uplifting little book that features the newest addition to our family, Chance the dog, as the protagonist.  (Click here to read his blog)

As you also may know, I don’t have kids. Nope, never really wanted them. In fact, at the age of oh, say, 13, I made the announcement that I would never have children. I think this may be because that’s about when I started being big-time rebellious in my teeny-tiny hometown of  Harlan, Ky. and my mother “threatened” me with words I will never forget. “You just WAIT until you have a teenage daughter!” Yes, it was those words, repeated over a period of several years, that convinced me that I would never give her the satisfaction of letting those words come to fruition.    And honestly, I never regretted my decision to remain child-free.  I’ve never been one of those “oh, a baby! Let me hold him,”  kind of people. Take ’em or leave ’em. Shoulder shrug. No big deal.  Ahhh, but I digress…

Now, at 51, I realize that in order to attain interest in my hidden gem, my soon to be discovered blockbuster debut, that I need a platform on which to stand. And that platform better damn well be related to children.  So, having none of my own, and no nieces or nephews in the picture, where am I going to find little ones that will appreciate my genius?

Rewind a couple of months. While checking out children’s picture books at our public library, I asked the librarian if they had a children’s reading program. It just so happens that their reader left in the fall, and they were looking for someone to replace her. Jackpot! Bingo! I gave her my card, the main branch manager called me, and voila– I am now the Tuesday morning reading lady.

So now I have anywhere from 20-40  1 to 3 year olds that single file into my reading room every week, sit attentively at my feet and listen to whatever stories I have picked out for them that week.  Well, being as my book is about a dog, I typically choose at least one book per session that revolves around a dog, and they eat it up!  (They especially like when I use my “voices” to recreate the dialogue  of the different characters.)  Back in Junior high school, I was into storytelling, and won some regional awards for my re-creation of “The Grandfather Tales” stories in competitions. I’ve always been a storyteller, I just needed an audience. Now I have it. A captive audience, but an audience, nonetheless.

So in the process of gaining a “platform” by volunteering at the library, which began as a purely selfish act, I have come to look forward to my time spent with these little ones.  I love to see their faces light up when they recognize a specific creature on the pages. We have fun practicing the sound a frog, or a dog, or a hog makes.  And when they become restless between stories, we stand up and sing and dance, and I like that, too.   It’s funny how things work out that way.

Sailing with Chance

Some of you know that  I have recently begun writing a children’s book. This is new to me, as the focus of my writing in the past has been centered around travel–travel memoirs, product reviews, how-to’s and the like.  I am editor of the European Travel Site over at Bellaonline.com and also contribute to a couple of other online sites.  I actually have a VERY rough draft for my crazy, off-the-wall travel memoir stuffed under my bed. I just lost interest.

You may also know that recently, well, about 6 months ago, I became a foster failure and adopted a new doggy-member into our family, making a total of 3 dogs.   Our home has been so full of life these past months, and Chance has brought new life to my oldest dog, Kismet, who, at almost 13 is slowing down a bit.  It is heartwarming to have 3 dogs cuddling on the couch with me, running to the door upon my arrival (even if I’ve just gone to the mailbox), and yes, sharing the bed with HK and me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So a while back, I started toying with the idea of incorporating Chance into my children’s book.  Originally, my main character was Willy and the Boyz, but, after tossing that around in my head, I figured kids might not be able to relate to a napkin holder too well. Kinda hard to warm up to, ya know?

But Chance, now he’s another story altogether. He’s already got the personality, I just give it a voice.  And it’s fun! Children’s books are a completely different genre for me, especially since I never had kids.  I’ve been spending lots of time in book stores and at the library, getting a feel for wha’t’s popular. I think the main thing is that I’m feeling enthusiastic about this new project. So we’ll see where this goes. Wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted.