The Next Big Thing: Sudipta Version

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop celebrates what writers are working on or what they have coming up next. Welcome to my stop!

I was tagged by my co-blogger, Kami Kinard, author of The Boy Project. See what her next big thing is HERE.

It wasn’t easy to pick one thing to talk about today – I typically have about six projects going at any time. But then the first question below helped me narrow things down. See, of the six things I’m working on, quite a few of them have NO WORKING TITLES AT ALL. Makes it a little harder to summarize them, huh? So I’m going to take the easy route and talk about something WITH A TITLE!

1: What is the working title of your book?  DUCK DUCK MOOSE

2: Where did the idea come from for the book? I’ve been carrying this idea around with me for years. It’s about a family unit of two ducks and a moose that is very close – but as close families sometimes do, they also irritate each other. A lot.

3: What genre does your book come under? Picture Book.

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4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Hmmm. My book is about two ducks and a moose. So…how about any two of the One directions guys as Duck and Duck and Seth Rogan as Moose?

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?   What’s a Duck to do when the Moose in your life is forever ruining things?

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? This book is going to be published by Disney-Hyperion and it will be illustrated by the incomparable Noah Z. Jones.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I’ve been carrying this idea around for YEARS, but once I started writing, I’d say about three months to fine tune it. That is ridiculously fast for a picture book – but this one is very, very sparse on words…

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Hmmmm…that’s pretty hard. Everything I think of to compare DUCK DUCK MOOSE to comes off sounding pretty self-important, so…I’m going to take a pass on this one…

My ducks and moose

My ducks and moose

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book? I’ve always tried to work word play into my picture books, and the thought of replacing the goose in a game of duck, duck, goose with a moose just seemed so funny to me. Add to that the real-life ducks and mooses in my life…I’m the mother of three, two girls aged 11 and 10 and a 6-year old moose-boy. I’ve watched the girls’ carefully laid plots be demolished by their brother so many times over the last few years that when I finally started to write the book, it came together pretty quickly.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I think the illustrations are adorable, and the story itself it both extremely easy to read (under 50 words) and requires a pretty high level of engagement to enjoy (you have to look at the picture book as a whole to enjoy this experience, not just read the words).

Thanks for checking out what I’m working on! Be sure to stop by the blog of a fabulous author named Marcie Colleen who allowed me to tag her for next week (Wednesday, March 6) and check out my co-bloggers for the day, Anne Marie Pace, Kathy Erskine, and Amy Carol Reeves!

Aimee Winner: An Interview with a Real Winner

mama cruiseOne of the things I’ve been looking forward to about this interview is the opportunity to write the following sentence: Aimee Winner is, well, a real winner. (No more puns about winning, I promise!) I met Aimee on one of my first visits to Howard County, Maryland, where she is an award-winning music educator. But more than that, Aimee is the kind of woman a lot of us hope to be when we grow up – accomplished (she has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Music Education with a voice principal from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ), professionally successful (one of the choirs she directs is routinely seen singing in the opening ceremonies of the Baltimore Blast Soccer games at Mariner Arena, singing the National Anthem at Camden Yards for the Baltimore Orioles and competing at The Festival of Music in the Parks at Hershey Park), personally successful (she is married with a beautiful 2 ½ year old son, Jonah), and just overall fun.

 Something Aimee is fond of saying is, “Be kinder than necessary today, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” Well, if that’s not advice from a winner, I don’t know what is. (OK, I lied about not making any more winning puns. It’s my interview, I get to do that!) Thanks for joining us today, Aimee!

Let’s start with the obvious question: how awesome is it to be an official Winner?

The students get a kick out of my last name being Winner. They say I always win. I love that, even though that isn’t necessarily true, but because it is my last name.

Well, I think it’s true. 🙂 As a “winning” music teacher, what are your favorite things to listen to?

Geesh, this is such a tough one. Being a lover of music makes it hard to pick a favorite. On any given day I could find myself listening to Claude Debussy, JS Bach, Stephen Sondheim, especially “Into the Woods” or Leonard Bernstein, Ella Fitzgerald and more recent artists like Fleet Foxes, Carla Morrison, Sufjan Stevens, Kings of Convenience, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, and Adele!! I could go on and on.

Recently, I have been rocking out to Ra Ra Riots new album “Beta Love”. I can’t get enough of them (all of their albums are great), and I had the privilege to see them for my birthday in January at the 9:30 Club in DC!! What a fun night with my hubby!

How did you become interested in music?

