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Word by Word

The Power of Fan Mail

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I recently got a couple of fan letter—emails, actually—about my Tails of Frederick and Ishbu books:

“Are you going to make any more Frederick and Ishbu adventure books? I read both of those books in two days, so could you at least think about it?”

For those of you who don’t know, there are currently two books in the series. The first, THE MYSTERY OF THE BURMESE BANDICOOT came out in 2007. It introduces rat brothers Frederick and Ishbu, who live in a cage in Miss Dove’s fifth grade classroom. Ishbu loves marshmallow treats and carrot sticks, and Frederick loves geography. During their sojourn in the class, Frederick has learned to read. When the two rats are called to save the world from the evil mastermind (a blind, albino opossum named The Big Cheese) Frederick’s reading skills—and the fifth grade education he’s received—save the day.

The second book, THE CASE OF THE PURLOINED PROFESSOR, came out in 2009. It can be read on its own, although it includes several continuing characters. The lovable rats must again save the world from the Big Cheese and his gang, the Bilgewater Brigade.

The books are part adventure, part mystery, and total fun. Cultural references range from Edgar Allan Poe, to the Maltese Falcon.

Both books received good reviews and THE MYSTERY OF THE BURMESE BANDICOOT was awarded “Book of the Month” at a library in Wellington, New Zealand! Some fans in Prince George, BC invited me to come and visit their schools, and I had a marvelous time.

I loved writing those books, and I was heart broken when my publisher decided not to publish any more in the series. According to them, the books didn’t sell well enough.

Fortunately, I have options. With new technology, I don’t need a publisher; I can bring the third Frederick and Ishbu book out on my own. It’s truly a labor of love.

At the time of this writing, THE CASE OF THE PURLOINED PROFESSOR is still in print and is available from Amazon.com and all leading bookstores. THE MYSTERY OF THE BURMESE BANDICOOT went out of print in hardback, and I brought it back out in a paperback edition with my own cut paper artwork on the cover. It’s also available on Amazon.com.

I hope to have the third book finished by this summer. (Keep your fingers crossed!) So keep those cards and letter coming, folks. You inspire me.
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Word by Word and Keynote Butterflies

I had a great time at the SCBWI-Utah/Southern Idaho Regional Conference last week. Not only did we rock, we rocked out! Move over Rock Bottom Remainders--here comes "Banned"! But before I got to pick up my bass and play, first I had to give the opening keynote speech.

This was a new experience. I've taught workshops all over the place, and done zillions of critiques, even spoken to a crowd of over 200 teachers, but a Keynote--the very word had me shaking in my boots. I thought I'd signed on for a two hour craft lecture on "Voice", and I was fine with that. But change "lecture" to "keynote" and somehow it upped the ante. I was breaking out in cold sweats just thinking about it. That's the power of words for you.

In the end, that's what I spoke about--The Power of Words. My talk was well received, to judge by the comments. At least and the audience laughed in all the right places. So I want to thank the organizers for inviting me--and making me step out of my comfort zone.

Authors included Sydney Salter (My Big Nose) and Carol Lynch Williams (The Chosen One). Lori Benton from Scholastic and Jennifer Rofe from Andrea Brown Agency also spoke.  Read More 
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Sometimes Less is More

I don't plan to see the new movie, Where the Wild Things Are. I don't want to know Max's Freudian motivations for wearing a wolf suit or yelling at his mom. I don't want to hear the Wild Things talk. I don't want to see the island "brought to life on the big screen".

I adore the book; in my mind Maurice Sendak created the perfect picture book--short, spare, concise, and elegant in its design. (Have you noticed how the pictures take up more of the page's space as Max's journey evolves?)A good picture book--a great picture book--can say as much in a few words as a novel. Like a poem, much of the meaning is constructed by the reader. Movies tell too much. They leave nothing for the viewer to do. I want to participate in the creation of the story, bringing my own memories, fears, hopes, and dreams to my reading. In this way, each reader experiences the book in a unique fashion.

I haven't liked other movies that have been adapted from picture books because that inevitably means that plot is added, unlike a novel adaptation where plot is cut. Jumanji, for instance--where did that sad, lost hunter come from? Or How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a horrible movie which seeks to explain why the Grinch turned bad. I never had a problem accepting that he was bad because his heart was two sizes too small, did you? The only movie based on a book that I did like was Shrek, and I suspect that was because I had not read the book first.

Instead of movies, I prefer the richer, less limiting experience of my own "theater of the mind" where Wild Things do not need to talk, and the Polar Express is full of unexplained magic.

So, while other folks are in the dark theater, finding out what Wild Things do at a rumpus, I'll be at home, with a cup of tea, my cat at my feet, and a stack of picture books at hand. Relaxing, reflecting, watching stories come to life in my head.  Read More 
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