Rexalicious Ruffaford

Best Day Ever!

Our day started with a long walk. Right away! I didn’t have to wait for Charlene to sit looking at that screen thing and moving her fingers foreeeevveerrr. Nope, not this morning. We had a long walk, even saw Oscar! The guy had him so we got to sniff and really say hi today.

Down a ways, there were huge sticks in the road. Bigger than me. I couldn’t get my mouth on them, didn’t even try because they didn’t smell right. There was a noisy car thing was rolling all over and carrying a huge stick so we moved on. I’m smart that way, take care of my family.

Then those big animals walked down our street again this morning. Maybe they’re cows, or elephants. One of those big things anyway. They walked near our place, I barked. Charlene and Aaron both looked out the windows and made that smiling sound. But when I looked in my dish, there wasn’t a treat. So I looked out the window too.

The big animals’ ears twitched all the time, like they can hear everything. I can, maybe they can too. I bet they didn’t hear that rabbit under the tree though, they’re too tall. And the people on their backs, making too much noise maybe. Oh, cows. I forgot the fuzzy cows live down around the corner and have big horns. These weren’t cows. Ok, so elephants walked down our street this morning.

The elephants’ scat smelled sweet, like apples and dried grass and stuff. I ate one last year during a walk. They taste as sweet as they smell, but there was too much to eat before I got groaned at. Not my fault there was a bunch right where we were walking!

The best part of the day is next. Charlene got a flappy plastic rug out of the small building. That flappy rug isn’t very comfortable to lay on and it tasted terrible. It sounds like the plastic bottles I crunch. Wish I had one of those now. . . anyway, I led the way. Charlene got a little distracted and went the wrong way but I caught up and ran ahead to secure the area.

Then we wrestled sticks! Big ones, little ones, and snappy ones. I fought sticks that wouldn’t come out of the cold, white slippery ground. I chewed them anyway. I carried a few bigger than me, uh-huh.

I don’t know why Charlene put sticks on the flappy rug. I know dog bylaws say sticks are mine. So I wrestled her for some of them. It was a great game. Later when Charlene had a whole bunch in her hand, I snuck behind and got them! I protected her and chewed them into little bits! Then went and hunted again. I saved her and Aaron from them. I’ve never wrestled so many sticks before. Hope we do it again! Even though we dragged all the sticks on that flappy rug to the huge pile of sticks. I don’t get it, but we’re safe from those sticks now.

Today was great too because that wild dog didn’t come back. Not the red, long-tailed dog Charlene likes to see. This one smelled mean and hungry. Right in our yard. Don’t know what he was thinking, but I got treats for that barking. I know I heard wrong because no way did Charlene ask if it was carrying Salsa. Salsa is the small dog a few houses down. Ugtthkk. Makes me shudder. I patrolled and kept the mean, hungry wild dog away. He didn’t even stay in the woods long. Nope. He knew, I told him.

So today was a great day! Aaron was sick inside but I could smell he was happy, when we came in. And he made that funny sound like smiling out-loud as he said “Rex” and “helped.”

Disclaimer: no pups, horses, horse apples, Highland Cattle, tarps, red fox, or coyotes were hurt during the writing of this blog. Our sticks, and the neighbors Ash trees – well, you can’t win them all.

Taking Care of Your 80-year old Self

Explore new ideas of fun things. Things you have interest in but perhaps not the time, energy, money, or abilities. Can you adapt them? Volunteer? Maybe apply for a grant or an introductory class? Make a 1-5 year goal? Do a part of something, this year? Or not.

Draw to mind some favorite things you tried as a youngster. Maybe something you only got to do once or a few times. Or dreamed of doing.

Play around, explore. . .Go through puddles or mud (if safe), or whatever comes to mind if the above aren’t doable.

Enjoy something. Hug yourself. Live.

Eighty looks different for each person. Explore, and enjoy!

Want more? Explore, exploring!

Friends often tell me they have a very different perspective 3, 6, or 9 months after retiring, recycling themselves, or re-imagining their lives. Whatever you call it (bodies/minds not cooperating, moving, – everything is included), things look different months down the road.