I was inspired by my mother, who is also a lover of music and has taught elementary music for many years. I grew up in a musical home and starting singing at a very young age. I also began to learn piano and violin in elementary school. I continued singing in choir, playing in the orchestra and performing in the musicals and plays through high school each year. And now, I’m devoted to making music and sharing her love of music with others forever and ever. 🙂

What’s one of your favorite experiences as a musician? jelly profile

My absolute favorite experience was during my senior year of undergrad while attending Westminster Choir College in 2004.  I had the amazing opportunity to perform in Westminster Symphonic Choir at Lincoln Center when Broadway and operetta united in the New York Philharmonic’s semi-staged performance of the musical “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein. The cast included Broadway’s “Wicked” Kristin Chenoweth as Cunegonde, Patti LuPone in a star turn as The Old Lady, Paul Groves as Candide, and Sir Thomas Allen as Dr. Pangloss/Narrator. “Candide” featured Bernstein protégé Marin Alsop conducting the New York Philharmonic, Wow! I still get goose bumps and smile when I think about how incredible it was rehearsing and performing on the stage at Avery Fischer Hall. I have such fond memories that I will remember for my lifetime from that week in NYC.

Any memorable experiences teaching music?

Well, in 2007 I was the silent music teacher for 5 weeks while I was on vocal rest. Yep, silent. I carried around a notebook or my laptop to communicate.  It was quite and interesting experience that I hope I never have to do again! I was able to teach music using a lot of technology and focusing on a student lead classroom. It was actually a tough time in my life because I didn’t talk at all for 5 weeks and my voice was in danger of being damaged for life. I chose not to talk at home or in the classroom and I couldn’t sing in fear of hurting my voice and losing my livelihood. But in the end the voice rest saved my voice!! You don’t really realize how important or special something is until you almost lose it forever.

Wow! That’s pretty amazing! I can’t imagine teaching without talking. (But I’m not surprised that you found a way to do it!) But it goes to show how important music can be…so tell us, how does music help kids to become nerdy?

Music is such an amazing outlet that reaches everyone young and old!!!  I find that music really allows kids to express themselves and have fun. Music meets you where you are at any moment. I love that kids can just soak it all in; laugh, play, move and make music. “Music expresses what words cannot” I love teaching music to kids because we have so much fun and nothing else matters when they walk in my classroom. Just right now and that moment, to be free and have a good time.

How do you see the music that is being produced today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?

Music today totally empowers girls to be smart. I love it. There is so much inspiration and fun in music that is being produced today. These songs make girls realize that whatever life brings you are going to be okay. There are so many messages about believing in yourself, finding beauty in yourself and moving on when you are stuck, keep trying, standing tall.

Tell us about a musical nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

There are so many wonderful and inspiring ladies out there, but I think the first one that comes to my mind is the beloved and much-honored star Julie Andrews. I grew up watching her in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. There is just something about her natural elegance and beautiful singing voice that has always drawn me to her.  As a child she helped me find my love for music at such a young age. I would still love to play either of those roles on stage because of her! She is simply amazing.

Do you have a personal “theme song,” perhaps one that speaks to your inner nerdiness? So, I have two…. Or hundreds… right?! Again, such great songs to choose from, but…I would have to say “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. It’s about doing everything in your power to fight for what you believe in. Elphaba sings of how she wants to live without limits, going against the rules that others have set for her. We are unlimited. No one will bring you down. If you haven’t heard it, or better yet, seen the show Wicked, it is a MUST see/hear!

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“Get on your feet” by Gloria Estefan not only because it is so energetic and gets me moving, but there was a particular Parks & Recreation episode that was especially funny, with the highlight of Amy Poelher and posie on thin ice during her character’s campaign. Amy is brilliant and stunning! Love her!

What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

One of my favorite achievements is that I get to direct a musical with my 4th and 5th graders each spring. It is amazing to watch the transformation of the students over the six months on working on the show. This year I am working on Winnie the Pooh, KIDS. Each year seems like it will be the best experience, but it just keeps getting better and better each year. I am so proud of the kids for taking a risk to perform on stage and work so hard. It is so much fun building the relationships and experiences with them and seeing them transform during our time together, building memories of a lifetime. Shows in the past have been: Emperor’s New Clothes, Jungle Book Kids, Honk Jr. Aladdin KIDS, A Year With Frog and Toad KIDS, Willy Wonka Kids, 101 Dalmatians KIDS, Aristocat KIDS.

This has been such a fun and thoughtful interview – thanks for all your great answers! But now for the fun part…If someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?

I would go to NYC and see a show on Broadway in a heartbeat! I don’t get there enough to enjoy the talent and magic of the stage. I sure miss it.  

Can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?

There are not many things in life that are more enjoyable than a nice cup of tea. We always have few different choices in our cupboard for morning, noon or night.

What kind of music have you taught your son Jonah? aimeejonahhay

He and I are always making music together, playing guitar, banjo, violin, piano, drums and singing – usually marching too. There is never a dull moment in the Winner house!

What’s one thing musical you’d like to do in the future?

