Ten Things I Wish I’d Learned Ten Years Ago

It’s been a rough start to 2015 for me – too much awfulness to share here. Through it all, though, life goes on, and that has meant that I’ve had to find ways to move forward. Easier said than done.

Probably because I’m having such a stormy time, I’ve been very introspective of late, and I have realized that, despite the turbulence, I’m better suited to deal with it now than I had been in the past. That’s because with age comes wisdom, and I am wiser today than I was a decade ago. Here are ten things that I know now that I wish I’d known ten years ago:

1. Forgiving is easy. It’s forgetting that is hard. You always hear people talking about things they can never forgive – how silly is that. It is very hard, when faced with someone truly remorseful, to withhold forgiveness. The problem is that you can accept someone else’s sincere remorse – and still feel hurt. And until you can forget the thing you’ve already forgiven, it’s impossible to move on. Knowing this doesn’t make it easier to do – but, at least, now, I know what needs to be done.

image2. Strong and stubborn are not the same thing. Most of us are raised to believe that consistency is a sign of strength – that when you make a decision, you should stick to it. This is especially true if you’re a parent – you’re told that once you say something to your kids, you can never back down. But refusing to back down regardless of the circumstances is just pigheadedness, not strength. In fact, it often takes a lot more strength to reverse yourself and admit that a different path of action is the wiser thing to do.

3. It doesn’t matter what they say – pay attention to what they do. I blame this inclination of putting more stock in words than actions on being a woman. I have a tendency to talk everything to death, on the assumption that a verbal contract is binding under the law. But people can be careless with their words, and often the words that are treated as the most binding are the ones that were said in the heat of the moment and probably shouldn’t be honored (see 2 above). For me, I’ve learned that I often don’t give people enough credit for the good things they do if they say a single hurtful thing to me – something that I work every day to change in myself.

4. Distance – more than time – heals all wounds. In the immortal words of Elsa, “Let it go.” Remember that things don’t need to be talked to death, and sometimes walking away does more good than the most honest, open, unrestrained conversation. You know how you shouldn’t sweat the small things? Given enough distance, everything is small. (I may be paraphrasing FROZEN again there….) One more thing: for time to heal wounds, the clock has to start – and that can’t happen until you stop talking it to death. That’s why distance is so much more important. No matter how loud you’re shouting, it’s impossible to be heard 10 miles away.

5. There is a big difference between need and want. A need is something that you physically cannot live without. Oxygen. Water. Food. Bon Jovi. A want, on the other hand, is something that you like to whine that you need but you really do not. You don’t need your kids to be nice to each other – you just want it. You don’t need your coworkers to respect you – you just want it. And in most cases where you’re having a rough time, learning to label the things you want properly as wants and not as needs reduces the amount of stress that not having them will cause. (It seems a lot of the wisdom I’ve gained has to do with words and talking…hmmm…)

6. If you’re going around in circles, it is your own responsibility to get off that ride. No matter how many times you punch 2 + 3 into your calculator, the answer is going to be 5. If you want a different output, you need to change the inputs. When your life is a hamster wheel of the same disasters, get off the darn wheel. You cannot wait for another person, a particular set of circumstances, or a force of nature to push you off the wheel – you have to make that choice yourself. Again, this isn’t easy – humans are creatures of habit, if nothing else, and we like our hamster wheels. But, sometimes, you have to make yourself break out of your comfort zone and change the inputs.

7. If you have to put yourself first, you’ve made the wrong choices. So often people talk about how others in their lives aren’t making them happy, how they need to put themselves first. Well, first, putting yourself first isn’t a need, it’s a want (see 5). Second, the truly happy people I know are the ones who do for the people they love and trust that those loved ones will do for them. Now, listen – happy doesn’t mean without complaints. It’s still annoying when your husband doesn’t take your dreams seriously, or your kids expect a chauffeur who will do his duty in silence, or your mother complains about your housekeeping skills instead of praising your career. But when you are generous with yourself – and you’ve been generous to the right people – the math works out in the end and your bucket should be full.

8. Trust, but verify. Trust is one of those funny things – it’s too valuable a thing to be careless with, and yet if you can’t freely give it, your relationships won’t work. This goes for your friends, your partner, your children – you cannot live in a place of suspicion where every motive is constantly questioned (if you did, you’d end up with no friends, no partner, and children who avoid you). And yet, with age, you learn that blind trust is meaningless and anyone who demands blind trust…well, he is probably deceiving you. So here’s the one subset of “putting yourself first” that is ok – never be ashamed to verify facts that are important to you. And never let someone else make you feel guilty because your “mistrust” uncovered his deception – it isn’t mistrustful to verify. It’s just smart.

