Welcome Marcie Colleen, Education Consultant for Picture Book Month! Marcie wrote an awesome picture book guide for teachers to use as they plan lessons and activities using picture books in the classroom. Both parents and teachers should check it out. Picture books have a special place in my heart, which is why I'm trying to write them. And along the way, I've met the fabulous Marcie online in kid-lit circles. She also writes picture books. Below are some questions for our educational consultant.
1. How did you come up with the idea of writing teacher guides for picture books? Do most publishers not provide these services as a marketing tool?
In my former career as a theater educator I created a lot of curriculum guides. I loved the research that came with working on a guide and once I started working in NYC on Broadway shows, I loved the challenge of connecting academic subjects to seemingly frivolous Broadway musicals. So when I started my new career as a picture book writer I started exploring whether or not there was a need for such curriculum guides for picture books.
Yes, some publishers do provide teacher’s materials for use as marketing tools. However, these are mostly highly designed one pagers. My guides are usually around 16 pages and delve into ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies activities. They provide a more in-depth, thorough study of the book, and offer many avenues to approach bringing a specific book into the classroom. My guides have been regarded quite nicely by classroom teachers.
2. In your interview on Brain Burps about Books regarding your teacher guide for Picture Book Month, you said you didn't write activities to any specific books. Can you elaborate on that for my readers?
Yes. Many of the books on the market that speak to using picture books in the classroom provide book specific lessons. When I set out to create the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide, I wanted to provide teachers with a guide. I didn’t want to dictate what titles are good for the classroom. Instead I wanted to provide a blueprint to be used for any picture book.
I knew that if I mentioned 5 titles in the Math section that could be used in a Math class, those 5 books would be used in a Math class. However, I wanted to inspire a teacher to use this guide and its activities as a springboard to introduce their own favorite titles or the favorites of their students. I stand firmly behind my statement that ANY picture book can be used in the classroom.
3. Do you think there is enough diversity in picture books? And do you think diverse picture books should be shelved together, or should they be regarded as just a normal picture book that encompasses American culture?
I recently attended an editor panel discussion and diversity in picture books was definitely a hot topic. I think there are two sides here that are equally important.
Yes, I think there is a need for more multicultural stories. Stories about many different cultures: their customs, their history. But that to me is not where the diversity is most needed.
Diversity is not necessarily multiculturalism in this respect. What is definitely needed is more diversity in depicted characters. It would be nice to see characters of color that are not about their color. Know what I mean?
Like that SNOWY DAY by Ezra Jack Keats. It is an everyday story that happens to have a little African American boy as its protagonist. No way would it be considered necessary that SNOWY DAY be shelved with the “multicultural books”.
We need illustrators to spearhead this. Let the African American child see themselves in the princess tale, or the Asian child see themselves in the space adventure. Let’s ban together to bring diversity without pigeon-holing the story topics.
4. I know nonfiction is getting all the attention right now because of the Common Core Standards; however, I've read and worked with the standards for educational publishers. There are standards for fiction stories, too. So why do you think so much attention is on nonfiction?
The Common Core State Standards are for both nonfiction (Informational texts) and fiction (Literature). But there does seem to be an emphasis on nonfiction texts right now. The reason is that up until now a lot of nonfiction for the classroom was very dry and encyclopedic. Therefore, teachers are asking for more engaging and compelling nonfiction. This does not mean that teachers are not using fiction in the classroom, it’s just that fiction has been of a high quality for some time now. It’s the nonfiction that needs a shot in the arm.
5. What were your favorite picture books as a kid? What are some of your favorite picture books as an adult?
My absolute favorites as a kid were the Curious George stories and CAPS FOR SALE by Esphyr Slobodkina. I guess it’s no surprise that I grew up to be a mom of a sock monkey, right? I also loved Frances from the Russell Hoban stories.
Today I am a fan of Oliver Jeffers’ work. I also really enjoy the Emily Brown stories from Cressida Cowell. I am drawn to stories that are quirky but with a tender emotional truth.
Thanks so much, Marcie, for answering my questions and making picture book month special to teachers, children, and writers!
You can check out the other posts on this blog hop here:
Thurs Nov 7
Mon Nov 11
Wed Nov 13
Wed Nov 20
Wed Dec 4
Bio: Marcie Colleen, Picture Book Month’s Education Consultant, has been in education for 18 years. She is a former New York classroom teacher and has served as a curriculum creator for the Central New York Institute of Aesthetic Education, Syracuse Stage, Tony Randall’s National Actors Theater, and various Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. She was the Director of Education for TADA! Youth Theater in NYC creating and managing educational programming reaching over 30,000 students and families in the NYC Metro area a year. Her Teacher’s Guides for picture books and middle grade novels can be found at www.thisismarciecolleen.com.