I would love to direct a treble boy’s choir. That would be something I haven’t done yet and would love have in my life as a director. Treble boys is such a pure and rich sound.

Thanks again, Aimee, for talking to us today. To learn more about Aimee, visit her on the web at http://web.hcpss.org/~aimee_winner/. And, in her honor, go sing something!

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop celebrates what writers are working on or what they have coming up next. Welcome to my stop!

I was tagged by fellow Apocalypse Lynne Kelly author of Chained. See what her next big thing is HERE. I’ve been working on a couple of projects over the last year, but in November I dropped all of them for my current work in progress. I’m excited to answer questions about it today!

1: What is the working title of your book?  THE BOY PREDICTION (Notes and Observations of Tabitha Reddy)

2: Where did the idea come from for the book? The idea for this book came from response to my first book.  The readers wanted to read more funny books about middle school relationships. Since I felt like Kara’s (the MC for my first book) story had already been told, this book is told from the point of view of Tabbi, Kara’s best friend.  Kara will still be in it though!

3: What genre does your book come under? Humorous middle grade.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I’ve never thought about that! I think someone like a young Selena Gomez would make a good Tabbi, but

she’d have to cut her hair and dye it blonde!

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?   The Boy Prediction is a funny book about a girl who tries to predict the identity of her future boyfriend by using fortune cookies, cootie catchers, and even an algebra class project to point her in the direction of the one.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? This book is going to be published by Scholastic, like my first book. It is represented by the wonderful Rosemary Stimola.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I’m still working on it …but hoping to finish soon. I think it will take me about three months.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? A lot of people compared my last book to The Dork Diaries, but I think this is because they are both funny books told from the point of view of a middle school girl, and both have drawings. Stylistically, the books are different. I can see why people who like funny books about girls would like both.

My old diaries!

My old diaries!

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book? My middle school and high school diaries inspired me to write my first book, so in a way they inspired this book too. But another source of information comes from my children. I had one child in middle school when I wrote my first book and my youngest child is in middle school now. Hearing their stories about what they deal with on a day to day basis helps me bring humor into the stories.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? A cupcake that causes a surprising break-up, a disaster that results in deep friendship, and crazy scenes and sketches!

Thanks for checking out what I’m working on! Be sure to stop by the blogs of these fabulous authors who allowed me to tag them for next week: Anne Marie Pace, Kathy Erskine, Amy Carol Reeves, and also back here for Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. See what they’re working on Wednesday, February 27 !

Valentine’s Day: A Pun-loving Holiday

The first time my son brought home valentines from school I realized what a great snapshot of pop culture they were. For the next few years, I’d pull out a few valentines he’d received from classmates and create a scrapbook page with them. (Back then, I somehow managed to find time to keep a scrapbook.)  Here’s a page from 2001. One look at this and you can see what was hot with the kindergarten set and beyond.

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Last weekend when my parents came to visit, I had a similar gift delivered. Unbeknownst to me, my mother had saved the valentines from my classmates!

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It was fun looking through them. I remember that a lot of the valentines we bought back then were printed in over-sized paperback books with several to a page. We had to cut or punch them out. Some were adorable! Some were politically incorrect. Puns were as popular then as they are now.  Why are puns connected to this holiday?  I think it’s because they make it easy to show a little wit while also showing sentiment. Here are some favorites from the group above. (Not sure you’d see one like the top center today… and I think we know the identity of bat girl now…)

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Puns are also a form of humor accessible to children, offering a word game they can participate in, either by appreciating a pun with a smile, or by creating their own puns. My mother was making valentines with my eight year old niece this year. My niece asked what her cousin liked best, my mother said, “peace signs.” My niece responded, “Why don’t I make her one that says, I love you to peaces?” Perfect!

After hearing this story, it occurred to me that this could be a fun word game to play with children. Why not create Valentines for their favorite characters from literature? What would Harry’s valentine to Jenny say? What would Peeta’s valentine to Katniss say? How about Peter Pan’s to Wendy?

If you don’t have a pun ready for your young or old valentine yet, check out this list of 101 Valentine’s Day puns!

If you're looking for the perfect Valentine's book, full of play on words, check out The Hog Prince by my blogging partner, Sudipta!

If you’re looking for the perfect Valentine’s book, full of play on words, check out The Hog Prince by my blogging partner, Sudipta!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Keep playing with (and on) words!

New Giveaway! A Skype Classroom Visit!

In case you missed it, yesterday, we had a lovely chat with John Schumacher, aka MrSchuReads. (You did miss it? Quick! Click the link!) Here’s a bonus to that chat — if you pop on over to his blog, you can win a Skype Classroom Visit with Sudipta! All you have to do is fill out the entry form at Watch. Connect. Read and keep your fingers crossed!

 

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(By the way, if you want to see us do giveways like this on Nerdy Chicks Rule, leave us a comment and let us know!)

