(interview by CWG President Sheila Wright)

Sheila: Hello, Margie, and welcome to The Writer’s Journey!

Margie: Hi, Sheila – great to reconnect again, and thanks for having me!

Sheila: I thought that I would start off our interview by letting readers know how we met. You and I had the opportunity to attend the Highlights Foundation publishing workshop hosted by Clay Winters in 2008. I believe that you were still working on your recently published Merinda and the Magic Mirror manuscript at that time. (more…)

You can now follow CWG news and events on Twitter as well as Facebook! @CWGORG

Hope to connect with you there!

Happy National Book Lover’s Day, Everyone! We hope that your weekend is “booked” with great reading!

An editorial by CWG President/Co-Founder, Sheila Wright

As cofounders of The Children’s Writer’s Guild (CWG), my husband Jack and I have worked for the past six years with writers wishing to develop their craft in the field of children’s literature. We have had the opportunity to watch both aspiring and seasoned writers grow beyond their own expectations and to enjoy the fellowship that comes from shared writing experiences. As co-facilitators of our Guild’s local manuscript critique groups, we have over the years consistently offered our members the same sound advice: read widely in the field of children’s publishing, stick with the critique process (which includes editing the work of others), join SCBWI (Society for Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators), attend professional writing workshops and conferences, etc. However, this important checklist (short of a MFA in Children’s Literature) always left me personally with an unsatisfied desire to offer something more in support of those struggling to be published. Recently, I found that “something,” and it can be summed up in two words: Highlights Foundation.

(more…)

Interview by Anne Mazer

To me no man is himself; he is the sum total of his past. . .–William Faulkner

There are many reasons why I am a writer. I would say that the need to write came from the sudden death of my father when I was six and the upheaval of family and the ensuing poverty—not immediately, but certainly by my middle grade and high school years. But I ALSO became a writer because of teachers.

First there was my mean 2nd grade teacher, Miss Lampart. She wasn’t only mean, she was terrifying, somewhat like the teacher in Roald Dahl’s book Matilda. She wore spiky heels and There are lots of jangly bracelets; she had big red lips and long, red, very sharp fingernails, which she often dug into the cheeks of little second graders. At least she dug them into mine! Nearly every morning of second grade, when it was time for school, I’d tell my mother that I was sick and should stay home. Mostly, she made me go to school, but I got really good at play-acting illness and did stay home a lot. One day, Miss Lampart made me stay in at recess to write a story or poem to go along with my drawing of a rabbit. My best friend stayed in with me and encouraged me, “Hurry up and write something! Recess will be over,” she told me. I held my head and moaned, “I can’t think of anything to write,” I said. “Just write something!” she told me. So faced with my first deadline, I wrote a poem because a story was too many words. The poem turned out to be my first published piece, thanks to Miss Lampart. She was still mean, but I wouldn’t have had that wonderful feeling of accomplishment without her. So it was that ART got me into writing, and then it was MUSIC that taught me how to keep going.

I started playing the violin in fifth grade, and by sixth grade I thought I was getting pretty good. Not as good as Irene Wetzelberg the Concertmistress of the orchestra, but not bad. Then my music teacher taped me playing an etude from a Samual Applebaum book. I sounded like a screechy cat fight and wanted to end my failed career as a violinist. My music teacher wouldn’t let me. Thank you, Mr. Pierce, because I did keep practicing and I did get better! I ended up becoming the Concertmistress in high school, but if I had quit I never would have known or believed that I could do that! I learned that playing an instrument is a process, much the same way that learning to write is a process. You don’t start out writing publishable prose. At least I didn’t, but I knew that if I kept working at it I’d get better. If I’d quit the violin in sixth grade, I don’t think that I’d have become successful as a writer or have a book with my name on it. I am a writer because someone believed in my talent and wouldn’t let me quit. Believing in myself then was very very hard for me, but, now, fortunately, it’s only about every other day.

Later on there were others—my senior English teacher, Mrs. Chamberlin who submitted a poem of mine that was published, and Patricia Reilly Giff, who read an early attempt of mine and told me, “Oh, you are a writer!” Of course, I believed her and kept writing and writing and writing for ten more years before my first book contract came for Annie’s Choice.

Today I write historical fiction. I love to read history and to research, but what I really love are people. Not just people living now, but people who were alive before I was born. I want to know what they wore, what they did from jobs to favorite pastimes, how their lives were like mine and how they differed. I’ve been told that what I write isn’t really historical fiction because I don’t connect my stories to famous people or important historical events like war, for example. But what is more important than people in everyday life going about their business and creating the real fabric of our society? They are the people I want to capture, the people I want to put in my books.