Some people suggest not committing for at least 6 months after big changes. If you have that luxury, see what opportunities look like later. If you need to commit, perhaps you review things at 6 or 12 months. People get better at exploring, reaching out with their hearts and minds. They cast their nets in new directions, not needing to commit but playing what-if?

So if you haven’t explored for a while, please do so. If your interest, time, energy, money, and abilities all line-up. . .you decide what’s next. More exploring or commitment?

Journey Through Workshops

New York 2019 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference

What do I share about two days of workshops and presentations, when I’ve agreed to the SCBWI policy ‘to not share what isn’t mine to share’?

Wonder and passion are excellent descriptors of my experience in my first session. Title: The Picture Book: It’s Not Writing. It’s Not Illustrating. It’s Riveting Emotional Theater! Presenters: Marla Frazee – illustrator, author and teacher; Allyn Johnston – VP and publisher, Beach Lane Books/Simon and Schuster; Ruben Pfeffer – agent and founder of Rubin Pfeffer Content. We hear how an agent and editor feel when they first read THE script. The script that gives them tingles. The script they read over and over again. The script that stops what they were going to do next. They take care of this first by putting the next steps in motion for THE script.

I hear the awe and respect in their voices as these presenters read picture books that excite them, and that they’ve read over and over, for years. I hear their passion as they point out all that touches them about this book. All that excels and rockets this over most other picture books. This changes my perceptions and perspective, changes my understanding.

I hear the wonder and passion Marla Frazee shares while she discusses her process for a few projects, start to finish. She shares her love and interpretation of the text. She shares the direction and misdirection of her thoughts while sketching thumbnails and larger images. She starts over in one example, to better match the expressiveness and direction of the text.

We hear the passion these people share with the writer. We hear best practices to work as a team. What they share is eye-opening and affirming. We hear the commitment needed from every member involved with a book.

Takeaways I can share, we’ve heard them many times from excellent kidlit people. At the very least, take 8 sheets of paper and fold them in half. 1) Create a picture book dummy for your picture books. 2) Read your book aloud at least 10 times. Why? How many times is a parent, teacher, older sibling or other person going to be reading aloud a favorite picture book? Like many of you, I record most later drafts. When I listen to the recording, I usually find many things to improve. I listen to someone else read it aloud. Hint, I do this with everything I write, no matter the genre.

Commitment, excitement, and exploration describe the afternoon session. Writing for Young Readers: Chapter Books and Young Middle Grade Novels is presented by Alyson Heller, senior editor Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; and Tricia Lin, assistant editor Aladdin/Sime & Schuster. They share examples and definitions of chapter books, young middle grade novels, older novels, and early readers. We hear the commitment and excitement they bring to their work and to the team involved with a book. We hear about the commitment writers need to have for writing, and for creating the end product with a team.

We explore voice, character, and themes in chapter books and mid grade novels. We work with writing prompts that help us find motivations, and develop characters. Writing exercises help us explore a good fit for our talents, tendencies, and skills.

We feel excitement as we brainstorm, work on exercises to explore concepts, and have group discussions. We work in small groups with people from around the country and world, and an editor joins us for a short time. We network and explore ideas. We exchange business cards and say farewell until next time!

Bios for SCBWI NY 2019 Presenters mentioned in today’s blog

In no particular order, their bios:

Allyn Johnston is Vice President and Publisher of Beach Lane Books. Allyn has been working in children’s publishing in her native California for twenty-four years. Among the authors and illustrators with whom she works are Mem Fox, Lois Ehlert, Marla Frazee, Cynthia Rylant, Debra Frasier, Arthur Howard, Jan Thomas, Avi, and M.T. Anderson. She’s also worked with Jeanette Winter, Jonah Winter, Linda Davick, Lauren Stringer, Mary Lyn Ray, Amy Schwartz, and K. L. Going. Beach Lane will be ten years old in 2019.

Recent titles Allyn has edited are New York Times bestseller Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury; and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee and New York Times bestseller All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee, both of which received a Caldecott Honor. simonandschusterpublishing (dot) com/beach-lane/

Marla Frazee has illustrated many acclaimed picture books, including All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, which received a 2010 Caldecott Honor; EverywhereBabies by Susan Meyers; and Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild!by Mem Fox; as well as her own Boot & Shoe; Walk On!; Roller Coaster; Santa Claus the World’sNumber One Toy Expert; and A Couple of Boys Have the BestWeek Ever, which received a 2009 Caldecott Honor.