9. Very little in life will actually kill you. Talk about perspective. You hear the phrase “it’s killing me” tossed around constantly. Really? It’s killing you that your daughter talks back? When’s the funeral? It’s killing you that your boss eats all the blueberry muffins in the break room? Should I start on your obituary? These things aren’t killing you. They’re annoying you. Just like it is important to know the difference between need and want, you need to acknowledge the meaning of the words kill, slaughter, and dead. And then you need to understand that the old saying that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” pretty much means that almost everything in your life has the power to make you stronger (because almost nothing will actually kill you!). Keep the correct outlook on life and watch your stress level plummet. Or even get slaughtered.

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10. The sun truly will come out tomorrow. This goes along with 9 – very little will leave you dead, and no matter what, tomorrow is a new day. As dark as it gets, the sun always rises. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I know these sayings are trite and clichéd, but they’re also true. It’s important to remind ourselves that, no matter what, there is always tomorrow, and that that is a gift.

I know I said ten things, but here’s one more that is so meaningful to me that I had it tattooed on my body (and, no, I won’t tell you where):

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BONUS: Love heals all. The worst times in my life happened when I forgot this very simple truth. That’s why I got the tattoo – I never want to forget again that no matter how much pain there is, love will heal it all.

Cool New Year, Cool (Downright Cold) New Experiences

If you’re like me, sometime around the end of December, every year, you start thinking about all the things you are going to do in the next year that you never got around to before. I always swear to myself that I will fill the new year with completely new experiences. It was in that spirit (and possibly in a moment of insanity) that I booked a room for me and my family at the Hotel de Glace in Quebec City. The Hotel IMG_0081de Glace is the only hotel in North America to be constructed entirely of ice and snow. (Which totally makes sense as who would pay a hotel to make them sleep in ice and snow? You know, except me.) The beds, luckily, have wooden bases and mattresses made of mattresses, but they are all enclosed in an ice frame and are also inside, well, a room made of snow and ice. But don’t worry! They give you a Mount Everest-style sleeping bag that looks like a mummy’s sarcophagus to sleep in. And, yes, the entire hotel is cold (it’s basically an igloo). But don’t worry! The inside stays a pretty constant temperature of about 23 degrees. That’s Fahrenheit. Do you know what that is in Celsius? Negative 5. I hope you can imagine the panic I found myself in when all these facts sunk in. It was with great trepidation that I packed my parka and my expedition weight base layer and my snow pants and my gloves to head to the Hotel de Glace. But to my surprise, when I arrived, the place was truly….magical. IMG_0085IMG_0061 The artistry of the decorated rooms was…breathtaking. SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC wpid-20150116_195640.jpg wpid-20150116_195946.jpgSAMSUNG CSC Sipping a drink out of a glass made of ice was….incredible. SAMSUNG CSC wpid-20150116_230124.jpg Taking a turn on the Grand Slide made of ice that adorns the entry hall was…awesome. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one that I am glad I made myself (and my family) do. And now, I feel empowered to fill 2015 with even more cool new experiences! In the end, there is one word that I would use to describe the Hotel de Glace. Is it magical? Breathtaking? Incredible? No. The one word that best sums it up…

COLD.

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Marcie Colleen: Four Ways to Get Your Book into School Curriculum

20140628_152522A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of hosting Marcie Colleen here on the blog. (If you missed that post, go read it now!) We now have the double pleasure of welcoming her back to share more thoughts on how authors can get their books into schools (and share some information about a great Webinar Marcie will be doing on November 23!).

Without further ado, heeeeeeeeere’s Marcie!

Four Ways to Get Your Book into School Curriculum

In my last post for Nerdy Chicks Rule, we talked about book selection for the classroom and how teachers are no longer relegated to teach specific dusty texts.  These days, under the Common Core, teachers are free to make their own decisions on classroom literature.  This is good news for authors but, there is a lot of competition out there.  So more than anything, authors need some snazzy ways to make their book stand out.

There are many benefits for teachers in using books from the “book closet.”  These books are classics.  They have been used for decades in the classroom.  There is no need to re-invent the wheel.

superfudgeTake for example SUPERFUDGE by Judy Blume.  Pop “Superfudge by Judy Blume lessons” into Google and you get 1,790 hits.  Find one you like, hit print and BOOM! There’s your plan for the next few weeks.

