Nerdify a Chick

Having a 12 year old girl in the house is awesome for many reasons, one of them being the fun ideas girls have, that adults would never think of. So I have to attribute today’s post to my daughter C. The other day she said, “Mom, there are so many chicks around this time of year, you should buy some and dress them up like nerdy chicks for your blog.”

Ha! For some reason, it was an irresistible idea. I mean, do we ever really outgrow playing dress up?  Anyway, last Saturday when we were running errands, we had the best time looking for chicks. We gathered up an assortment, (or as Julia Child would say: a peep) and nerdified them this Saturday. Here’s the whole peep:

Yes, it looks like we have way too much time on our hands. In fact we just didn’t do stuff we should have been doing while we made little bows, glasses and strings of beads for these chicks!

Then we came up with the idea to make a groovy chick. Here she is:

Then we had to stop, even though we had a bunch of other ideas that you’d probably find equally entertaining. Notice I didn’t try to quantify how entertaining that might be.

When I started this blog, I promised to drop in every now and then and tell you what this nerdy chick has been doing. Well…. now you know! In a week or so, these babies will be on sale in stores everywhere dirt cheap cheap cheap. If this post inspires any of you to buy a chick and dress her up, please send a picture and we’ll add it to the gallery!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Julia Child

Julia Child is best known for introducing French cuisine to her American public through her cookbooks and television shows. You all know who she is, don’t you?

This was one of those rare weeks when I thought of a great smart woman to feature, looked up the things she said, and violia my work was done. Because who couldn’t use a hardy helping of Julia Child? So clever, so witty, such an artist. If you saw the movie Julie & Julia, or if you were a fan of her show, you’ll know what I mean. Below is just a taste of some of the wonderful things she said.

Julia Child Quotes

• Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.

• If you’re in a good profession, it’s hard to get bored, because you’re never finished-there will always be work you haven’t done.

• The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it.

• Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.

• Everything in moderation, including moderation.

• Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.

• You find yourself refreshed by the presence of cheerful people. Why not make an honest effort to confer that pleasure on others? Half the battle is gained if you never allow yourself to say anything gloomy.

• It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate — you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.

• I think every woman should have a blowtorch.

• Life itself is the proper binge.

Updated today (August 15, 2012) Happy 100th birthday, Julia!

How to Write a Poem about a Nasty Bug…

I’m mixing things up this week because something exciting happened recently and I haven’t had time to write about it yet.

Nasty Bugs, a book of poems about bugs edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and published by Dial hit the shelves on March 16. I am thrilled to be one of the poets featured! My poem, Tick-tock Tick appears on Page 22, along with a fabulous drawing by artist Will Terry, whose jewel-toned, super-fun illustrations accompany each poem in the collection.

For this collection, Lee assigned each poet a bug. Lice, fire ants, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches, termites, and a host of other creepy crawly creatures were doled out.  We were asked to focus on scientific facts about our bugs when creating our poems.

So, how do you write a poem about something as disgusting as a tick? Well, it involves a lot of research, it really does.  Here is a photo of the folder I kept all of my tick information in while I was working on this poem.

After reading all of these articles and many more, I discovered many fascinating things about the little creatures. (These fascinating things did not make me fonder of them, quite the opposite, but it really is amazing what a tick can do.) For example, the tick’s body contains an arsenal of chemicals useful to acquisition of blood.

  • Its mouth secretes something like glue to help keep it anchored to its host.
  • It releases pain inhibitors so the host cannot feel it suck blood.
  • Its spit contains anti-clotting substances to keep blood flowing during the feast.

And I haven’t even gotten to the barbs on the hypostome, its ability to detect carbon dioxide (thus prey), and the way it uses its sharp little teeth to cut blood vessels beneath the skin. Cringing yet?  Seriously, I found out so much information it was very hard for me to fit it into one poem. I ended up writing several.

But back to the poem in the book. After reading all about the amazing tick, I highlighted important points from the articles. Then I went to my trusty notebook and started doing one of my favorite things: playing with words. I made lists, I put words in groups, I tried to think of the best ways to show what makes the tick tick. It took several pages. Here’s a glimpse of one of them:

In the end, I decided to give my poem a temporal theme, tying the tick to a ticking clock because stealth and patience are crucial to a tick’s survival, but the passage of time is really not.  To emphasize this, Tick-tock Tick is a long and skinny poem with just a few words per line. I want readers to read it slowly… at a creeping speed… like the pace of a tick.

To top off my tick poem-writing experience, while I was working on this poem I actually found a tick crawling up my arm. I’ve lived in my house for almost 5 years and it is the only tick I have ever encountered. So glad that Lee Bennett Hopkins assigned each poet only one bug!

If you want to read Tick-tock Tick, check it out in Nasty Bugs!

If you want to read one of the other tick poems I came up with, just keep reading!

