Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bottled or Tap?

Magoo is out of school and summer is in full swing - which means I have to add another plate to my plate-spinning act: Magoo management.  He's actually a very easy boy - but if I don't motivate him a bit, he would happily spend the day playing Minecraft and watching YouTube.   Nu-uh.  No way.  So I have projects for him and sometimes he comes up with his own.

The other day he told a joke, but it wasn't a great verbal joke.  It was more of a visual joke.  I suggested he draw it.  This is how it turned out.

by Magoo


I think he did a great job!

I hope you are all having lovely days full of sunshine!
Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New Curbs - WooHoo!

Our road is in bad shape. 

You say:  How bad is it?

It's so bad that the location scouts for the new Road Warrior movie passed on it because it was too decayed to represent the ruined roads of the post apocalyptic future.

So all the neighbors and myself were THRILLED when the town started dropping off curbs on the street.  Yay - it's coming!  It's coming!  Curbs lead to paving.  And, a bonus for me, new driveway aprons!

So the show has been going full force in the front yard.  If Magoo was a toddler, he would have been fascinated.

Here they are digging up the front of our driveway.  (They had already dug up the side of the road for the curb.)

The guy in the digger was so elegant and controlled with that thing as he lifted the sidewalk, broke it into chunks, lifted the chunks, and stacked them off to the side.  So impressive.

Putting in the curb!  Yeeeee!

This morning they laid in the cement and smoothed it out.

I think the goal is to have our driveway ready for cars to be pulled in by the weekend, but I'm not counting on it.  It's cool.  Whatever.  I couldn't be more thrilled that this work is finally being done!

And it means I don't have to mow the lawn today - or tomorrow.  I would just get in their way.  :)

Thanks for stopping in!  Have a great day!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Giant Bubbles

We're having some friends over tonight.  These friends have daughters.  Magoo gets along with them just fine, but we've found it's easier for kids if they have something to do.  In the past I had ordered giant bubble solution - because who doesn't love giant bubbles - but this time I thought I'd see if the all mighty internet had a recipe for me.

Guess what?  It did.

The original post - the one I got it from - is here.   But I'll include it in this post for ease sake.

6 cups water
1/2 cup blue Dawn (liquid) dish detergent (NON Ultra is better, but all I could find was Dawn Ultra)
1/2 cup corn starch
1 Tbsp baking POWDER (not baking soda)
1 TBSP Glycerin*

1. Get a large bowl or container.  Fill with 6 cups water.  Dissolve corn starch into water, stirring gently.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir gently.  (Try to avoid froth.  No froth!)
3.  Let sit for at least 1 hour.  Don't fret if some powder settles.  Just give it a gentle stir.
4.  That's it.  Ours worked after an hour.

FYI, we had wands from a previous set.  But if you follow the link above, she makes wands out of straws. 

*Okay.  Here's the deal with the Glycerin.  They sell it at Michael's in the baking aisle.  BUT if they don't have it in stock - like my Michael's did not have it in stock - it is handy to know that glycerin is a main ingredient in adult personal lubricant.  (Like Liquid KY-stuff.)  So walk yourself over to that section of your drug store, look at the ingredients in the liquid lubricants (not gels), find one that leads with glycerin, hold your head up high, and buy it.  I bought a store brand and it worked just fine.

Giant bubbles are fun for everyone and these is a great mix to have handy for the summer!


Thanks so much for stopping in!  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What I Learned About Skyping

In March, I started doing Skype Author Visits via Skype in the Classroom.  They (Skype in the Classroom) were starting an author visit program and I just happen to be on Twitter and happen to see that they were looking for authors willing do to Skype visits.  My agent had been suggesting that I get in on this, but I didn't really know how to start - so it was seredipitous that I saw that tweet that day.

Very quickly, I got many requests.  Because I was an eager little bunny, I responded YES to most of them.   Since I started in March, I've done forty-six 30-minute free Author Visits.  I've learned a few things.

1. Pace myself.  I could only learn how many author visits I could handle by trying it out.  Now I know that I need at least 2 works days with zero visits.  And on days when I do have a visit, it's really best to only have one.  I did days with 3 author visits and it ate up all my time because it's difficult to get into a project when you only have 45 minutes between visits, and they are exhausting.  I need to be smiling and engaged and high energy for the full 30 minutes.  The kids deserve it. One visit a day is fine.  I take a break from what I'm doing, slap some make-up on my face, comb my hair, clean the area visible by my laptop, and try to be charming for 30-40 minutes.  Then it's back to scowling shlub-town.  :)

2.  Have a routine. 

My usual (after some trial and error) Skype visit consists of me reading one of my books (kids choice,)  doing a 10-minute collage demo, and answering questions.

I have grown sick of reading my own books, but I have learned what kids are drawn to.  (Ahem, Ninjas.  I also got a lot of Monkey Onos.  Very few chose The Simples.  I think kids prefer a single main character on the cover as opposed to a group.  They didn't identify with The Simples immediately.)

