Sunday, November 2, 2014

Native American Heritage Month

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, I'm passing along a great post from First Nations Development Institute. This is their post for Native American Heritage Month 2014 that includes quotes from Native authors, historical leaders and contemporary leaders in Indian Country.
In their own words:
November is National Native American Heritage Month 2014, and Nov. 15 in particular is “Rock Your Mocs Day” in which Native people stand together by wearing their moccasins (there's also "Moc Mondays" every week during the month). In recognition, the 20-member staff of First Nations Development Institute has created a list of their favorite Native American quotations and films.
“Many of us here are prolific readers and movie-goers, especially when it comes to things by Native authors and filmmakers or about Native history and experiences,” noted First Nations President Michael E. Roberts.  “In doing so, we often bookmark certain quotes or passages that speak to us, both from historical figures or contemporary authors, or we recommend films that, for one reason or another, we think are worth seeing. We think Native American Heritage Month is a great time to share these quotes and movies with both the Native and non-Native worlds.”
First Nations is a 34-year-old, Native-created and led organization that works to build stronger Native American economies and communities.  It is based in Longmont, Colorado, but serves American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities across the U.S.

Dance Fan by Kara Stewart, Art in Photography

See the rest of their post here. Great stuff.

And don't forget about Moc Monday. Not just to show solidarity and support, but hey, comfy shoes to work every Monday in November works for me!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Moc Mondays in November!

Have you heard of Moc Monday?  As a literacy coach in the school every day, I'll be wearing moccasins every Monday in November in support of American Indian Heritage Month. If you'd like to join me in solidarity to raise awareness in our schools of contemporary American Indians, that would be great! 

The official Rock Your Mocs day this year is Saturday, November 15, 2014. But I'll be wearing my mocs every Monday to school, welcoming and taking advantage of students noticing and asking questions. 

My mocs are not nearly as fancy as the ones photographed in the 2013 articles, and yours needn't be either. But if you want a peek at some authentic mocs and mukluks (those count too, and you can wear those also if you have a pair) to die for made by a Native owned company, check out the Storyboots from Manitoba Mukluks They are works of art! (They also have regular mukluks and moccasins).

Don't have any mocs or mukluks? Run out and get some! Mocs are for men and women. You've got until Monday, November 3rd. My main thrust is to let students know that American Indians are alive and thriving all around them, and to dispel stereotypes.  I'd love for you to join me.


*Teacher's Note - If you plan to wear mocs or encourage students to do so,  you may want to be prepared with a few sentences about stereotypes and Indians today since we may hear some "war whoops" and that sort of thing. For example, upon hearing a war whoop or seeing a child with a feather sticking up from head or similar: "Student dear, I hear you making some sort of war whoop noise. You know, Indians don't really do that. I'm not sure how that stereotype got started, but I want you to know that there are lots of American Indians today and they don't do that. It's one of those things that's offensive to Indians because it's not true." (or hurts their feelings or whatever you feel their age would let them understand).   
Upon seeing feathers sticking up from a headband or similar: "Student dear, I see you have feathers and a headband. You know, Indians are not all the same. There are a LOT of different Indian tribes, even in North Carolina. All Indian tribes are very different from each other. And mostly, the Indians in our area never wore feathers or headbands in that way. There are lots of American Indians all around us today, and that wouldn't be something they'd wear, especially for daily wear. It's kind of a stereotype." 

If it were me, depending on the age of the child, I'd then go on to explain a little about the 'Hollywood Indian'.

If you feel you need some brushing up on how to talk intelligently about contemporary Native Americans, please see the blog series Indian 101 for Writers (and Teachers and General Human Beings). Lots of tips and resources in there.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Recipe That's Not A Recipe - Avocado Dip

My favorite kind of recipe are ones that aren't really recipes. The ones that are so simple that you wonder why you didn't think of doing them years ago.