The Deer Tick Larva:

Stage One of Three

by Kami Kinard


I wait.

I wait.

So patiently.

For future meals

to pass by me –

a bird or mouse

or hopping hare

if it’s warm blooded

I don’t care

which species or

which type of hide –

my six legs cling

to for a ride.


I drill.

I drill.

My hypostome

bores through the skin

of my new home.

The tiny barbs

upon my snout

keep me in place.

I won’t slip out.

Plus, I secrete

a cement-glue!

Where my host travels

I go too.


I sip.

I sip.

I grow in girth.

Then I detach

and fall to earth.

Call me Nymph now!

I’ve shed my skin.

I have eight legs!

So I begin

to wait

to wait

so patiently.


So many words, so many scientific facts, so many possibilities for tick poems…

We will return to our regularly scheduled Nerdy Chick Interviews next Monday!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Mae Jemison

Mae Carol Jemison (b. 1956) became the first African American woman to travel into space when she went in to orbit on the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. She has also done many other amazing things. She served in the Peace Corps, she holds nine honorary doctorates, is trained in dance and choreography, and is fluent in Russian, Japanese, and Swahili. The most nerdy among you might be interested to know that she has acted in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation!

There is much more to learn about this smart and adventurous woman. You can find out more about her HERE.

Mae Jemison Quotes

• The thing that I have done throughout my life is to do the best job that I can and to be me.

• Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.

• It is important for scientists to be aware of what our discoveries mean, socially and politically. It’s a noble goal that science should be apolitical, acultural, and asocial, but it can’t be, because it’s done by people who are all those things.

• Science is very important to me, but I also like to stress that you have to be well-rounded. One’s love for science doesn’t get rid of all the other areas. I truly feel someone interested in science is interested in understanding what’s going on in the world. That means you have to find out about social science, art, and politics.

• Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations…If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won’t exist because you’ll have already shut it out … You can hear other people’s wisdom, but you’ve got to re-evaluate the world for yourself.

There are times when I get an idea for notable quotable female and when I look her up, I am disappointed by a lot of what she has to say. But this week’s Quotable Nerdy Chick was easy because once I thought of highlighting Mae Jemison, I found that I liked everything I read about her!

To see a compiled list of Nerdy Chick Quotes (only one quote per chick) chick HERE.

The winner of the So You Want to Be A Rock Star prize pack is… a photo essay, kind of

Everyone who entered had their name written on an old business card (those things come in handy). The folks who chose to enter more than once with a (+1) had their names added again for each plus one. See that funky background? Those are my kitchen cabinets made with oyster shells. I love these since I live on the coast!


Next the cards were dropped into a hat, courtesy of one of Barnum's suckers. (i.e. the kid that paid $15 for a hat full of popcorn, but at least we're still finding uses for the hat.)



We tried to get our dog to pick a winner from the hat... but she only wanted to eat the hat!


So my daughter C. drew Cathy M's name from the hat. Congrats Cathy! Audrey will be mailing you the loot!


Thank you Audrey Vernick for the great interview and hosting the great giveaway! And thanks to all who entered!  

Jo Watson Hackl: Stellar Leader

I met Jo Watson Hackl when I was living in Greenville SC, but, ironically, I didn’t really get to know her until I moved away.  She is super smart, an attribute that she fully employs in her career as a corporate and securities attorney with Wyche law firm in Greenville, South Carolina. Jo has served as lead counsel on public registrations of stocks and debt securities that total over a billion dollars. Jo currently serves as Chair of the Board of the Community Foundation of Greenville and President of the Emrys Foundation and is immediate past Chair of the Board of Directors of the Greenville Area Development Corporation. She is past President of the Greenville County Bar Association and past President of the Greenville Professional Women’s Forum. Jo is listed in Best Lawyers in America®, a leading legal referral guide, and her pro bono work has been featured in American Barrister magazine. Jo is a Liberty Fellow and serves as Co-Chair of the Liberty Fellowship Economic Development Forum.  Jo received her Juris Doctorate degree from Yale University Law School, where she received the Israel Peres Award for best student contribution to The Yale Law Journal. Jo received her Bachelor of Arts from Millsaps College with high honors. Jo is a recipient of the Richard Riley Pro Bono Award and the Peace Center for the Performing Arts Philanthropist of the Year award. 

Jo is married to Robert Hackl, chef and co-owner of Augusta Grill and the couple has three children. In their free time, Jo and her family raise fruits, vegetables, flowers and many, many weeds. Jo also takes as many black and white photographs of her family as they will tolerate and writes every day. You’ll see more about her writing later in this post. Now for the questions!

Jo, it’s clear that you have brain-power a-plenty! What is your favorite way to flaunt it? Whether it is the intricate details of economic development strategy (in my legal and community work) or the best way to start a fire if you’re out in the woods without a match (in my writing), I enjoy challenging myself to find out what makes thing tick.