Tall Tales of PurplelandA hearty congratulations to CWG member Robert Peyser, whose book Tall Tales of Purpleland is now available on Amazon.

“This Is Not My Hat” is a very simple book. The characters are a big fish, a small fish, a lobster, a hat and a very thick bed of seaweed.

The small fish takes the big fish’s hat while he is sleeping and swims away with it. The small fish thinks he will be able to keep the hat and the big fish will not notice it is missing.

When the big fish wakes up and notices his hat is gone, the chase begins. The small fish passes a lobster on a rock and heads towards a thick bed of seaweed where he could hide.

The big fish swims the same path as the small fish, passes the lobster (the lobster points to where the small fish went) and swims into the seaweed. The big fish comes out of the seaweed with his hat.

Most of the chase is pictures. No words are needed to see where the fish are going. Only the small fish has a speaking part and the reader will be able to tell what the big fish and lobster are doing by their actions.

I enjoyed this book very much because of its simple pictures and how a picture can explain what is going on without any words.

The first Chautauqua East launched this past week at Highlights in the Poconos! I was fortunate to have attended, and you are invited to return online in August to read my full account of the best writer’s event that I have ever experienced!

See you in August!

Sheila Wright
President/Cofounder
The Children’s Writer’s Guild

The Invisible Boy
Written by Trudy Ludwig
Illustrated by Patrice Barton

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton brings a new perspective on acceptance. What makes this story stand out is that acceptance is also necessary for the individual who has a quieter presence amongst a group. Brian, the boy who is hardly noticed, is depicted with meaningful illustrations that captivates the importance of acceptance to young readers. While most of the pictures are in color, Brian is illustrated in black and white since he goes unseen and is excluded by his classmates. The story continues to show how much Brian goes through the school day and is completely unnoticed. When a new student comes to school, Brian realizes that maybe being new and different is harder than being “invisible”. The Invisible Boy is an eloquent story to teach all readers, young and old, how one person can make a difference with finding acceptance for others and oneself.

For our inaugural edition of the Kids on Kids’ Books blog series, Gabe T. has kindly and expertly reviewed the award-winning Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Nine-year old Gabe lives with his mother and father in California. He enjoys field trips, creating great music on piano and violin, playing tennis, hanging out with friends and family, and spending time with his awesome pets. He read the whole book in just three days! A big thank you from CWG for your review and your enthusiasm.

And without further ado, we give you Gabe’s response to the DiCamillo’s Tale of Despereaux.

The Tale of Despereaux was written from the points of view of four characters – Despereaux, Princess Pea, Roscuro and Miggey Sow. The best saying in the book was when Gregory the old jailer told Despereaux that stories are light and that light is precious in a world so dark. The Tale of Despereaux was a good book because it had realistic characters, a cool castle, knights with swords and an interesting plot.

The character Despereaux is a mouse. He can talk which was not realistic. But what was realistic was the way Despereaux’s heart hurt, when, the Mouse Council and even his dad cast him out. That’s why the character of Despereaux was realistic because everyone has a heart, even animals. Princess Pea was realistic because even though she did not like it that Miggery Sow and Roscuro threatened her, she still had empathy for them. She was kind to people and animals. Roscuro was realistic because he had a good side and a bad side. Miggery Sow was realistic because even though she was poor and had no family she still had hopes and dreams.

The castle was cool because it had an upper area where all of the royalty, knights and servants lived. It had a throne room and a banquet hall with a long table where everyone would eat soup, until it was outlawed. Behind the castle walls lived the mouse community. The castle also had a deep, deep dungeon. Hardly anyone ever came back from there. There was a place called Ratville in the dungeon where Roscuro and the other rats lived.

In the book there were lots of knights. Knights chased Roscuro the rat when he fell in the Queen’s soup and she was so scared she died. Also when Despereaux was visiting the princess they would read books about knights and talk about them. Despereaux dreamed about a knight once who was swinging a sword and took off his armor but there was nothing inside.

The plot was interesting because it was about the people, mice, and rats living in the land of Gor. In the land of Gor there was a Queen who loved soup but a rat named Roscuro fell in her soup and caused her to die of fright. After that soup was outlawed along with rats, until the brave mouse Despereaux and the kind princess saved the day. It’s an interesting plot, right? See why I think it’s a good book?!

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“Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar. ”
— E. B. White