Have you heard of the Toy Troll? I have, and I wish he'd visit my home.
"If you leave your toys out, the Toy Troll will take them to his troll hole and keep them for himself."--excerpt
The Toy Troll is a debut e-book by a former critique group member of mine, Joshua Hawkins. I just had to interview him on his fabulous new book. Enjoy!
1. How did you get the idea for The Toy Troll?
The idea came to me when my youngest son was only a few years old. I got a little frustrated when I found myself picking up the same toys I had picked up umpteen times already that day, and my imagination started rolling...How nice would it be if someone other than Mom or Dad could help remind him not to leave his toys lying around? A mischievous little troll popped into my head, and voila! The Toy Troll was born.
2. Can you explain why you decided to self-publish? (Had you submitted The Toy Troll traditionally?) How hard was it to self-publish? How long did it take?
I fought the decision to self-publish for a long time. I've always imagined The Toy Troll in hardcover with the name of a well-known publisher emblazoned on its cover, and I felt that self publishing would be selling myself and the story short (I no longer feel that way, though I'm still hopeful to see the book the way I've always imagined it). After piles of query letters and submissions to traditional publishers proved fruitless, I shelved the story for a few years. I still believed in it, but frankly I was frustrated with the publishing process. Thankfully my wife, in her thoughtful wisdom, asked an artistic friend to illustrate the story as a birthday gift to me. When she showed me the first few finished pages, I knew I had to get it published. Another friend had recently published through Amazon.com, so I looked into it. The process is quite simple, and after a few days of getting to know the system and using a free software program I found online to format the book it was ready to go.
3. You said you're going to self-publish other picture books. Why this route?
I have gobs of good stories like The Toy Troll that are finished and have been through the rounds with traditional publishers but for one reason or another didn't make it into print. After seeing how well The Toy Troll came out, I wanted to give my other works the same opportunity to get out into the world and (insert lame pun here) tell their stories.
4. Do you have a marketing plan?
Not really. I mean, I created a website and let all my family and Facebook friends know when the story was released, and I've been telling other people through word of mouth, but beyond that I don't have any specific plan. I know I should, and I plan to get there.
5. What advice do you give writers who want to self-publish?
Go for it! Don't give up on the dream of traditional publishing if you have it, but don't rule out other methods in the mean time. There is something extremely satisfying and motivating in seeing your work "out there," even if only in digital format.
6. What are you currently working on?
A fantastically gripping, certain-to-be-award-winning middle grade novel (my first ever) currently consumes nearly all of my writing time. But I'm also starting negotiations with a great illustrator I know to bring one or two of my other picture book stories to life.
Thanks, Josh! If you'd like to read The Toy Troll, it's only $.99 on Amazon. My son really enjoyed it.
Josh discovered the joy of turning daydreams into stories in grade school, and he hasn't stopped since. When he's not busy cooking up books in his troll hole, he enjoys spending time with his Wonder Girl and their three Wonder Children, who provide a never-ending supply of inspiration for his stories. They live near Salt Lake City, Utah.
Korean cooking involves A LOT of marinating of meat and vegetables. I've never seen them eat meat plain. A little soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, onions, ginger, and sometimes spices are added for flavor. Then the meat must marinate in order to get the best results. Well, I realized it's the same with my stories!
This past week I revised a manuscript after getting some great comments from a writing friend. She suggested adding a little metaphor, more descriptive language, etc... to really make my story sing. So I did. And the results were stunning! Now I'm letting this baby marinate longer so that when I return to it, I can enjoy the freshness and flavor even more. I have also learned to wait after my critique groups have edited my manuscripts before revising. I used to jump right on the targeted issues in my stories. But if I let the story sit longer, when I return to the critiques, their comments make more sense.
The past two weeks my daughter has been learning about figurative language and adding to her interactive notebook. I'm going to use her list as a sort of mini-checklist for my stories to add more flavor to the marinade. Granted, you don't need all of these, but a sprinkling of some can make a difference!
Figurative Language Mini-Checklist
And just for fun, the above photo is a Korean meat called Bulgogi, a marinated sweet beef, that I make a couple times a month :) Below is a recipe that I got off the Internet somewhere. The photo comes from a restaurant in CA.
1 pound beef sirloin (thinly sliced, paper thin)
5 cloves garlic (grated)
¼-1/2 inch ginger (grated)
1 small onion (grated)
1 Asian pear (grated)
1 Fuji apple (grated)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 green onions (chopped)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Mix it all together and pour over the meat. I use either the pear or apple, not both. You can use the American pear, too. Let the meat marinate for at least an hour or even overnight. Stir fry. Mat-shi-gae-deu-sayo or Enjoy in Korean.
Tina M. Cho, children's author
I'm a children's author and freelance writer for the educational market. Welcome!