Book Spine Poetry

April is National Poetry Month. According to the Academy of American Poets:

“National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.”

There are many ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, but one of my favorites is to create Book Spine Poetry. These are poems you don’t write so much as “find” in the title ideas of other authors. In honor of National Poetry Month, my children and I came up with a bunch of Book Spine Poems — we hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed “writing” them!

1397611200346

 

Love and longing in Bombay

Cloaked

Time and chance

In darkness

 

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Heavens to Betsy!

Beautiful chaos

Ruined

My life

Without fail

 

 

1397611381552Baby Bear, Baby Bear, what do you see?

The night fairy

Perfect piggies

The witch of Blackbird Pond

The last unicorn

But not the hippopotamus

 

1397611326858The bad beginning

An offer you can’t refuse

The nasty bits

The enemy

The end of the affair

Game Over

 

 

1397611158416The Elephant’s journey

The hard way

Accidentally fooled

A hog on ice

 

 

 

1397611076867Pirate Princess

You’re finally here!

To catch a mermaid

Demon of the waters

Into the deep

With nothing to lose

 

 

How will you celebrate National Poetry Month?

 

 

 

 

 

Mother Nature: The Ultimate Nerdy Chick?

Mother Nature is a Nerdy Chick. She’s strong, talented, and assertive. Okay, she can be cranky too, but we try to stay out of her way.

 

winter

This past winter, Mother Nature bombarded many of us with unreasonable amounts of snow and pitched us into frigid polar vortexes (which we had never heard of before). But while we hunkered down in our homes (thanks MN for four days of writing while the office was closed), she was out there creating beauty: putting diamonds on tree branches, etching intricate frosty patterns on glass, and sculpting ice into glossy reaching fingers.

 

ocean

me_oceanWhen April arrived and the last snow melted away, I attended a writers’ retreat at the Jersey Shore. Mother Nature spent the weekend churning the sea with heavy wind and rain, but I didn’t let her chase me away. Doing my best Jim Cantore imitation, I bundled up in storm gear and walked alone on the beach. I inhaled the salty, fishy air and watched Mother Nature paint patterns on the sand with foaming water, leaving collages of shells, stones, and claws.

 

spring_sign

Today my perennial garden is covered with last fall’s leaves, hiding treasures like clutter hides a teenager’s messy bedroom floor. Mother Nature is sending small signs of spring, hinting at the summer to come. She grows a quilt of glossy leaves and her small gifts of early flowers pop up. She soaks her gardens with more rain, and paints abstract patterns of lichen on trees.

Mother Nature is a creative and clever Nerdy Chick. She has endless imagination when using color, form, and texture. She shares all of it with us—whether we want it or not. If we accept her many moods, we can see her beauty all around us.

 

All photographs © Mary Zisk 2014

 

Instant Images

Ideas for The Boy ProblemI write humor for middle graders. It’s a fun job, made doubly so because I have a wealth of information living under the same roof with me – my daughter. Before she arrived at middle school, my son was there. So for six of the past seven years I’ve been living with some of the inspiration for my novels. A parenting perk for sure!

Middle graders are awesome! They haven’t yet lost that joie de vivre, so they still embrace the cute, fun, and funky! Especially girls. I paid attention to this when writing The Boy Problem: Notes and Predictions of Tabitha Reddy, forthcoming April 29 from Scholastic. My daughter was in seventh grade at the time, and I decided to deliberately populate my novel with things she found appealing. What better way to connect with readers of the same age?

 

cupcakes!

Some of my daughters cupcakes.

At the time she loved cupcakes. (That hasn’t changed.) She has cupcake socks, t-shirts, wall art, etc. So into the book I poured the ingredients for a cupcake theme – along with lots of cute cupcake images, via words and sketches! She also loved the inexplicably popular mustache trend. For that reason, I found a funny way to create a mustache motif in the book as well. Finally, since Tabbi, the main character, uses predictions to try to figure out who the right guy for her is, I was able to insert some time-tested predicting tools – ever popular with middle graders. 8 balls, fortune cookies, and cootie catchers (also called fortune tellers).

 

The Boy Problem

Using instant images has made it fun and easy to find and create book bling for The Boy Problem’s launch!