What aspects of your career are most stimulating to your brain?I love working with brilliant, talented people and learning new things every day.  I particularly enjoy learning how businesses work, the goals of the management team, and how the team works together to create and sustain their corporate culture. Helping businesses achieve their goals is satisfying and my colleagues are smart, kind and interesting.

How what is the attitude toward brainy women in the legal profession?Attitudes have changed. When I first started my career, there were few women lawyers in our community and clients often assumed I must be a secretary or paralegal. Now women are very well-represented in the profession. My law firm has a culture of supporting and developing women and has established a “Women of Wyche” group whose members help champion and support each other.

What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick? I grew up in rural Mississippi in one of the poorest counties in the state. Along with support from my family, I credit my nerdiness for getting me into Yale Law School. Once at Yale Law School my nerdiness helped me do well there and inspired me to take risks.   At that time students traditionally wrote articles analyzing cases and legal trends in order to try to earn a coveted spot on The Yale Law Journal staff.  I teamed up with my roommate to undertake a different kind of venture- we conducted an empirical study to determine whether state anti-takeover statutes then in effect actually did what they were supposed to do- maximize shareholder wealth. We concluded that they did not. Not only did we both earn a spot on The Yale Law Journal staff, but we also were awarded the Israel H. Peres prize for the best student contribution to the journal that year.

 That’s awesome! So looking back, if you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Be comfortable being nerdy!   You’ll have more fun and you’ll help other people connect with their inner nerd.

What’s cool about being nerdy? Being curious. You can learn something from everyone you meet if you just ask the right questions. Whether it is about how their business works, how to tell the temperature from a  rhododendron leaf, or how to start a fire with only a plastic bag and some water, learning something new makes your day more interesting.

True! Tell us about a well-known fictitious chick you admire and why you admire her. My favorite character is Claudia Kincaid in From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. She and her brother ran away to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and ended up solving a mystery involving a Michelangelo sculpture. I love how Claudia stepped outside her comfort zone and let her sense of her curiosity take her on an adventure.

I love thinking of curiosity as an asset. Can you share a favorite song, quote, or movie that speaks to your inner nerdiness? O’Brother Where Art Thou?- a movie based on Homer’s Odyssey and set in the Depression-era South. This combination is absolutely inspired!

That is a great movie. What’s something you like to do that might be considered a tad bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? Writing- it is the perfect combination of the wildly creative and the analytical processes- and I think I’ve finally figured out how to give myself permission to write a really bad (but creative) first draft and then go back and revise the manuscript into shape.

I also love to go to art shows and learn not only about the physical process of creating a piece but also about the artist’s mental process behind each decision- medium, subject matter, etc. –  in the piece and what he or she hopes to communicate to the viewer.

Do you have a favorite hobby? Details please! Writing, although it is much more than a hobby   I have completed my first novel, an outdoor adventure meets art mystery story set in a Mississippi ghost town, and am at work on my second involving a fishing prodigy, her Johnny-Cash obsessed older sister, a catfish wrestler, a funeral director and a floating gospel choir. I am represented by the wonderful Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.  The story on which I am working now is set along the banks of the Tombigbee River, near where I grew up. As part of the research, my father and I traveled 226miles down that river. I took loads of notes and pictures and went through two bottles of bug spray.  We encountered blinding rain and lots of alligators and our boat almost got sucked over a dam.  I’ll go through just about anything for a great story and to make sure I get my facts right!

Thanks so much Jo for joining us today.  If you want to hear more from Jo, you can! She is also a regular columnist on writing topics for the Pen & Palette, published by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Carolinas chapter. You can see some of her columns HERE.  An active member of SCBWI, Jo retired from being SCBWI Caroloinas ARA last year to be able to spend more time on her writing. 



The Quoteable Nerdy Chick: Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursla K. Le Guin is an award winning writer of science fiction. A master of creating worlds with words, her awards include the Newberry Honor, The National Book Award, and the World Fantasy Award and many others. Because her website is so fantastic, I feel inadequate telling you more. Find out more about this brilliant woman HERE.

I simply could not decide on only 5 quotes from Ursula K. LeGuin, so now I am abandoning the idea of limiting featured quotes to five altogether. I will try to pick fewer than 10 quotes each week… we’ll see how long I can stick to that!


 Ursula K. Le Guin Quotes

  • The creative adult is the child who has survived.
  • It had never occurred to me before that music and thinking are so much alike. In fact you could say music is another way of thinking, or maybe thinking is another kind of music.
  • It is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception and compassion and hope.
  • Love does not just sit there, like a stone; it had to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.
  • My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.
  • The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself.
  • It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.


This time, I can’t pick a favorite quote. I love them all.