2013: A Year in Review

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that 2014 is off to a wonderful start for each and every one of you.

As we start this new year, the Nerdy Chicks wanted to take a moment and reflect on 2013. This past year was a great year for Nerdy Chicks Rule. We covered so many topics near and dear to our hearts — and we had a lot of fun, too.

We reflected on life, on education, and on mothers.

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We discussed college, art, and losing.

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We interviewed women we admire. We quoted women we respect.

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We blogged about gardening, gifts, and gratitude.

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We covered reading, writing, and arithmetic. And a whole lot of other things that don’t fall into cutesy category headings!

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Like I said, it was a great year, and these are just a few examples of the kinds of posts we featured. If you missed any, take a moment to browse through and tell us what you think.

We are really looking forward to having you all join us for this coming year. Things are only going to get better.

Are You A Nerd?

Sudipta and I found out we were Google-able as nerds this summer when we were contacted by Huff Post Live for a segment on nerds. We’ll tell you more about that interview that didn’t happen later. For now, I’ll just say that it initiated some entertaining conversations about what it means to be a nerd. Right after that, I found this Geek vs. Nerd Infographic. While I can’t agree with the way everything is shown here, I have to admit that when I got down to the movie category I discovered that this Nerdy Chick is undeniably a nerd.  Not only are the movies in that list some of my favorites, I haven’t seen a single one in the geek category. No, not even Anchorman.

Soon, we’re going to be asking for suggestions for smart women to interview in 2014. If you know a nerd (or a geek) you’d like to see interviewed here, you’ll have a chance to nominate a nerd in December. So which are you, a geek or a nerd? 😉

Geeks vs Nerds

From: MastersInIt.org

Which are you? Geek or Nerd?

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Kathy Temean: Author, Illustrator, Consultant

Today’s interview is a bit of a collaboration…SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) is doing new “Author Spotlight” pieces to highlight authors and illustrators everyone should know about. The Regional Advisor of the New Jersey SCBWI chapterLeeza Hernandez (an author/illustrator extraordinaire and a Nerdy Chick herself! If you missed Leeza’s interview one this site, click HERE to check it out) featured the wonderful, energetic, fabulously nerdy Kathy Temean, and to go with that profile, we’ve got an interview of Kathy here at Nerdy Chicks Rule!

kathyTemean_headshot1Kathy is an author/illustrator and retired New Jersey SCBWI Regional Advisor. She is the author/ illustrator of Horseplay and many magazine articles and artwork. Individuals, major corporations, and businesses have commissioned her artwork. Kathy is the owner of Temean Consulting, www.temeanconsulting.com, a company that creates websites and helps writers and illustrators market themselves.  She publishes a daily blog WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING www.kathytemean.wordpress.com, which offers valuable tips on everything you need to know about writing for children. She also conducts interviews with agents, editors, authors, and illustrators in the field. Kathy writes MG and YA novels and illustrates children’s books. Yogi Berra written by Tina Overman and illustrated by Kathy came out in September. Welcome, Kathy!

So, Kathy, you’ve been involved in children’s publishing for a very long time. How do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?
Girls are very lucky today. The books written today for them are excellent and there are so many good choices for teens. I think they are reading more because of the great books and writing that reflects their world and the type of strong girls they want to become.

Very, very true. Tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

I have a lot of nerdy real life chicks I admire, but I guess for a fictitious one, I would chose Lily Hancock from “Lies Beneath” written by Ann Greenwood Brown. Lily never gives up, even when she falls in love with a murderous merman who is planning to kill her father to revenge the death of his mother. She works through all of it to find a way to make things work.

51uKvEvPtmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_We agree — more people should understand how important creativity is to success. Now, in addition to being an author and illustrator, you are also an art educator. How do you see arts education as being important for today’s kids?

I feel any kind art builds creativity. Creativity helps in everything you want to do in life and spurs new ideas to get you where you want to go. Most people don’t give that any thought, but I have used all the creative things I learned in art with every job I’ve had to be successful, so “Yes,” I think the arts are just as important as the rest of the curriculum in school and is especially important to children who may not excel in other subjects.