 

The Education of the Nerdy Chick: A Chat with John Schumacher

This week, we are talking to Librarian-Blogger-Literacy-Advocate-Extraordinaire, John Schumacher. His Watch. Connect. Read. Blog (http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/) is one of the best sources on the internet for information about children’s books, authors, resources, and insight. As a librarian and teacher, we wanted his thoughts on The Education of the Nerdy Chick, especially when it comes to reading. Thank you, Mr. Schu, for talking to us today!

We asked Mr. Schu to finish some of our sentences — here’s what he had to say:

“The differences between girl readers and boy readers are not all that different in my school library. I encourage my students not to label a book as a “boy book” or a “girl book.” If you spent an afternoon in my school library, chances are you would witness me turn to a third grader and say, “Books do not have a gender. Babymouse, Bink and Gollie, Hound Dog True, Marty McGuire, Ivy + Bean, Keena Ford, Clementine,Squish, and Stink are for ALL readers. Read what you want to read, regardless of what a marketing team might have thought when deciding on a book’s final cover or its targeted gender.”  My students know I will never create book lists with the following titles:

  • 10 Books Every Boy Should Read
  • Top Picks for Boy Readers
  • Every Tween Girl Should Read These Books
  • Listen Up Girls! You Must Read These Books

I work tirelessly to match my students with the perfect books. I consider their interests, age, and personality. Gender is not a part of readers’ advisory.”

“Girls can be reluctant readers, too. To get girls to read, I ask these questions:

  •    What are some of your all-time favorite movies?
  •    What do you do for fun on a Saturday afternoon?
  •    What does the perfect day look and sound like?
  •    Have you ever been lost in a book?
  •    What’s the last GREAT book you read?

It all boils down to this: the more I know about her, the better chance I have of recommending a book that helps her realize how awesome and gratifying it is to be a reader. It’s a magical moment when a dormant reader bonds with a book.”

“It can be hard for younger girls to embrace their inner Nerdy Chick. But what is great about when that happens is she discovers a supportive reading community that wants to discuss books and celebrate authors and literacy.

The Nerdy Book Club (http://www.nerdybookclub.com) is the perfect example of a supportive and enthusiastic community.”

“Even Nerdy Chicks need guidance. To help her expand her reading interests, I would discuss a balanced reading diet and encourage her to try different genres and formats. If she’s only reading historical fiction, why not read a graphic novel every so often? If she’s only reading dystopian fiction, why not try nonfiction?

My booktalking sessions always include a nice balance of genres, formats, fiction, and nonfiction.”

“If I was a Nerdy Chick, I would wear stickers advertising my favorite books, tweet nonstop about MUST-READ titles, host book birthday parties, recommend picture books and middle-grade novels to strangers, and give away hundreds of books.  🙂 ”

Once again, a big thank you to Mr. Schu for joining us. Want to read more of his brilliant thoughts? Follow his blog, Watch. Connect. Read. And go throw a book birthday party today!

 

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Michelle Rhee

File:Michelle Rhee at NOAA.jpgToday’s Quotable Nerdy Chick is someone I have admired for a long time. Michelle Rhee is the daughter of Korean immigrants who has become a force on the American education stage. Not everyone agrees with her positions — I can’t say that I always do, either — but it is impossible to deny her passion for school reform and her commitment to every child’s right to a quality education.

Michelle started her career as a teacher in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1997, she founded The New Teacher Project, a non-profit organization that has trained over 43,000 teachers to work in many of our country’s city schools. Between 2007 and 2010, she was chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools, and when she left that position, she founded StudentsFirst, an organization which is devoted to political advocacy on education reform issues.

Quotes from Michelle Rhee: 

  • “As a nation, we should get engaged and involved in changing laws that are not serving kids.”
  • “Are we beholden to the public school system at any cost, or are we beholden to the public school child at any cost?”
  • On the perceived failures of the public education system: “I have talked with too many teachers to believe this is their fault. I know they are working furiously in a system that for many years has not appreciated them — sometimes not even paying them on time or providing textbooks. Those who categorically blame teachers for the failures of our system are simply wrong.”
  • “My job is to hear all the input, and then as the leader, then decide which are the things that I think are going to move student achievement forward in this district. And I have to make those decisions. That doesn’t mean that I’m not listening. It just means I have to choose to take into consideration all of that input.”
  • On teacher’s unions: “People often say to me the teachers unions are here to stay, that they are big players, that I have to find a way to get along. I actually disagree with that. It’s important for us to lay out on the table what we’re willing to do, but what our bottom line is for kids. The bottom line is that if you can’t come to agreement then you have to push your agenda in a different way, and we’re absolutely going to do that.”
  • “Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don’t know how to read, I don’t care how creative you are. You’re not doing your job.”

To learn more about Michelle Rhee, click HERE.