So how does your book battle SUPERFUDGE and win?

It can happen.

Here’s how:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the language of the Common Core State Standards.  You might not like it or politically agree with it, but it’s the educational language of today.  You wouldn’t go to a foreign country without figuring out how to speak the basics like “where’s the bathroom?” or “is there a doctor in the house?” Right?  Well, it’s the same with getting into the schools.  No one expects you to study and memorize the Common Core State Standards, but you should be familiar with them.  Know what they ask.  Know what they expect out of students.  Read more than the angry headlines you see on Facebook and Twitter.  Only then can you address how your book can fit into the school curriculum.  The Common Core State Standards can be found at (corestandards.org).Common-Core
  2. Know your themes and universal truths. Sure, SUPERFUDGE might be about Peter’s annoying little brother Fudge and another baby on the way.  But look deeper and it’s about “change”.  Peter’s life is about to change in so many ways.  And although students might not be moving or gaining a sibling, everyone can relate to change.  So what is the universal truth or theme of your book?  What is at the heart?  How can your book speak to every child?  Once you put your finger on what your book is truly about, it will be easier to position it within a school curriculum.
  3. Create Discussion Questions and Teacher’s Guides. Remember those 1,790 lesson hits in Google for SUPERFUDGE?    It’s easy and quick for teachers to adapt the book into their own classroom. No one expects you to have 1,790 lessons and activities, but if you can provide something for teachers to utilize easily, you’re playing the game right.  This actually happened to one of my clients.  She had just launched her debut early middle grade novel and she hired me to create the Teacher’s Guide.  When she went on her very first school visit she presented a copy of the Teacher’s Guide.  The teachers were so impressed.  And before she left a teacher said, “you know.  Maybe we should teach your book instead of SUPERFUDGE next year.”  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
  4. Be available. The most successful authors when it comes to school visits are visible.  They participate in initiatives like World Read Aloud Day in March and Picture Book Month in November.  They offer Skype talks and assemblies and library visits.  They Tweet to teachers.  These authors succeed because they are approachable.  Chances are a school is not going to be able to afford a school visit from Judy Blume.  However, you can be available for less.  You can be accessible.  This automatically gives you a foot up.

So there you have it!  You can do it!  You can get your book noticed.  You can be the talk of the school.  You can be loved until your books’ covers are falling off.  You can battle Judy Blume…and win!

I do hope you join me on November 23rd as we discuss further in depth the in’s and out’s of school curriculum (including the dreaded Common Core) and provide more details on how to make your book irresistible to teachers and students.

Kidlit Writing SchoolYou will learn:

  • To read and understand the Common Core
  • The jargon of the educational world so you can talk more knowledgeably to teachers and librarians
  • The nuts and bolts necessary to create great Discussion Guides, Teacher’s Guides, and hands on activities

Remember, Early Bird Pricing ends November 10thSign up now by clicking this link!

 

headshotAuthor and Education Consultant Marcie Colleen is an expert on creating highly acclaimed Teacher’s Guides that align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and other state mandated standards.  She is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month and the the Curriculum Developer for Time Traveler Tours & Tales. Her work with Picture Book Month has been recognized by School Library Journal and the Children’s Book Council. 

Marcie Colleen: Why the Common Core is Good News for Authors

It’s our pleasure today to welcome Author and Education Consultant Marcie Colleen to Nerdy Chicks Rule! Marcie is an expert on creating highly acclaimed Teacher’s Guides that align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and other state mandated standards.  She is the Education Consultant for Picture Book Month and the the Curriculum Developer for Time Traveler Tours & Tales. Her work with Picture Book Month has been recognized by School Library Journal and the Children’s Book Council. Marcie has been an invaluable resource to both the Nerdy Chicks as the developer of many of the educator guides that go with our books! We’re so happy that Marcie is joining us!

Why the Common Core is Good News for Authors

headshotI remember clearly my first few days as a high school English Literature teacher.  I was young.  I was green.  I had no clue what to teach.  I had a zillion ideas and no ideas at the same time.  The possibilities seemed endless.

And then I was handed a textbook.

It was made clear to me that I was to start toward the beginning of the textbook and work my way through.  It was required.

The textbook was the literature class.

In addition to the textbook, the students in my classes were required to read a few longer works.