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

I collect cows. Yes, cows, but not real ones. Ever since I was in Chicago and saw ‘Cows on Parade,’ I have been into cows. I would like to buy a big concrete cow for my front lawn and decorate it each month, but I know my neighbors will go crazy and torment me about it. Is that nerdy enough? Perhaps someday, I will do it in my backyard.

What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a Nerdy Chick?
Years ago when I worked for Kraft Foods, they were giving away a Lincoln Continental as a prize, so I talked a car dealer into letting me take one of their cars into an Acme Food Store and building a big display of Kraft Food around it. There was a lot of coordinating to pull that off. We even had to take the front windows out of the storefront to get it inside the store. I won a big award for that accomplishment.

Thank you, Kathy, for being with us here today, and for sharing your thoughts. To learn more about Kathy, visit her website (www.kathytemean.com), her blog (www.kathytemean.wordpress.com) or follow her on Twitter: @kathytemean. And to read Kathy’s interview with SCBWI, click HERE, and to learn more about SCBWI, click HERE.

Working With Guilt (Not Anymore!)

CIMG2157I always thought I would be a mother who worked, but I never imagined I would be a working mother. And being a working mother has caused me some guilt over the years.

Now, before we go any further, I have to say something very important: in my opinion, all mothers are working mothers. The idea that the only mothers who work are the ones who earn money outside of the home is insulting and shows a marked lack of understanding of a mother’s roles and contributions. But in the interests of keeping to the traditional use the term and staying consistent with the research I want to share today, I’m going to refer to those mothers who work outside the home as “working mothers.”

When I first had my children, I imagined spending my days with them, enriching their lives through lessons, crafts, activities, long philosophical discussions… I figured I would write, but I would only do so after they went to bed or while they were at school. My life would be about my children first, and about my career second. Life had a different plan for me though.

bella mamma 3If you are a mother like me and you work, you probably feel a little guilty for having to work, or for wanting to work. Over the years, I’ve learned that that is completely normal. Mothers live in a guilty place. We know we’re making all sorts of mistakes, and while we are trying to do the best we can for our kids, we rarely meet the impossible standards we set for ourselves. I remember years ago seeing a cartoon that said something like, “The Nature versus Nurture debate is finally resolved: It’s all MOM’S FAULT.”

I have often felt like a bad mother because, instead of being there for every moment of my children’s lives, I am working.

What if the guilt is misplaced?

A few months back, while I was probably supposed to be working on novel revisions or a new book (or cleaning my kitchen), I came across a website that held the documents from a 1998 conference in Madison, Wisconsin called “Parenthood in America.” There are a lot of great articles at this site, and I encourage you to read them and consider the research that was done.

There was one article in particular that touched me. It was called “The Effects of the Mother’s Employment on the Family and the Child,” and it was written by Dr. Lois Wladis Hoffman, PhD, a Professor Emerita in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Dr. Hoffman wanted to understand how children were affected by their mothers working, so she and her team examined a sample of 400 families with children in the third or fourth grade who lived in a large industrial city in the Midwest. In other words, average American children. The families in Dr. Hoffman’s study were single-parent households and two-parent households. They spanned many races and economic backgrounds.

Her results helped me feel less guilty.

If you want to read the study for yourself, you will find it here. But let me give you some of the highlights:

  • a plus“Daughters of employed mothers have been found to have higher academic achievement, greater career success, more nontraditional career choices, and greater occupational commitment.”
  • “The children [sons and daughters] of employed mothers obtained higher scores on the three achievement tests, for language, reading, and math, across gender, socioeconomic status, and marital status, middle-class boys included.”
  • “Daughters of employed mothers have been found to be more independent, particularly in interaction with their peers in a school setting, and to score higher on socioemotional adjustment measures.”
  • “Daughters with employed mothers, across the different groups, showed more positive assertiveness as rated by the teacher (that is, they participated in class discussions, they asked questions when instructions were unclear, they were comfortable in leadership positions), and they showed less acting-out behavior. They were less shy, more independent and had a higher sense of efficacy.”

Before you think I am trying to say that all women should work, let me share one more bit of Dr. Hoffman’s study. The researchers examined not only employment status but also the mother’s sense of well-being. In other words, how happy is she with her life? They basically found something in the research that we could have figured out with our common sense – that when mothers feel good about themselves, when they are happy, when they have a positive sense of self, their children succeed. This is true of all mothers, across all criteria.