Note that all of the above: mustaches, cupcakes, 8 balls, fortune cookies, and cootie catchers have popular and very concrete visual images. As an author, you want to think about the visual images you put into your readers’ heads. Sometimes you do this with subtlety, using carefully crafted similes and metaphors. But it is also okay to stick instant images into your books. Ones you know your reader will easily visualize and identify with! If you’re writing for middle graders, I recommend considering this.

 

My daughter starts high school next year. To be honest, I am a little worried about this. Where will I get my instant-images? Will she have the same enthusiasm for cute, fun, and funky? Probably not! I will need access to that kind of The Boy Problemthing when I write my next novel. What will I do? Well… I do have a niece starting middle school in the fall. Hopefully she won’t notice her aunt eavesdropping and checking out her accessories at every family get-together for the next three years!

To read more about the creation of THE BOY PROBLEM and to see the trailer, click HERE.

 

And you can watch this adorable trailer created by students in Mr. Etkin’s class to find out more about the book! I saw this for the first time today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Maria Callas

Because Maria Callas was famous for her beautiful voice, I thought it’d be great to let you hear it before reading her quotes.

Maria Callas was born in New York City in 1923.  After completing eighth grade, she moved with her mother to Greece to pursue education, and develop a career in singing. She began her career singing opera in Italy, and returned to the United States in 1940. Maria is known as one of the most influential opera singers of the 20th century. To find out more about her click HERE.

Maria Callas Quotes

  • You are born an artist or you are not. And you stay an artist, dear, even if your voice is less of a fireworks. The artist is always there.
  • That is the difference between good teachers and great teachers: good teachers make the best of a pupil’s means; great teachers foresee a pupil’s ends.
  • An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.

 

Don’t forget to enter the Giveaway for a piece of original art by Zach OHora, and a picture book signed by both Zach and Sudipta! Click HERE for details.

 

 

 

Happy Book Birthday, TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS! (and a Double Giveaway!)

In honor of the book birthday of my newest picture book, TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS!, I have such an awesome treat for you! First, a guest post from my incredible illustrator, Zachariah OHora, about his creative process. Then,there is an awesome giveaway where two lucky winners will get some great prizes (scroll down to the end for more information on the prizes, though you don’t want to skip over this great post, do you?)

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Zachariah Ohora

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks!

by Zachariah OHora

When I first heard about this project I was super excited to work with Chad (creative director at Abrams) and Sudipta.
That excitement quickly turned to fear when I realized I’d never really drawn dinosaurs before.

Not even as a kid.

Plus there seemed to be a whole lot of dinosaurs I’d never heard of.

Gallimimus?!
Really?!

I think there were like five dinos when I was a kid and half of them don’t even exist anymore, er, I mean, they ALL don’t exist anymore, but uh…you get the point.

I realized I couldn’t just fudge through with a vague lizard creature.
So I started where all ignorant people do, with a Google search.

Fear turned to terror as I collected images. NO WAY WAS I GOING TO PULL THIS OFF!!!

Then I had an idea. One that might appear brilliant enough to fool everyone into NOT noticing I can’t draw dinosaurs. What if it was kids DRESSED as dinos instead?

TrexColorpalette 1

This seemed like the perfect solution as it allowed me a good deal of creative license.

TrexStudy 2

(Left: One of the first sketches for T Wrecks Boy. Right: Then I thought since he was always wrecking stuff perhaps he couldn’t see out of his mask)

TrexStudy 3

Then Abrams politely showed me a book that already had my “brilliant” idea in it that came out two years earlier.

Illustrator gulps.
Illustrator whines.
Illustrator wrecks!

Illustrator practices and practices drawing dinosaurs!

Until finally the characters ended up having some human qualities but were most definitely dinosaurs!

TWrecksNewNEw-1

Fortunately everyone was happy with the new version and that’s what you see in the book.
Fear of failure forced me to get my proper dinosaur education on. And best of all Sudipta was happy with them too.

Sometimes in a collaboration you have to go way out of your comfort zone.
And that’s a good thing.

zauthorphotoZachariah OHora is an illustrator and author of a number of children’s books. His debut STOP SNORING, BERNARD! was awarded the Society of Illustrators Founder’s Award and was chosen as the PA One Book for 2012. His book NO FITS NILSON! was awarded a Kirkus star and was the Huffington Post Book of the Year for 2013. He lives and works in the tiny village of Narberth, PA with his wife, two sons, and two cats.

Sudipta wasn’t just “happy” with these illustrations — she was thrilled! (Why am I referring to myself in the third person??)