She received the Boston Globe­­-Horn Book Award for her wordless picture book The Farmer and the Clown. She is the author-illustrator of The Boss Baby, now a DreamWorks animated feature film; the book’s sequel The Bossier Baby; and the fall 2018 picture book Little Brown; as well as many others. She is also the illustrator of The Seven Silly Eaters, the New York Times best-selling Clementine series, and the picture book It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton. She lives with her family in Pasadena, California. Visit her at MarlaFrazee (dot) com.



Alyson Heller is a senior editor at Aladdin Books, and imprint of Simon & Schuster. She acquires picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and the occasional YA, but her heart is in contemporary middle grade. She is actively looking for middle grade reads that deal with “tougher” topics, strong female characters who kick butt and take names, and stories across all age ranges that represent the under-represented in our world today. She has been fortunate enough to work on a range of books from nonfiction (Life in Motion: Young Reader Editionby Misty Copeland, The Distance Between Us: Young Reader Edition by Reyna Grande, Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away: Young Reader Edition by Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Kathy Van Cleve), to picture books (Cake by Sue Hendra, illustrated by Paul Linnet) to series (Thunder Girls, Goddess Girls for Aladdin QUIX, both by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams), to contemporary MG reads (Star-Crossedby Barbara Dee, Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls trilogy by Beth McMullen). Tweet her (at) EditorAlysonH.

Tricia Lin is an assistant editor at Aladdin Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. She acquires picture books and middle grade novels for Aladdin, as well as young adult novels for Simon Pulse. At Aladdin, she has had the privilege of working with wonderful authors such as Jenn Bishop, Kate Hannigan, and Kevin Sands. Tricia holds a BA in politics from New York University. Follow her on Twitter at (at) triciaelin.

Rubin Pfeffer is the founder of Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC, a literary agency focused on children’s content, representing industry luminaries, award winners, and exciting new talents. Previously, Rubin served as president and publisher of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Trade, working with world-renowned writers and illustrators of adult and children’s literature. As SVP and chief creative officer of Pearson, Inc., Pfeffer coordinated programs between Penguin and Pearson’s educational products and services. Later, he joined Simon & Schuster as SVP and publisher of children’s books, overseeing such fine imprints as Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Atheneum, McElderry Books, and the launching of Beach Lane Books. rpcontent (dot) com/


A Dear Friend

George is a dear friend, who happens to be our current oldest friend. He turns 101 in April. He still plays music & sings along while he exercises. We love discussing what he’s reading, which actually means his current book for people who are blind. Every time we get together we discuss and often listen to jazz music (our favorite, if we truly have a favorite type of music).

We frequently discuss older movies, including “A Song is Born” 1948 starring Danny Kaye & Virginia Mayo. If you want to see and hear almost ‘everybody who was somebody’ playing jazz at that time, find “A Song is Born!” (It’s a music themed remake of “Ball of Fire” 1941 starring Barbara Stanwyck & Gary Cooper – also a terrific movie.) That might top our list of favorites, along with Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. And yes, I may have been born the wrong generation.

Years ago George shared how slowly his tasks got done. Whether it was turning around to sit, or to place something on the counter, everything involved taking many tiny steps and moving his wheeled walker many times. Shortly after our discussion, his legs were less reliable so he started using his wheelchair when he was alone. His very diminished eyesight added more challenges to all tasks. He used an electronic magnifying system for looking at papers and reading. He became a master at orienting and perusing materials when using this disorienting machine.

Nowadays George continues working on thigh & leg strength through sit to stand exercises, while singing. A family member is always present for this activity and they sing along since it helps him keep a good tempo. George uses special equipment with grab bars for these exercises, and he gets strapped to it for safety.

To stand and answer the door is quite a process. Thankfully he has a power lift recliner to start the process. He transfers to the wheelchair, taking several steps for the small standing pivot transfer. He uses a wheelchair at all times since his legs don’t work as well as they did a few years ago. And yes, modifications have been made so expected staff, family and friends can enter without his great effort. We’re greeted with George’s joyful words and smiling face no matter which process is used to open the door.