At the beginning of this post, I said that I never planned to be a working mother. I certainly didn’t. But the truth is, my career makes me very happy. I feel fulfilled, I feel strong, I feel accomplished. And that’s possibly what made me feel the most guilty – that I enjoyed something that took me away from my children. Now I know that I did the right thing for me and for my family by pursuing something that made me happy – that it actually helped my kids be happy, too.

So no more guilt. Well, not about working. (But about that ice cream container that “disappeared,” maybe a little guilt….)

 

Pop over to Tara Lazar’s blog if you get a chance to see my newest cover reveals and enter the giveaway contest!

Raising Nerdy Chicklets (and GIVEAWAY Reminder!)

Most of the time, we devote this blog to Nerdy Chicks. But just for today, I wanted to focus not only on girls, but on kids (or Chicklets, as we like to call them!) in general.

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At Afton Elementary in Pennsylvania

Raising a Nerdy Chicklet is a challenge in many ways. We have to foster his or her intellectual curiosity and be ready with facts, figures, and other resources to help her learn. As parents or educators, we strive to be ready with the answers. But having the answers isn’t the most important part of supporting a Nerdy Chicklet — allowing her to ask questions is the vital thing. Even when we don’t have the answers, the questioning process teaches the Nerdy Chicklet to think. Remember, giving facts is often a linear thinking process. We take the facts down a logical path with very few side stops in order to keep the explanations simple. Asking questions, however, lets a child explore in a non-linear way. Some of the smartest people in the history of the world were non-linear thinkers. If you want to help the Nerdy Chicklets in your life reach their full intellectual potential, let them ask questions — and be honest if you don’t know the answers. When that happens, it’s just an opportunity for the Nerdy Chicklet to learn independently and teach you, or for you two to learn together. Instant bonding!

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At Central Elementary in Maryland

One of the truly awesome things I get to do as a children’s book author is to go around the country to talk to kids about writing and books. Recently, this has taken me to schools in New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as the Knoxville Children’s Book Festival in Tennessee. I always get lots of questions from the kids and I’m often so impressed by the kinds of things they are curious about. Here are some of the questions I’ve gotten.

“How can you tell the difference between a good idea and a bad idea?”

I get this question a lot. I wish I knew the answer!

SAMSUNG CSC“Do chickens make every story better?”

Not every story, but certainly most.

“Does it ever feel better to write about something that hurts you?”

A lovely boy asked me that question privately after one of my school workshops. I’ll tell you the same thing I told him: yes, it does eventually feel better. Writing is wonderful therapy, especially because in fiction, we have power. In life, we get what we get and it is often unfair. In fiction, we get to give our characters the endings they deserve — which means the good characters get happy endings, and the ones we don’t like get humiliation and defeat.

“Did you really set a mouse on fire?”SAMSUNG CSC

I get that question everywhere, but it was especially funny at the Rumson Country Day School, where one of my presentations was invaded by an actual MOUSE!

(Oh, and, yes, I really did.)

P1030380“How do you relate to kids when you’re so old?”

This was a question to the panel at the Knoxville Children’s Book Festival, where I shared the stage with the wonderful Julie Danielson, Bob Shea, Jarrett Krosoczka, Marc Tyler Nobleman, and Debbie Diesen. Needless to say, the little girl who asked it stole all of our thunder.

REMINDER!

There is still time to enter the GIVEAWAY for a free VIRTUAL CLASSROOM VISIT! Check out the cover reveal for DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE! and enter to win!

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Kat Yeh: Mad Scribbles, Big Feet

297310_10150320631406460_1375238351_nA couple years ago, Kat Yeh and I were attending the same writer’s conference. I was in the middle of a conversation with a well-respected agent, when Kat walked by. Immediately, the person I was speaking to went silent and his eyes followed Kat as she walked away. When he finally remembered that he was supposed to be speaking to me, he turned back, shrugged, and said, “She’s very striking.” The funny thing is that this guy had no idea that, as striking as Kat is from across the room, she is so much more so in person. Kat has a warm and endearing personality that has you laughing and feeling like you’ve known her for years, even when you first meet. This explains why I’ve spilled so many secrets to her despite our relatively short friendship!