In that vein, here is a most yummy Avocado Dip:

1 avocado, cubed
1/4 to 1/3 cup chunk or crushed pineapple (no sugar, drained)
Fresh cilantro - has to be fresh, dried doesn't work
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Lime juice
Green pepper Tabasco Sauce

Cube up your avocado and put it in a bowl. If you use chunk pineapple, cut up each chunk into 2 or 3 pieces. Use the amount of pineapple you think you will like. Chop up a fresh bunch of cilantro leaves. Maybe a handful. Maybe more. Put the pineapple and cilantro in the bowl with the avocado. Add some sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add some lime juice. I'm guessing a scant tablespoon. Add a few shakes of green pepper Tabasco Sauce. If you like it very mild, less shakes. You like a pleasant spice, more shakes. If you really want more spice, chop up some jalapenos and add them to the bowl. Mix it all up, mush the avocado as much as you like or don't like. I don't like. Inhale with tortilla chips.

I wish I had a picture to show you, but I ate it all. Every last bit.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Summer of Learning

This summer, I spent a lot of time improving my writing knowledge, meaning the craft of writing. I am a Literacy Coach and Reading Specialist and have written creatively for years. While I am definitely capable of communicating effectively, that doesn't mean I have a lot of knowledge about the craft, the art, of writing. I need to learn more. I think most writers realize they need to learn more to hone their skills. Since I am interested in writing for children, I sought resources specific to that niche.

One of the best sources of information for writing for children is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. In addition to a slew of resources, they also have amazing discussion boards where you can ask almost anything and get very helpful answers from the authors who also belong to SCBWI. I got great tips and suggestions (and more resources!) for writing picture books from the fab folks on the discussion boards.

I also participated in Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen's Kid Lit Summer School (part of the Nerdy Chicks Write blog) focusing on character. It was fabulous! There were great webinars, #30mdares and daily blog posts by guest authors designed to deepen our character knowledge.  And it was free! Yep. F.R.E.E. I found the exercises and daily focus on character really helpful. You missed it? Don't worry - they are going to do it again next year! And you can also sign up for their blog Nerdy Chicks Rule.

I've also found a few great books (they were recommended to me and are spot on):

The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig - for writers of any genre
Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul - specifically for picture book writers, but useful by any children's book writer
The Plot Whisperer, Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (also has a workbook) by Martha Alderson - for writers of any genre

And of huge import - I reached out to my friend Alison DeLuca, author of The Crown Phoenix Series, for help revising and editing my picture book manuscript. No matter what other resources you seek out, it's vital to take that scary leap and have others read your manuscript. The key is they must be people who will give you honest feedback. Wherever the manuscript sucks, I want to know it so I can make it better. Thank you for that, Alison. And now it is ready (Well, you know. You can only tinker so much. After you've tinkered for months.) to submit to Lee & Low's New Voices Award. Scaaaarrryyy!

Happy writing, photographing and end-of-summer, everyone!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lee & Low Books' New Voices Award Writing Contest

Ooo! So exciting! Lee & Low's blog post today announces their 14th annual New Voices Award. It is "specifically designed to help authors of color break into publishing, an industry in which they are still dramatically underrepresented."

The contest is open to residents of the United States who are people of color who have not previously had a children's book published. Deadline is September 30, 2014.

Check out their blog post, submit your manuscript, and/or spread the good word!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

New Learning

It has been a crazy long time since my last post. For part of that time, I've been working on a new project that I am (as of now) envisioning as a picture book.

I started writing my heart out, but had to put on the brakes (*skids to a stop, red high-tops smoking*) to learn more about writing this particular genre. Which was an eye-opener for me, since as a Literacy Coach and Reading Specialist, I have read hundreds of picture books. I read them all the time. I read them to myself. I read them to teachers. I read them to students. I can quote them. I like to quote them. I'm a huge fan of picture books for all ages. I know many ways they can be used instructionally. I like the way they feel. I like the way they smell. I love picture books.

But I don't know how to write them. Huge difference. So I have been learning. Big, BIG shout out to my fellow Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) members for giving me their thoughts, suggestions, tips and resources for learning more about picture books and more importantly, the publishing of picture books, which is a learning curve unto itself.

There has been a great deal of chocolate involved in this process since I no longer drink coffee, but today, I did finally compile the steps, resources and suggestions in the way I think will work best for me: a 3 ring binder. Also in this binder, I have made a dummy storyboard (a mock up of a 32 page picture book) for my project so that I can more easily map out the flow of the story.

I am excited! What fun learning!