I don't always stick to this schedule.  Sometimes a teacher will want me to speak more on writing or story structure and that's fine.  But kids do enjoy watching me make something more than 30 minutes of gabby gabberson, me thinks.

3.  Send the school something afterwards. 

I have the kids suggest an animal that I will make as a collage demonstrate.  (They pick sharks and dragons a lot!)  Then, when it's finished, I send the collage to the school.  (I also write a little thank you note on the back of it, thanking them for Skyping with me and their great questions/suggestions, anything specific.)  They're usually pretty excited to get it in the mail - which extends the experience for them - and it's just an added connection. 

Sometimes, they get so excited about learning collage that they make their own.  The children from the Liceo de Monterrey in Mexico asked me to collage Monkey Ono.  They then made some fabulous Monkey Onos of their own!

Aren't those great?!

Here are some ninjas that a class made after a Skype visit:

They key that I learned about sending the collages was how to make them COST EFFECTIVE.  For the first month, I was making larger collages and the postage ($2.50 each) was killing me.  Now I make them post-card sized, pop them in a regular card-sized envelope, and use 1 standard stamp.  SO MUCH EASIER! 

If you're not an illustrator, maybe you can send some bookmarks or stickers, or even a simply thank-you note.  Just follow up.  It's professional.

4.  Have the students work on their questions ahead of time.

When students ask questions off the top of their heads, more often than not, they're just trying to come up with something to say to me.  They might ask me something that has already been asked.  And that's fine, but when they are required to sit down and really think of a good question for an author - without the pressure of having the author right there - the questions are so much more involved and interesting.

This is my favorite part of the visit, usually.  I've been asked where I get all my crayons, how did I become so intelligent (love that one), what inspires me, why did I start writing, what my favorite books are, etc.  And if they've read Monkey Ono, they ask about my cat, Java.

When I first started doing the Skypes, I'd be talking loud in the middle of the day to my computer. Java was always very curious as to what I was doing.  She'd come in, paw at me, meow.  "Who the heck are you talking to?" she'd ask.  I'd put her on the desk and try to read to the kids as she stuck her kitty face into the camera.  The kids LOVED it!  Java always stole the show.

Nowadays, it's no big deal to her.  The thrill is gone.  If she's around, I'll pick her up so the kids can see.  But sometimes she's just not that into it.  Fame has gone to her head and she takes it for granted.  ;)

5. Organize your visits.

For me, I found it best to give each visit an index card.  I wrote the date and time, contact info, and what I was supposed to do.  Read a specific book?  Collage? or did they want me to talk about writing?

Then I posted it on a door in my office, in order of date.

This way, I could easily move the cards around, should a date be changed.  And I could simply take the card over to the computer on the date of the visit, and glance down and know who I was talking to.

Plus, I need visual reminders.  By having cards in my eye-line when I was on the computer, I could always tell quickly when I had a busy day/week/ etc.

6.  Follow up the day before and make sure you have the teacher's Skype ID.

Most of the time, everything will be fine.  But every once in awhile I'll be sitting at my desk, waiting, waiting, waiting.  If I don't have the teacher's Skype ID, I can't call them. All I can do is wait.

Once, only once, a teacher left me hanging. I waiting 15 minutes, then I logged off.  Turns out she forgot.  It's not the end of the world.  We rescheduled.  The second time there was a sub, and she left me hanging to. I waited another 15 minutes. Then I get a little irritated, because even though I am at home, I have gotten myself ready, I have readied my studio, I have pull my books out, I have gotten some collage stuff together, and I am on time.  One missed connection is totally forgivable.  Two - come on, now. 

So just try to follow-up with the teacher and confirm your time, visit duration, and contact info.  Most of the time it will be great!

7. It evens out.

30 minute Skype visits for most authors (unless you're doing very well) are usually free.  I believe it's important to make personal connections with teachers, librarians, and students and it's difficult to do.  In-person school visits are great - I get paid and schools usually sell a decent amount of my books.    Whenever I make money - that is good.  Because it may surprise people to know, unless an author is famous (J. K. Rowling) or has a best selling series (Piggie & Elephant), one does not make a lot of money at this gig.  Book sales are very important.

But in-person author visits are expensive for schools.  And there's travel.

Skype is simpler, smaller, more personal.  I don't make the cash, but maybe the school or teacher will buy one or more of my books to prepare the students. (A teacher recently sent links to my books home to all the parents, so kids who wanted to include some of my books in their summer reading could do so.  That teacher rocks!) 

Maybe that teacher will tell other teachers or librarians.  Maybe those librarians will be on committees that give awards.  You never know how small appearances are going to pay out in other ways.

I trust that what I put out there will come back to me.  The trick is knowing how to balance your appearances and promotions with your quiet, work time.  Don't make yourself miserable and crazy.  And you learn that simply by trying things and seeing where your balance is.

Now I'll rest for the summer - well, rest from Skyping - and be eager to get back to it in the fall!

Thanks so much for stopping in!