Magic-Brush-Yeh-Kat-9780802721792You're Lovable to MeKat is a graduate of Villanova University and she worked in sports marketing for many years before discovering she really is a wonderfully talented writer who needs to be putting books into the world for the rest of us to read. She is the author of the picture books YOU’RE LOVABLE TO ME (Random House Books for Young Readers) and THE MAGIC BRUSH A story of love, family and Chinese Characters (Walker Books for Young Readers) and the forthcoming novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE (Little Brown BYR, coming 2014). She’s also the recipient of the 2012 SCBWI Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award.

Thank you, Kat, for joining us today on Nerdy Chicks Rule. Let’s get started! If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I actually think I received the perfect piece of advice already at that age (though I was not really able to figure out how to use it till much later) A dear and wise-beyond-her -years friend gave me a little card with a tiny painting and the quote: “Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks with my behavior so that I can see how it is I want to be” I think we were 13 or 14 at the time. She knew I was struggling and feeling stuck, so she made the card for me. I still have it.

And I wish I could honestly say I have other advice that I would give myself, but I kind of feel that all that stumbling and confusion was sort of necessary. Even the big plastic glasses and ill-advised outfit choice for my first 9th grade dance (brown cowl neck sweater and full-length a-line plaid skirt). I wouldn’t change any of it. But maybe I’d just go back and give myself a big hug.

If it makes you feel better, I never even went to my 9th grade dance (though had I gone, I’m sure my wardrobe choice would have been equally unfortunate). Let’s move on…You’re one of my favorite authors!

Funny, you’re one of mine 🙂

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Here are the Nerdy Chicks with Kat (and Joyce Wan) in Princeton (after that conference where Kat was declared “striking”)

My favorite things to read…Books that lush and literary and brave and unapologetic and a little bit strange and completely committed to the world they create: example anything by Franny Billingsley.

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

I don’t think it is necessarily about what is being published today as much as it is about allowing a pretty free reign. Showing a lot of options, but then letting them make their own reading choices – and THEN being there to talk. Answer questions (or even better come up with more questions together!). Start discussions. Think of alternate endings. Be stumped. Be frustrated. Be in love. Then wonder and wonder and talk about why you both are feeling all these things. I love the George Carlin quote:  “Don’t just teach your children to read…Teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.”

That is a terrific quote from a fairly smart (and nerdy!) man. But we’re called Nerdy Chicks Rule, so let’s re-focus on girls…Tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

Is it too typical to say Jo March? I don’t think that I was ever as brave as she was as a teen, but I wanted to be. And of course, I always connected to her passion for reading and her utter desperate Need To Be a Writer – as well as her big feet and awkwardness and temper and fierce love and mad scribbling.

Your feet are not big! (Well, at least, not that big.) Moving on, though…What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

I love, love spending hours in used book stores or in the used book section of my local indy. Looking for old art books. Hidden overlooked early editions of favorites. I love finding books with quirky titles and wonderful content. It’s like a treasure hunt. I recently found a ratty copy of a book titled, LOVE & DROLLERY – A SELECTION OF AMATORY, MERRY AND SATIRICAL VERSE OF THE 17TH CENTURY for $7. Happiness.

That was totally going to be the title of my next book! I guess that’s why I should do more market research, especially in used book stores. You’ve convinced me to follow in your (normal-sized) footsteps! Now, what is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

easy: without a doubt, it is only when being absolutely myself (and therefore, embracing the nerdy in me) that I have been able to Find & Be Found and Get & Be Gotten by like-minded souls who have become life friends.

527286_10151155108171460_496397820_nI love the way you describe that: Find & Be Found and Get & Be Gotten. Beautiful. Guess that’s why you’re an award-winning author, huh? 🙂

Now, for the fun part: if someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?

That’s hard. As a mom, I tend not to think about spending money on myself. I’d probably buy drinks and a load of appetizers somewhere yummy (and hopefully with music) where a friend and I could have long, leisurely talk-ish time together.

And, finally, can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?

For several months now it’s been baby arugula. I know – it’s not glamorous or decadent, but it makes me crazy. All dark and peppery and perfect.