All “appropriate, pre-approved” choices could be found in the dank dusty book closet which stood locked at the end of the hallway.  Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

Many of these books had lost their covers.  Those that did have covers included out-dated, artwork that often evoked laughter from my rough, urban students.  Oh, and good luck finding enough copies for my class.  If worse came to worse, I was instructed to photocopy the necessary chapters each week.

That was that.  My creativity, my love for books, my countless ideas for stories to bring to class was squashed by this textbook and required reading.

Although these books were classics, they did not always speak to my students, they did not instill a desire to become life-long readers.  I was told it didn’t matter.  We were fulfilling requirements.  If I had any grand ideas of other pieces of literature to introduce, it had to be cleared by the Department and then it was up to me to find a way to integrate it into the existing curriculum while also covering the required literature.  Needless to say, I didn’t bring in anything extra.

Now for the good news!

The Common Core does not contain a required reading list.  All books are Common Core compliant.  Yes, even YOUR book!

The focus has shifted from WHAT the students read to HOW they read.  Students are expected to read a range of classic and contemporary literature as well as challenging informational texts from an array of subjects so that students can acquire new knowledge, insights, and consider varying perspectives as they read.

What does that mean to you as an author?

It means that your book now has a place within the classroom.  In fact, teachers that are used to teaching from obsolete textbooks are now looking for good quality literature and informational texts (Common Core lingo for Nonfiction) to bring to their students.

This is a huge opportunity.  Of course, it also means that the competition is high.  Teachers are still incredibly busy and instruction time is limited. However, there are several ways to make your book (and you) stand out above the rest.

No need to sift through the dank dusty book closet anymore.

Join me right here again on November 10th as we continue this conversation with 4 ways to make your book part of the curriculum!

Thank you, Marcie! This was such a great post!

As a private consultant Marcie works one-on-one to guide authors and illustrators to best position their books for school visits and classroom use.  Visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com to discover how Marcie can help you navigate the world of children’s literature and education.

Nerdy Chicks Logo with CIRCLE - TASSEL - DIPLOMA - pink backgroundAnd if you REALLY want to learn what Marcie has to teach you, join her at Kidlit Writing School for a Webinar on What Authors Need To Know to Make Schools Fall in Love with Their Books. You can register now for this 90 minute webinar with Marcie by clicking this link to take you to the Kidlit Writing School Square Market. There, you can pay the $50 fee by credit card at Square’s secure site.

Want to learn more about Marcie’s upcoming Webinar? Read all about it here.

 

Meet Emily Soper of WHEELS OF CHANGE

blog tour photo (1)On September 22, 2014, the world will get to meet Emily Soper, the main character of Darlene Beck Jacobson’s debut book, WHEELS OF CHANGE. Today on Nerdy Chicks Rule, you will get to meet Darlene and learn more about this fabulous new book.

Darlene, thank you for joining us at Nerdy Chicks Rule! One of the things we do here at this blog is to celebrate smart women (and girls!). So, tell us: what are your favorite things to read?

Middle Grade Novels and Picture Books are my favorites. I read many genres, but am especially drawn to coming of age stories, historical fiction, mysteries and humorous tales.

How do you see the books as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?

PiratePrincess cThere are so many wonderful books with strong, spunky female characters. Some of my recent favorites include: MG’s such as COUNTING BY 7’S by Holly Goldberg Sloan, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY by Holly Schindler, FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo, THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly, JUNIPER BERRY by M P Kozlowsky, KAT, INCORRIGIBLE by Stephanie Burgis, and INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanha Lai. For PB’s there is: HOW TO BE HUMAN by Florida Frenz, HAVE FUN MIOLLY LOU MELLON by Patty Lovell, PIRATE PRINCESS by Sudipta Bardhan Quallen, and all the RAMONA QUIMBY books. Each of these books celebrate girls who are different and not afraid to stand alone for something they believe in. Emily – the heroine in WHEELS OF CHANGE (WOC) – is that kind of girl.

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

The first nerdy chick I met in a book and wanted to be was Nancy Drew. She and her girlfriends Beth and George were independent, brainy, and adventurous. Oh what fun it was to pretend to be Nancy and solve those mysteries. She was the first “feminist” character I read as a girl and I still get a feeling of “girl power” when I see one of her books.

What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

When I was in high school I made most of my own clothes, so everything I wore was unique. I still enjoy making things by hand and giving them away as gifts.

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

lang awardThat would have to be winning the eighth grade Language Arts Award at graduation.

Three things that make the main character EMILY in WOC a nerdy chick:

1. She enjoys hanging out in the forge and in the carriage barn, hoping to one day become a blacksmith.

2. She’s always asking questions, and when she thinks something is unfair or unjust, will speak up – even if it means getting in trouble.

