MLK Blogfest

I hope this video works. It’s my favorite speech from Martin Luther King Jr. on serving.

Beverly Diehl of Writing in the Flow is hosting an MLK Blogfest to discuss racism and discrimination today. It’s a holiday in the United States to remember the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who used non-violence as a way to eliminate poverty, racism and violence.

I grew up in the South long after the battles of the Civil Rights movement. These are a few thoughts that came to mind when I considered the MLK Blogfest.

In my hometown:
The KKK sometimes visited to hold a rally on the town square. I’m not sure why. The community was all-white, so I guessed they wanted to make sure it stayed that way. Now, the community is less white as it has a growing Hispanic population from Mexico and Central America. The agriculture community attracted migrant workers and many stayed.

Last fall, a KKK group held a rally on the square and many residents came out to say: We don’t want you here.

At University:
In college, my sister and I shared a dorm room. Friends visited often. One friend, a black male, irked the frat, white boyfriends of  girls in the dorm. We discovered nasty and racist remarks scrawled on our door’s message board. No one in our dorm knew what to do about the messages. We were two white girls. Was it an act of racism, if the remarks were directed at white girls?

When we had our winter break to observe Martin Luther King’s birthday, I traveled with friends to visit The King Center in Atlanta, Ga. It was the only logical thing to do that year.

In Italy:
I studied Italian in a summer abroad program in Florence. The international school was filled with students from across Europe. One day, the civil classroom turned a bit angry as all the students criticized the United States for its history of slavery and segregation. I didn’t defend the past, but thought the present looked pretty good in comparison.

The classroom discussion was different than my personal experience in Florence. I spoke to everyone in the piazza’s. If someone said, “Ciao!” and wanted to talk — I did. A few times, I spoke to North African immigrants.

My Italian house mother was mortified when the subject of Africans came up. Later when an Italian friend was picking me up, she forbid him from coming to the door thinking he was African.

In 2005, when riots in France highlighted racial discrimination of African and Muslim immigrants, I thought about those students, who frowned on the United States as being intolerant. It still exists.

In South Africa:
While the apartheid system of racial segregation ended in 1994, you could see signs of racial discrimination in South Africa when I visited in 2006. In Johannesburg, I visited the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. The 12-year-old boy died in 1976 when South African police fired on students during a Soweto uprising.

After the museum, I visited a section of the slums. I wrote a little about the visit here.

In a Border Town: 
Years later, I moved to a Texas border town. Here, I was a minority — called an Anglo by some. The majority were either Mexicans or of Mexican descent. Some adults didn’t know English. The first time I went to the post office. I had my “Dorothy moment.” I wasn’t in Kansas. I was in a different territory of the United States.

Here, I understood how one could live in the United States and not speak English. I took a Spanish class before we moved, but lost interest in learning the language after the third or fourth time a clerk speaking Spanish switched to English as I approached her.

A day with the U.S. Border Patrol gave me a new insight into how hard it is come into the United States illegally. I shared a little about the border here.

Stories of discrimination — past and present — break my heart. On days like today, I think about the victories to remove racial discrimination and hate from our society.

The Perfect Picture Book Fridays series has highlighted several picture books that focus on the civil rights movement. These interested me:

Whether today is a day of rest, reflection or service, I hope you have a wonderful Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

Perfect Picture Book Fridays: If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Perfect Picture Book Fridays: If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Here’s a snapshot of the “If You Give …” series found around our house. 

This week, I’ve chosen If You Give a Pig a Pancake for Perfect Picture Book Fridays. 

If You Give a Pig a Pancake
Written by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
Harper Collins Publisher, 1998

Suitable for: Ages 3 and up

Theme/Topic: Cause and Effect, Friendship, Playtime 

If you give a pig a pancake, 
she’ll want some syrup to got with it. 

You’ll give her some of your favorite maple syrup.
She’ll probably get all sticky, 
so she’ll want to take a bath. 

Brief Synopsis: A young girl gives a pig a pancake. This leads to a series of events from bubble baths to mailing letters to building a treehouse. Dont’ forget the decorations!

Link to resources: A Virtual Vine lesson plan for the If You Give a … Mouse, Moose and Pig books. One fun activity is to create brown circles for pancakes and yellow squares for butter with rhyming word. Then children can match the pancake with its butter. 

Laura Numeroff has a link of story starters  and links for teachers at her website. 

There is also a website with games and character introductions. An interesting note from illustrator Felicia Bond from her bio on this site: “Time has really passed — the six books in the series were painted over a span of twenty-one years. Wow.” 

I agree — wow.

Why I chose this book: While my son may not be able to think about cause and effect, the story seems familiar to us.  Let me think: If you give your kid a cookie, he wants milk to go with it. When he spills the milk, you grab a towel to clean it up … Oh, I’ve lived this fun circle. 