Thank you again, Kat! If you want to find out more about the fabulous and fashionable Kat Yeh, visit her at katyeh.com (still under construction, but coming soon!) and follow her on Twitter: @yehface

Karma Wilson: Better Today than Yesterday

novprofileI can’t imagine there’s anyone in the world who doesn’t know who Karma Wilson is. After all, she’s a bestselling author and all-around interesting person. Who, by the way, trains in Mixed Martial Arts and calls a dog, a cat, and a chicken her pets. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock and have never heard of Bear Snores On, Frog in the Bog, or Hogwash, here’s a little about Karma.

Karma never really thought about being a professional writer because, growing up, it seemed so boring. But that’s only because her mother was a professional writer – and who wants to do what Mom does? (By the way, the answer to that is usually EVERYONE. But only secretly.) But as children all over the world are grateful for every day, Karma eventually came around and started writing books for kids. The first one(Bear Snores On)  came out in 2002. Since then, she’s written 30 books which have collectively received numerous state and national awards, been translated into dozens of languages, and a few have made an appearance on the New York Times bestseller list. 

I wanted to interview Karma for this blog because not only is she a great example of a Nerdy Chick, but many, many years ago, she became one of my KidLit idols (that’s a secret, too. I don’t want to look like a lame fangirl). So, please welcome Karma to Nerdy Chicks Rule!

So, Karma, you’re an award-winning author! What are your favorite things to read?

Fantasy is numero uno and always has been, followed by historical fiction with plucky characteres, and sci-fi if it’s original.

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

Oh no, not sure how to answer this. I don’t think all of them are for one thing.

(I agree with you. But do go on.)

A lot of pop fiction is depicting girls as helpless princesses waiting for a hero, or bullies, or cliquish mean girls.  I like books that help give girls a voice, that help them see themselves as capable people able to think and reason. Laurie Halse Anderson’s work, for instance. I think that for me it’s the books that are written about genuine, strong characters set in a good story that will automatically set the right examples for girls.  And I’m not the kind who thinks that only girl characters can set examples for girl readers. I love strong boy characters and think there is a gap in fiction that appeals to boys and girls. A timeless treasure like Freak the Mighty can go a long ways to teaching anybody how to be a more capable, compassionate, thinking person–boy or girl. A book depicting a boy character who values women and treats them as equals can help a girl recognize a good guy. Good stories, good characters–the rest falls into place.

Those are really good points. I think people are coming around to the idea that there shouldn’t be “girl books” and “boy books.” But speaking of girl characters…tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

Anne of Green Gables. I admire her for taking her fantasies and not just using them as an escape from her harsh reality, but to improve herself as a person.  She learned from her mistakes, she grew as an individual, she was caring, unique and plucky.  I love her!

Me, too! Reading is obviously very important to you, which totally makes sense since Nerdy Chicks love to read! What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a Nerdy Chick? family

Teaching my children to value words and literature. All three are excellent readers who enjoy words and writing. WIN!

In fact, I want to give a thanks to my kids, Michael, David and Chrissy for continuing to be my most successful endeavor….

That’s not only fabulous, it’s something that parents everywhere should try to emulate. Brava! How about this: what’s something else you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?

I like to take pictures of food and post them on facebook. Yep, I’m one of those! lol. To be fair, I like and comment on other people’s food photos.

Mmmmm. There’s nothing wrong with that. Speaking of food, Can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?

Coffee.  And toilet paper. In that order? Oh, just one. Sorry! lol

OMG, I just snorted my Pepsi all over my desk! You are too funny! If someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it? 

Buy a special treat from a local artist or craftsman. That way it would be a gift to them too! Probably pottery, which I love.

I’m starting to get goosebumps. I love pottery, too! Could we be long-lost sisters? (Wait, too fangirl-y? I’ll stop.)

IMG_2566Last question: tell us a four-word descriptive phrase you would like people to associate with you.

Better today than yesterday.

I’m not sure we could have ended on a better note than that – those may become words I have to live by. Thank you so much, Karma, for joining us.

If you want to learn more about Karma, find her on the web at www.karmawilson.com. There you can find great resources for teachers, parents and lovers of children’s books.