Celebration and exploration will be common themes in these blogs. Hopefully you glean something from my sharings above. Perhaps you even explore the magnification feature on your computer. Standard installed accommodations for computers have come a long way since I took rehab engineering and technology courses, thank goodness!

If you have the luxury, it can be beneficial and interesting to explore adaptations and accommodations before they’re needed for loved ones or yourself. Exploring changes can also be scary, and frustrating. It can bring up issues people would rather not think about, let alone plan for. Please be compassionate and understanding with yourself around difficult topics.

My hypothesis for “Taking Care of Your 80 year old Self” blog series: I’ve had the honor of teaching approximately 2500 fitness and health classes to people, mostly ages 70 – 94+ years. A vast majority of these classes were with the same folks, twice a week for over 10 years. I’ve learned oodles from these experiences, in addition to working for two and a half decades in health care. I’m looking forward to exploring and sharing perceptions, perspective, and understanding through these blog posts.

Journey in New York 2019, Second Blog

Please see my guest blog at SCBWI WI for more information.

Charlene Avery at Golden Kite Gala NY SCBWI 2019

We’ve arrived at the Grand Hyatt (next to Grand Central Station) in New York City for SCBWI’s Golden Kite Awards. Are you wearing your golden high tops? Golden gown, top, vest, necklace, a tie or gold t-shirt? Welcome!

The stage has tables displaying the Golden Kite winning books and trophies, between beautiful bouquets of flowers. A few of us Midwest authors and illustrators take seats in the front row. Lin Oliver introduces Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor captivates us with many topics, while using no notes. She’s presented a gift by illustrator John Parra. He illustrated her words for the children’s book We Are The Change.

Introductions are made for each Golden Kite Award winning person and book. There is much variety but every book contains part of the author and illustrator. Each book required many drafts, research, passion, skill, more research, plus the heart and soul of the contributors.

Hey look, it’s Meg Medina. She’s introducing Angela Dominguez who wrote Golden Kite winning Stella Diaz Has Something to Say. Thank you Meg for gracing Wisconsin’s SCBWI Fall Retreat in 2018. Congratulations again on your Newberry Award, and so many other well-deserved awards and honors.

Jessie Oliveros and her posse after winning the Golden Kite award for The Remember Balloons.

Jessie Oliveros and her Posse

Cheers to Brianna Capra from Wisconsin for showcasing her illustrations here! Bravery and much thought went into choosing what to display. A few others are also displaying here at the Illustrator Showcase at NY SCBWI 2019.

Illustrator’s Showcase

Ahhh, the autograph signing for Golden Kite Winners! There are lengthy lines as expected for Jane Yolen, also for Jessie Oliveros and others. I wonder . . . is there a line or not for the next author? What’s different and why was it difficult to distinguish? Ahhh, Justice Sotomayor is there with the seated author. The oddly shaped line is comprised of the U.S. Marshals doing their job and having space around them. The seated author needs a few moments before she resumes, no problem! Whew, what an experience. Thank you U.S. Marshals for doing your jobs well!

Tonight we frequently heard about perspective and planning, perspiration and research, perseverance and teamwork. I’m still synthesizing all the information. Thanks for joining me, there will be at least two more blogs regarding the sessions I attended at NY SCBWI 2019. Good luck with your journey!

Rex

Rexalicious Ruffaford here. Grrrrr . . . ruff ruff! Pardon me, that squirrel really has some nerve sneaking into our yard when I’m busy. Onward!

I’m also known as Rex, Sir Rexcellent, and for some unfathomable reason, Sir Barks-a-lot. GrrrrrRRRRuff. Barkety bark bark ruff! Rabbits, think they own the place. Huh. Where was I? Oh yeah, introducing myself. Exploring the world has been eye opening since coming to live in the country with Charlene and Aaron last spring.

There aren’t many sirens to sing along with compared to the city I used to live in. But I LOVE to run and we visit dog parks a lot. I run and run and run! Sometimes I even lose sight of my person. Did I mention I love running? And smells! Soooooo many critter smells.