Laura Numeroff has a list of 10 tips for writers. Her no. 10 is to write because you love it “and not because you are looking to make money!”

To find more books and resources, visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog. There is a page dedicated to Perfect Picture Books.

I struggled with how to label the theme/topic for this book. Suggestions? Have a great Friday the 13th!

Feb. 7, 2013 — Spambots are loving this post, so I’m closing the comments section. – ssj

Thankful Thursday: 12×12 in 2012

Thankful Thursday: 12×12 in 2012

The 12 x 12 in 2012 Challenge is well under way. I know many of you are participating, but some may not be familiar with the picture book challenge.

Children’s Book Author Julie F. Hedlund organized the event, so we write up our some of our 2011 Picture Book Idea Month Challenge ideas.

The challenge:  write one picture book draft each month in 2012.

Official sign up ends Jan. 29. This makes sure you are eligible for prizes.

Julie has all the information on her Write Up My Life blog.

Here are some links:

If you haven’t visited Julie’s site, it’s not all picture books. I always find encouragement from Julie’s posts — no matter what the topic. Her Gratitude Sunday posts are always a treat.

How am I doing in the challenge? Well, I’ve been “liking” all the other participants posts on Facebook saying “I’m done.” I’ve been writing, but my draft is not complete.

Today is my self-imposed deadline for my picture book draft. As I wrote this late Wednesday, my manuscript is still in the draft-draft stage. I have the rest of the day to add, rearrange and delete the 250 words already on the page. I’ll return to my Word document for another go or two at it. With a lot on our family plate this week, I’m not freaking out. I just plan to write. Plus, I have the support of hundreds of other writers, who are doing the challenge too. For this, I am thankful.

If you are participating in the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge, how are you doing? If not, how are your writing goals this week?

Perfect Picture Books: There's Just Something About a Boy

Perfect Picture Books: There's Just Something About a Boy

Here’s an entry into Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books series.

There’s Just something About a Boy
Written by Jenny Lee Sulpizio and Illustrated by Peg Lozier.
Ajoyin Publication Inc., 2011

Suitable for: Ages 2 and up

Theme/Topic: Family, Mother-Son relationship

Recalling the moment, that special day
Your tiny image took my breath away.
A precious baby with nothing to hide
My sweet, little son nestled inside.
There’s just something about a boy …

Brief Synopsis: From birth to adulthood, a mother shares the special moments in her son’s life that make it clear “There’s just something about a boy” and about a mother-son bond.

Link to resources: There are lots of resources about mother and son activities on the Internet. The story offers some hints on mother-son activities. A mother and son can create a scrapbook or journal about their daily adventures big and small. Mother and son can create a baby book to include milestones, pictures and memorable events.

Why I chose this book:  The story is very touching and sweet. A bonus: Lots of humor in the illustrations. Jenny shared ideas here in November. This is her second book. The first is Mommy Whispers. In October, Jenny talked about her publication journey over at Marcy Kennedy and Lisa Hall-Wilson’s Girls With Pens blog during their self-publishing week.

'Twas the Flight Before Christmas

'Twas the Flight Before Christmas

Oh, I love Christmas tree decorations.

Imagine my panic when Susanna Leonard Hill decided her holiday contest would be a rhyming challenge like Clement C. Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. She kindly provided an out: “… if the idea of rhyme strikes fear and loathing in your heart, you may write a prose version instead … “

If you make it to the end, I have a note.

Here’s my entry:

‘Twas the Flight Before Christmas
By Stacy S. Jensen

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the space
I pack, check and fret as we ready to fly to Grandma’s place.  
Did I complete the things on my long, long list?
Mail cards. Wrap gifts … I fear something is missed.
I double check each bag as Hubby carries them to the car.
Then I see Henry, our toddler, through the door ajar.
I shoo him away and consider all the things we’ll need,
As other moms gave kid travel advice for me to heed.
As visions of spit ups and diaper blowouts float through my head,
Henry grabs a carry-on bag with clothes and books to be read.
I think of Hubby as I pack one with pants and size 15 shoes,
So he has clothes, if the airline chooses his checked bag to lose.
With luggage ready to go, I carry Henry to bed.
He refuses to go night-night and his PJs are shed.
Hubby arrives to re-dress and rock Henry to sleep.
Minutes later exhausted Hubby and I fall in a big heap.
The trip to the airport was quick for an early Christmas flight.
At security, we put our stuff in trays as Henry clings tight.
He doesn’t like the buzzers and noises at the screening station.
TSA officers pat us down and send us to our gate location.
Hubby taps his watch pointing out our three-hour wait.
I smile unfazed by the time, as I hate being late.
Henry stares at a soldier and a girl’s neon tights.
He wanders over to the windows to check out the sights.
Hubby runs over to buy bottled water from an airport store.
As I guard Henry, a stroller, a car seat and bags galore.
When the announcement is made for an early boarding call,
We leap up with a cheer to line up against the wall.
At the plane’s door with Hubby, attendants and me right there,  
Henry walks across the threshold hugging his brown bear.
I scoop him up in the narrow aisle, so I can quickly find our seat.
We stow bags above our head and stuff Henry’s things at our feet.
All buckled in tight with trays upright, it becomes clear,
Hubby has second thoughts and doesn’t want to be here.
Ah, this is what I forgot:  Hubby doesn’t like to fly
I pat his leg and silently pray nothing goes awry.
Our plane takes off with us crammed in seats 26B and C,
When Hubby sees Santa by the window with a list on his knee.
Santa laughs with a twinkle in his eye and adjusts his light.
“No worries,” he says. “We’ll fly away and have a good flight.”