Thank you, Zack, for such a great and insightful post. And just so you know, I hadn’t heard of a Gallimimus either — not until my then 4-year old son educated me on that and all the other dinos in the book (except the Tyrannosaurus — I had heard of that!).

And now, for the part you’ve all been waiting for…

THE GIVEAWAY(S)

In honor of TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS, we here at Nerdy Chicks Rule are going to give away TWO prizes to one lucky winner.

First, the winner is going to score a copy of TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS! signed by both Zach and me! And second, the lucky winner will get an original sketch from the book, signed by the illustrator himself!

Book and art — how can you not like that?

How do I win? asks my faithful blog reader.

It’s very simple.

1. To register, fill in the form below with your name, email, and Twitter and/or Facebook handles. (Don’t forget to hit ‘Submit’!)

2. Tweet or post about the TYRANNOSAURS WRECKS! release with the hashtag #TWRECKS and tag Sudipta (@SudiptaBQ on Twitter or Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Children’s Book Author on FB) AND tag Zack (@ZachariahOHora on Twitter). Don’t know what to tweet/post? Cut and paste one of the suggestions below:

  • Happy book birthday to TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS! http://wp.me/p126Z2-N4 #TWRECKS @SudiptaBQ @ZachariahOHora
  • Do you know #TWRECKS? http://goo.gl/m28AnO @SudiptaBQ @ZachariahOHora
  • Got #TWRECKS? http://goo.gl/7nd3xU  @SudiptaBQ @ZachariahOHora

3. Every time you share using the handles you’ve registered, you’ll get one entry. The contest will close on April 7, 2014 at 11:59pm. At that time, we will gather up all the entries and choose a WINNER!

GOOD LUCK!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Judy Blume

Blume-JudyWho has created a bigger impact on children’s literature than Judy Blume? She was among the first authors to write teen novels about racism, menstruation, divorce, bullying, masturbation, and teen sex. She’s also written chapter books and novels for adults, selling more than 82 million copies of her books in 32 languages. In the 1980s, Judy found herself in the center of an organized book banning campaign. Ever since, she has worked tirelessly with the National Coalition Against Censorship to protect the freedom to read.

Judy Blume Quotes

• The best books come from someplace inside. You don’t write because you want to, but because you have to.

• I’m really quite bad at coming up with plot ideas. I like to create characters and just see what will happen to them when I let them loose!

• I wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret right out of my own experiences and feelings when I was in sixth grade. Controversy wasn’t on my mind. I wanted only to write what I knew to be true. I wanted to write the best, the most honest books I could, the kinds of books I would have liked to read when I was younger. If someone had told me then I would become one of the most banned writers in America, I’d have laughed.

• I wanted to show sexuality with responsibility. I wanted girls to have a good time. Damn, I was a girl.

• I talk to God as a confidant, the way Margaret does.

• Censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives.

• You cannot say, “I don’t want a book in the library because I don’t want my child to read it” when everybody else’s children have the right to read it.

To learn more about Judy, her books, and her views on censorship, visit her website. To watch video interviews of Judy, go to here.

Simon & Schuster is reissuing Judy’s middle grade novels in April with cover illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Click here to read about Debbie’s new covers as well as her exciting news about other Blume classics.

7mgJudyBlumeBooks-600

Modern Miss Muffet: Stand Your Ground

spiderReally? It’s only Wednesday? Because it has been one of those weeks where it feels like I’ve already lived ten days of it. I’m talking about a loooonnnggggg stressful week. Given that, I didn’t get to write the post I had planned, so today I am going to share something I decided might be too silly. But now I need a little silly. This came about when I was playing around with modernizing nursery rhymes and giving the female characters more backbone! So here’s my version of Miss Muffet, which I’ve given a sparkling new title. 

 

Stand Your Ground

Little Miss Muffet

Sat on a tuffet

Eating her curds and whey.

Along came a spider

And sat down beside her

What did Miss Muffet say?

Did she call for a man?

No! That wasn’t her plan.

Instead, she took off her shoe.

And said to the spider

“Be frightened away!

Or else you’ll be smashed into goo.”

 See, it’s all about choices. So stand your ground!  (I might have to apologize to arachnophiles for this one, but note that the spider has a choice here too!) Here’s hoping  all of your weeks are going better than mine. But as Judith Viorst’s Alexander might say, “Some weeks are like that. Even in Australia.”  :)