I’m learning how much my nose can do and detect. Scents can be old or new, layered or solitary. Everything has a scent, even people’s emotions and moods. We’ve been playing this game called “find it.” Now I can find lots of treats hidden in room after room. I get so excited Charlene usually makes me go back and search rooms more than once. I still think she puts them there when I’m not looking ’cause no way did I miss any treats.

Okay, so maybe I do miss things. The first time I tried to solve a puzzle it took me all afternoon, hours. There were treats, right beneath my nose but I couldn’t get the covers open. My people did the first one but then I had to do something. I was frustrated, but we worked together and I got the rest! I wasn’t sherblunked, Charlene’s word for ‘feeling beyond frustrated but not feeling hopeless’. I never reached that point. I was really, really curious and trying to figure it out.

Now I do puzzles in no time flat. I can do pretty tough ones now. I’m a master! Well, except for . . . I’ll figure the new one out before you come back. Ooooo, that squirrel . . . Bye!

Taking Care of Your 80 year-old Self Intro

I’ve had the honor of teaching about 2500 fitness and health classes with people ages 70, 80, and 90+ years. After working for two and a half decades in health care I’ve learned oodles of things. I’m looking forward to celebrating and exploring, to sharing perceptions, perspective, and understanding through these blog posts. The first post starts during the first full week of March.

Journey from Wisconsin to New York SCBWI 2019 and beyond!

Please see my guest blog at SCBWI WI for more information.

Wisconsin winter weather closes 133 schools. Malls, restaurants and other venues are closed. The airport runway closes multiple times . . .thankfully once we take off, the flight is relatively uneventful. New Jersey welcomes us with warmer temperatures and no precipitation.

Navigating the trains and subway with our luggage goes well thanks to my husband Aaron’s planning, and we arrive at our hotel in New York City before rush hour. Looking out our 36th floor window we see water towers atop buildings, and a foggy Central Park a few blocks away. We brave the good weather to go out for New York-style wood-fired pizza, yuuuumm! We discuss what do we want to do tomorrow. Bookstores and explore win unanimously!

The astonishing Books of Wonder on 84th street is our first endeavor. Their entire stock is Children’s Literature related. Artfully displayed, thousands of books clamor for your attention. As you enter the store Nonfiction picture books line the right wall, early readers are along the entry wall. New releases and discounted books occupy the short shelves ahead of us. As we make our way through the rest of the store, we discover chapter books, middle grade novels and young adult novels on shelves soaring up toward the ceiling. These books are fairly easy to see and distinguish. We spot Meena Meets Her Match by Wisconsin author Karla Manternach and snap a picture. Meena is easy to spot and nicely displayed facing outward. Then picture book land opens up to us. The picture books are mostly arranged alphabetically by illustrator, others by categories.

Meena Meets Her Match (2nd shelf, 3rd book from left) in Books of Wonder NYC

We spend a few hours here getting a tour and exploring this new realm. We hunt for friend’s books & share their photos on Facebook. It feels bigger than any library of children’s books. When we search further we find rare and antique books kept behind glass. We ask for other books we can’t find but they don’t have every book. Thank goodness, we’re seeing and gaining understanding enough as it is.

I see a few books on one topic but their approaches are different. The variety of art and fonts, the approach and style of writing, the point of view. . . zoinks! I feel like I’m visiting the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) on steroids. Are there really that many chapter books and graphic novels? I see many biography picture books, and there need to be more! They have shelves for 10+ year olds to delineate heavier subjects that are handled more directly. Seeing covers and descriptions for hundreds of middle grade and chapter books side by side allows me to see differences in approach, target audience, skills, and topics, as well as point of view.

Onward with our journey. Lunch at a fanciful French Mediterranean restaurant. We’re kept company by sunflowers and umbrellas of lights around support beams. We enjoy a tiny table between booths and other tables. No reservations in NYC? That’s what we get. Cool!

New York City Grocery Store aisle

We make brief stops at The Children’s Museum of Manhattan. The paper tiger in the lobby is an incredible feat! Spy Scape is New York’s Spy Center with interactive exhibits to help you determine which role in the spy world you are best suited to. What has ladders and reaches floor to ceiling in truly narrow aisles? New York Grocery stores.

Gosh, out of blog! More on the conference next time!