So, here’s my note: 

I tried.

On Sunday, the local Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators group had a critique and holiday gathering. I took a version of this entry with brownies. I received kind feedback. The main one: Get the rhythm to match the original ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem.

I pulled out my Poem Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry book and found a specific reference to the meter  — the anapest, which has a rising foot. The dust jacket says the book is for ages 9-13. I believe the book is in Greek, because I can’t understand it. I’m stuck on how to fix the meter.

I changed my point of view, names and cleaned up a few lines. Thanks ladies at the Colorado Springs SCWBI meeting for the input, especially Debbie.

So, I ask: What’s a good resource to study meter? I need an aha meter moment.

To enter the contest, post your story on your blog or in the comments section of Susanna’s blog between today and Dec. 22.

Thank You Mr. Bill — Wrap It Up

Thank You Mr. Bill — Wrap It Up

I learned about the Wrap It Up – Blogfest through Leigh Covington. She planned to celebrate her birthday (Happy Birthday Leigh!) with a blog hop, but decided to join the one by David Powers King and J.A. Bennett — both are reaching 500 followers and wanted to celebrate.

Here’s my entry:

Dear Mr. Bill, 

Thank you. Thank you. I don’t know how Santa knew. My new toy wasn’t in my letter and I never asked for it. I never dreamed of asking for such a cool thing.

I rolled my cars over and under it. I cooked food in my plastic pots and pans on it. I built a wall with my blocks around it. 

I pushed my baby sister around the floor in it. I stuffed my Blue Bear, Cow Bunny and dog in it. Mom searched for 10 minutes calling my name — downstairs, upstairs and across the living room — as I hid in it. 

I kicked my balls — one, two and three — into it. I grabbed my blanket, prairie dog and lovey and took a nap in it. Dad shook his head and said something about my toy kitchen, when he joined me inside it. Santa has great taste, because I use it all the time. I will play with it every day.

I love my box! 



P.S. Dad doesn’t believe an elf would be named Bill. He said your name would be Jingles. I showed him the paper you left in my box, which had your name Bill printed on it. Well, it had Receipt on there, too, but I told my dad Elf Receipt would be a silly name. Elf Bill makes more sense. Please tell Santa I said thank you, thank you. I loved my surprise. My box is my favorite Christmas present. See you next year.

About my entry: I’ll let you decide whether the note is to a fictional or real person. It’s in the form of a 253-word Thank You note. I didn’t value Thank You notes in my late teens/early 20s. Once I embraced them, well, it changed everything. I love writing Thank You notes. They are handwritten hugs. 

There is still time to enter the contest today. Have a great weekend!

The rules:
Write a piece of flash fiction, poem, or song (300 words or less) for someone you know (real or imaginary). It may be in any genre, but it must have a holiday theme (real or fictional). Post it on your blog anytime between now and when the linky closes. You will then give it to that someone, sometime before the new year.

Give it in the form of an email, on fancy stationary, or laser-etched onto a solid gold plate. Your choice. Telling us who you’re giving it to is optional. 

Every eligible entry will qualify for a chance to win one of a few special gifts. The linky will close at 11:59 PM, Friday the 16th (MST). J.A., Leigh, and David will then read, debate, and decide on five winners for the following:

1st: An Amazon Gift Card for $15
2nd: “Champaginer Challenges 2011” and “Totally Clichéd” E-books
3rd: A 5-page critique from David Powers King
4th: A 5-page critique from J. A. Bennett
5th: A 5-page critique from Leigh Covington

Judging will be based on the effectiveness and quality of your writing. There is no point system, no popularity votes, and you do not have to follow (the organizers) to participate.