3. She thinks girls shouldn’t have to worry about being proper ladies, but instead should worry about doing what’s right. Even if it means standing alone.

Three things that make ME a nerdy chick:

1. If I were only allowed to bring three things on a trip, they would be a book, notebook and pencils.

2. I think the world would be a more just and peaceful place if girls were in charge.

3. I think authors and teachers are the real rock stars who deserve their own “Walk of Fame”.

??????????Darlene Beck Jacobson has loved writing since she was a girl. She wrote letters to everyone she knew and made up stories in her head. Although she never wrote to a president, she sent many letters to pop stars of the day asking for photos and autographs. She loves bringing the past to life in stories such as WHEELS OF CHANGE, her debut novel. Darlene’s stories have appeared in CICADA, CRICKET, and other magazines. When not writing, Darlene enjoys baking, sewing and tea parties. She also likes hanging around forges watching the blacksmith work magic. She’s never ridden in a carriage like the one in the story, but hopes to one day.

Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators. She still loves writing and getting letters. Check out her website at: www.darlenebeckjacobson.com Twitter @dustbunnymaven

Darlene and WHEELS OF CHANGE are on a blog tour, so please sure to visit her Q & A on Literacy with Gail Terp on September 2.

See the trailer for Wheels of Change: 

Vacation Traditions, Part 2

Two weeks ago, Kami blogged about her family’s vacation traditions. Well, I just returned from my own family vacation, and thought it would be nice to share my reflections.

For some families, like Kami’s, the vacation traditions survive generations. For me, on the other hand, it’s a little bit different. Being the child of immigrants, my childhood summers were spent doing basically one thing — and my parents wouldn’t have called it vacation. No, for them, it was going home.

Aunts, uncles, parents, cousins...even a sister!

Aunts, uncles, parents, cousins…even a sister!

When I was younger, almost every significant school break was spent traveling back to India where my parents grew up. It was so common that I think I may have been in elementary school before I realized just what a journey the flight from JFK to Calcutta truly was! But the long flight and the inconveniences of travel faded as soon as we touched down on Indian soil. Because just as my parents were going home, for me, India became a home of sorts as well. Whenever I was there, I was surrounded — in fact, flooded! — with family. Uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents — you name it, I had a dozen. in Indian culture, we don’t hugely differentiate between first cousins and second cousins, or even between cousins and siblings. The word for older brother and older male cousin is the same — “dada” — just as the word for older sister and older female cousin (“didi“) is the same. Therefore, in India, I had family everywhere I looked.

My childhood memories of vacation are all strongly associated with layers and layers of extended family. And I always thought that that was a lovely way to grow up.

P1060527Except when it comes to my own children…well, I don’t have the same kinds of family layers to share with them. Sure, my kids spend oodles of time with my parents, and last year’s vacation was to go out to California to see their aunt and uncle (my sister and brother-in-law). But this year? It was just us at the beach.

As I was leaving, I remember thinking about how to make our solo trip about FAMILY in the same way my childhood trips had been.

I’m a silly person.

A few months ago, I took a trip to Paris with my daughters. There, I learned that getting MY way wasn’t how WE were going to have fun together. On this most recent trip, I learned something, too.

Even though it was “just us,” the trip felt as full as any of my childhood vacations (and I swear the drive was as long as the New York to Calcutta flight!). I learned that FAMILY with a capital F is not about the number of bodies you squeeze into a tiny space, but how much love you cram into it.

Here’s to great family vacations for all our readers!

Get it WRITE This Summer!

We are so excited to announce a new kidlit writer’s workshop through our sister site, Nerdy Chicks Write called

SUMMER SCHOOL!

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Kidlit Summer School is a four week writer’s workshop that will run from July 21 through August 15. Because we (Kami and Sudipta) both enjoy teaching writing classes, we wanted to find a way to offer craft-based writing advice on a particular topic each summer. Our 2014 course is going to focus on writing great characters.

It’s fun! It’s fabulous! It’s FREE!

Pre-registration has already begun! If you’d like to find out more about Summer School and sign yourself up, please visit Nerdy Chicks Write by clicking the badge above (designed by the fabulous Zachariah Ohora), or on the link in the header above, or simply click HERE. Register now and

Get it WRITE This Summer!

We want to see YOU at Summer School! Be there, or be square!! (Can you tell I was not one of the cool kids in school?)